Modern hard rock without the clichés
The music industry is a cutthroat business these days. In simple terms, if you’re signed to a label, you have to have a hit on your hands, or you’re dropped and one band that found that out the hard way was Miami (Florida, U.S.) based hard rock/post-grunge outfit Atom Smash. With two successful E.P. releases to their name (Sacrifice and Kill Me – both of which were independently released in 2009), the band signed to Jive Records, and released their debut full-length effort, Love Is in the Missile, in August 2010. From the outside looking in, the future for Atom Smash looked bright - the album earned praise from almost all, the album sold quite well, and the band toured alongside the likes of Drowning Pool, Buckcherry, Filter, Saliva, Halestorm, and Tantric but, despite this, the success the band earned clearly wasn’t enough for Jive Records, and the band was subsequently dropped a mere four months after they were signed.
Undeterred, Atom Smash regrouped (trimmed down to a four piece, comprising of vocalist Sergio Sánchez, guitarist Luke ‘Cowboy’ Rice, new bassist ‘Crazy’ Dave Carrey and drummer Mark ‘Taco’ Annino), assembled a bunch of new songs in their rehearsal garage, returned to the studio and recorded their new album Beautiful Alien.
The album is opened with the title track, Beautiful Alien, which is somewhat of a strange song with its mix of slide guitar, spaghetti western styled whistling and subtle use of strings. But despite its strange mix of sounds, Beautiful Alien is a great mid-paced rocker that highlights Sánchez’s smooth and infectious vocal presence, and the band’s ability to craft a quality hard rock song without resorting to clichés.
The follow-up track, Square One, is delivered with a grinding riff that is perfectly balanced with a vocal that is given a bit more bite in terms of aggression (which kind of brings to mind some of Lostprophets more recent direction in sound), but still remains as melodic as you would expect given the band’s past work, while the slick blues swagger of Hangman shows a different side to their regular heavy rock sound. I’m not so sure about the middle section where the track is slowed down and the chants take over, but the rest of the song is pretty cool.
Although it takes a while for the chorus to kick in, Good Times, Dark Ages is a solid track that keeps the heavy end of the band’s repertoire in balance with the more melodic efforts, while The World Is Ours (the first single lifted from the album), the acoustic enhanced rocker Cocaine Angel and the modern rock styled and heavy grooved 2012 Baby are slick sounding slices of hard rock that have the potential of taking off on the airwaves.
Initially, I wasn’t all that sold on the idea of the band covering Seal’s classic Kiss From A Rose, but was totally surprised how well the band reinvented it into something a little more rocking, and Sánchez proves he can hit the notes, which helps maintain the integrity of the original for the most part. On the heavy side of things, Don’t You Forget It is a real stand out cut on the album, with Hole In My Head following close behind in terms of quality.
Finishing up the album (outside the somewhat strange Eastern sounding new-age instrumental hidden track that appears after eight minutes of silence) is the easy going/semi-acoustic Kids Got Moves, which is another album highlight.
Atom Smash’s debut was a strong effort, but with Beautiful Alien, the band has really shaken up their song writing to diversify their direction and sound – which ultimately works in their favour. Coming across as part hard rock and part post-grunge, overall Beautiful Alien is a winner for Atom Smash – and nothing short of a real loss for their former label.