Charm City Devils’ Latest, Battles
By Alyce Hayes
If you’re searching for some solid, hard-hitting party rock, your search is now officially over, thanks to Charm City Devils. The band (John Allen on vocals, Victor Karrera and Nick Gay on guitars, Anthony Arambula on bass and Jason Heiser on drums) formed in 2007 and will be releasing their third album, Battles, on September 23rd. These Baltimore natives deliver a sound that’s a swaggering mix of Motley Crue and Stone Temple Pilots with an appropriate dose of country and southern rock attitude thrown in for good measure.
The album kicks you in the face with its first three tracks: “Tear it Up,” “Crucify,” and the recently released single “Shots” (catch the official lyric video here and purchase the track here). After doling out that sonic bruising (oh, it hurts so good!) and a few more rock n roll punches, CCD slow the pace a little with “Destiny” and the acoustic “Let it Go,” which show the band’s softer side (and instantly make you want to hold your lighter up in the air), offering a well-placed close to the album.
Battles is full of catchy choruses and Charm City Devils’ style does have somewhat of an 80s and arena rock feel (but not look…thank goodness, the band is sans all that damn hair and Aqua Net) ~ but with more modern guitar riffs and chord progressions. Their song “Want” is a perfect example of old (yup, another dirty look from my editor, who refuses to acknowledge “her” music from the 80s as old) and new blending successfully, and overall, all the music partners well with Allen’s melodic-but-gritty vocal stylings. He’s very adept at playing with his tone and the “cleanliness” of his voice to find what best fits the music and doesn’t shy away from harmonies. Battles manages to be surprisingly accessible, offering enough variety ~ while never truly straying from the band’s core musical identity ~ to appeal to a pretty broad spectrum of listeners. Stone Temple Pilots fans will enjoy the guitar riffs in “Everyday,” country music fans will love the southern, boot-stomping feel to “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” and Nickleback fans (I’m not going to say it!) will definitely dig the ballad “Destiny.”
I do have to say that Battles doesn’t hit the same way that CCD’s 2012 album Sins, did. While Sins had the same notable 80s flair and country leanings, the guitar playing was chunkier and faster, bass guitar was more noticeable, and the songs came off as, well, cockier ~ in the good way. I think what Battles shows is a band experimenting with the potential of tone and chord progressions rather than rapid picking to achieve intense and a dynamic sound. I always respect a band willing to play around with different styles to test their skills, explore different methods, and not simply rely on formulas they’ve used in the past, so kudos to Charm City Devils for not being afraid to try something new.
And while at times Battles may come off as a little too similar to older STP and Army of Anyone (and hey, this metal chick loved Army of Anyone ~ Richard Patrick and Robert DeLeo can join forces any time they want, please and thank you), Charm City Devils should nonetheless be commended for bringing their own special flavor to the music they create and for not allowing their sound to grow stagnant… And we can always use a little more of those qualities in the industry, am I right?