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Hollywood Forever

Cleopatra (2012)
Rating: 8.5/10

The 80s were never kind to L.A. Guns, if you ask me. Despite a few minor hits, such as the ballad ‘The Ballad Of Jayne’ and the more boisterous ‘Rip And Tear’ (both from 1989’s Cocked & Loaded), these guys, despite obvious talent, never hit the big time. Even with a number of solid albums, they’ve never managed to carve a successful career in the same way Mötley Crüe or Guns N’ Roses have, but it’s great to see them still rocking hard today, and Hollywood Forever is probably the best record they’ve ever released.

It’s been several years since the last studio effort, and due to the break singer Phil Lewis seems psyched up on this album; and if the title track is anything to go by it seems this band of gypsies have got a lot more left in the locker. The second Stacey Blades kicks in with that riff and Steve Riley hits the skins I’m screaming, “That’s ‘Blind In Texas’ by W.A.S.P.!!” It’s a little too close for comfort if you ask me, but it’s still a great blazing song, bolstered by Andy Johns’ great crisp production.

The ghost of former guitarist and L.A. Guns founder Tracii Guns has most certainly been exorcized on this opus. Blades is all fuel and fury, delivering some blistering solos; check out his axework three minutes into the second track, ‘You Better Not Love Me’, and the darker, bellowing groove of ‘Burn’… great stuff! There’s not a filler in sight as the band shift through uptempo sleaze rockers such as the glam strut of ‘Vine St. Shimmy’ with its Faster Pussycat-style swagger and the cool, metallic groove of ‘Dirty Black Knight’, where Blades shines once again.

Personal favourite has to be the Faces-type bar room shake of ‘Queenie’, which takes us back to those hazy hairspray days. Lewis is more Rod Stewart now than Rod could ever be, but his voice really comes to the fore on the sultry ‘Underneath The Sun’, a steady, slow building, thoughtful rocker steeped in melody that deserves radio play. Biggest surprise on the album though is the closing track, ‘Araña Negra (Black Spider)’, a cover of a song by Argentine outfit The Bicicletas, sung entirely in Spanish but sporting a mesmeric riff and great bass work from Scott Griffin.

Hollywood Forever consists of 14 smoking hot tracks that have well and truly brought the sleaze back into metal. Who needs the new kids on the block when the old timers are still producing the goods? This is major league metal, and it’s finally great to see L.A. Guns fulfil their potential.

Neil Arnold

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