"Always the Villain" (Frontiers Music SRL; 2020)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This is apparently the album that Michael Grant has been trying to make since EndEverAfter ceased to exist or maybe just since his departure from L.A. Guns in 2018 (after that amazing record, "The Missing Peace"). It's a collection of eleven tracks that range from in-your-face rockers ("Barrel of a Gun") to tamer radio-friendly fare ("Anthem of Us"). 

In many ways, "Always the Villain" reminded me of Kane Roberts' 1991 album "Saints and Sinners." Both are hard rock albums, a little poppier than other hard rock albums. I know that the Roberts reference might be a little obscure but I'm having a little trouble thinking of a band to compare it to. REO Speedwagon, maybe? Not that doesn't sound right either. My point, I guess, is that I wish "Always the Villain" was a little harder and heavier. Don't get me wrong, it's an amazing record and it's drawn me back to listen again several times already, but I expected something a little rougher, especially after "The Missing Peace."

What gives "Always the Villain" a leg up, however, is the recording line-up. It's literally Michael Grant with Shane Fitzgibbon on drums for tracks 1, 4, 7, 8 & 10. Yep. That's it. Grant performed every other instrument on the recording, not to mention wrote, recorded and produced the whole thing. Pretty damn impressive.

My favorite tracks are the opening number, "Barrel of a Gun," the title track ("Always the Villain," of course) and the other harder-edged tunes. The tamer, slower tunes–while solid numbers in their own right–just don't speak to me as much. That being said, I will admit that those tunes have grown on me during subsequent repeat listenings, especially on tracks like "Death of Me."

An impressive achievement no matter how you look at it, "Always the Villain" is nothing if not a pure, unfiltered look into the musical mind of Michael Grant.

For more information check out https://mgassassins.com.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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