"The New Normal" (Frontiers; 2019)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

One of my favorite Alice Cooper albums is "Raise Your Fist and Yell" from 1987. Not only were the lyrics some of Cooper's best (who can forget the fist-pumping anthem "Freedom" or the theme from John Carpenter's horror hit, "Prince of Darkness"?) but the tracks were powerful and full, closer to heavy metal than most of Alice's previous releases and the album spoke to me as a fan of that genre.

Sure, it was Alice Cooper and he is rock'n'roll's greatest chameleon when it comes to the shades of genres he's mastered but much of "Raise Your Fist and Yell's" success was due to that era's muscle-bound guitar hero, Kane Roberts. You remember him: He released a solo album that same year with a cover that had him shirtless, holding a guitar that doubled as a machine gun.

The funny thing is that Kane's subsequent solo albums and work with Phoenix Down were never as heavy as "Raise Your Fist and Yell." Kane leaned more toward progressive or classic rock with his solo rock'n'roll projects. That isn't to say his albums didn't rock, it's just that you'd be hard-pressed to call them heavy metal (although they would definitely fit in the hard rock category).

It's been awhile since I've heard anything from Kane Roberts, so I was thrilled when I saw that he was releasing a new solo album, "The New Normal." I won't lie, I was hoping it would be a little heavier than his "Saints and Sinners" and more like "Raise Your Fist and Yell." i'm happy to report that, in most cases, it is. "The New Normal" rocks hard and loud.

"The New Normal" reminded me of Paul Stanley's last solo album, "Live to Win." It's a collection of hard rock songs with a pop sensibility buoyed significantly by Kane's blistering guitar leads. And things get really heavy, too. Track 3, "Beginning the End," features Kane's old bandmate Alice Cooper, and a raging vocal performance by another guest, Alissa White-Gluz of Arch Enemy, which can almost rip your face off. Other guests include Kane's former Alice Cooper band members, Kip Winger, Paul Taylor and Ken Mary on the track "Above and Beyond."

There are plenty of rock ballad tracks here as well, such as the slower-paced "Who We Are," "The Lion's Share" (featuring perhaps the album's best solo) and the simmering "Leave this World Behind," which comes to a crushing and crunchy boil.

"The New Normal" is a slick and well-produced album that once again showcases Kane Roberts' extraordinary talents. Here's to hoping it doesn't take him as long to write and record a follow-up.

For more information, check out https://www.facebook.com/KaneRobertsFBPage/.


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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Copyright 2019 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.