2007’s “The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack” – the first showcasing of Nikki Sixx’s new project, displayed a lot of stength and promise that took him outside his Mötley Crüe circles and breathed a ton of fresh air into his songwriting. Accompanied by guitarist Dj Ashba (currently also in Guns ‘n Roses, previously some nice work with Beautiful Creatures) and vocalist James Michael (whose latest production jobs include f.ex. the new Hammerfall album) – the A and M of the band’s moniker – the group’s debut was a powerful and emotional release that despite having some weaker moments offered a worthy chunk of top class hard rock songs led by the insta-hit ‘Life Is Beautiful’ that alone made the album rise above the ordinary.
A few years have passed and out comes the second Sixx: A.M. release. As the first album was released with Sixx’s autobiographical drug hazed journal of the same name, ‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ is also accompanied by a new book, this time in the form of a photo journal consisting of Nikki’s photographical explorations in the curious shadows of the surrounding world. However, when at the first time the book stole most of the publicity, this time it is the album that’s the main thing. And very deservingly so.
‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ is a big step up from the already excellent debut. The band seems to have grown into an even stronger unit and the songwriting qualities are heightened as well, making the album worth every word of positive feedback it has received in the press and amongst the listeners.
Right from the beginning the listener is sucked in. As Michael belts out the lyrics ‘This is a second coming, this is a call to arms’ it’s made clear that Sixx: A.M. is back with every intention to claim your attention. Pounding with an industrial-tinged power, the title track is an instant adhesive that is bound to get the audience’s jump mode activated. Second track ‘Lies Of The Beautiful People’ on the other hand, sounds more like ‘The Heroin Diaries’ material and in that case was an expected selection for album’s lead single, even though songs such as the album’s number one attention catcher ‘Live Forever’ (this album’s equivalent to ‘Life Is Beautiful’) or ‘Are You With Me’ might have worked even better as first promotional material. On the other hand with a song selection like this, it doesn’t really matter that much. This time the amount of weak songs or filler material is a big round zero.
Like said earlier, the band works together flawlessly. Dj Ashba’s guitar- and Nikki Sixx’s basswork go without complaints and same goes for James Michael who seems to have gotten a true workhorse load on the studio, handling keyboards, drums, strings and additional guitars as well as producing, mixing and engineering the album. Flawless work on all fields. And when talking about Michael’s abilities as a vocalist one can only admire the man’s ability to pack his great, versatile voice with tons of emotion that really add the songs with that vital ingredient that gives the music the final push into greatness. Judging by James Michael’s performance on the album, there aren’t many rock vocalists around who could do better and that isn’t even close to an overstatement. Whether the song is a powerful rocker or an emotional ballad, the singer delivers the goods perfectly. Awesome job indeed!
A big part of ‘This Is Gonna Hurt’s strength comes from the band’s ability to add enough variation to the tracks. Whether it’s the aforementioned dancefloor bounce on the title track, desperate cry for help on ‘Oh My God’, laid-back mellow rhyming on ‘Sure Feels Right’ or the many contagious rockers, the band is capable in stepping effortlessly through different kinds of emotions all through the disc’s length. And whereas the record started with a lot of power and noise, it ends at the very other end of the spectrum: the closing ballad ‘Skin’ is one of those rare cases of songs where the sheer frail beauty and heartfelt emotion of the lyrics and performance leave the listener breathless for a while after the final notes fade. Not many songs do that.
‘This Is Gonna Hurt’ is easily the best rock album out so far this year and strongest album of it’s kind in a long time. Great songwriting, a good amount of flexibility, top class performance, and to seal the deal, blasting from the amps with clear and powerful sound. There shouldn’t be any reason why any fan of good quality powerful rock music should let this one slip by.
1. This Is Gonna Hurt
2. Lies of The Beautiful People
3. Are You With Me
4. Live Forever
5. Sure Feels Right
8. Help Is On The Way
9. Oh My God
10. Goodbye My Friends