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Horns And Halos

Spinefarm (2013)
Rating: 8.5/10

“Coulda been, woulda been, shoulda been dead” croons Helsinki rock god Michael Monroe on his eagerly anticipated eighth studio outing, Horns And Halos. As expected, it’s another gem of a record that combines that smooth-toned swagger, glam rock stomp and punky attitude with a spring of sexy sax and melodic strut.

Michael Monroe is a true rock ’n’ roll survivor who ditched the drugs and booze for a life fuelled by New York Dolls-inspired sleaze ’n’ glamour. Monroe has never released a turkey of an album and Horns And Halos continues that sturdy trend. Boasting 11 high octane and wonderfully positive rockers, each are the result of that strong fusion of five musicians who all believe in the same thing… the power of rock ’n’ roll.

Monroe is accompanied by one of my favourite guitarists, Steve Conte, who not only featured with the New York Dolls, but one of my favourite underrated rock bands, Company Of Wolves. Conte is joined by Swedish guitarist Dregen, former Hanoi Rocks and New York Dolls bassist Sami Yaffa and the aptly named Karl “Rockfist” Rosqvist on drums, who over the years has worked with bands such as Danzig and Chelsea Smiles.

You only have to spin Horns And Halos once to get high on the energy of the whole affair; the album boasts so many catchy hooks and boisterous melodies that by the time you’ve indulged in that first time hit you’ll wake up to the sight of a trashed bedroom.

From the off it’s the pumping strains of ‘TNT Diet’ with its sweaty riff and kicking drum, Monroe offering a slurring snarl as he sneers, “Torture and trauma is your middle name”. With ‘Ballad Of The Lower East Side’ though, he shows punk pretenders Green Day and the like how to vomit out a raucous melody as the blonde bombshell yaps, “There were junkies, pimps and whores, hallelujah!” over an infectious cauldron of hooks. However, Monroe is quick to warn that, “Things are different today” as he reflects on his time in New York among the slums, but that dirty sound just evokes so many images of syringe-strewn back alleys and trashed hotel rooms.

Horns And Halos lowers the tempo slightly with the ulta-cool shaker-maker sway of ‘Eighteen Angels’. A modern rock ’n’ roll sax-injected strutter, ‘Eighteen Angels’ proves as to why Monroe is without doubt one of the coolest motherfuckers on earth, cavorting and sighing over that tambourine shuffle and snarling lick, drooling “Meet my maker she’s no faker”.

It’s an absolute killer track that leads us to the bouncy ‘Saturday Night Special’ and the brooding ‘Stained Glass Heart’, which has echoes of Kings Of Leon’s ‘Sex On Fire’ in those opening chords. Elsewhere, we’re treated to the summery glint of ‘Child Of The Revolution’ with its Rolling Stones-like bop and the driving title track with its fantastic, uproar of a chorus.

Sure, Horns And Halos sounds modern, but that’s the magic of Monroe; he has an ability to continue to rock hard and with sincerity, but without resorting to that lipstick ’n’ leather type of days gone by. The rampant ‘Soul Surrender’ – with its potent bass, reggae-styled jog and snarling, choppy vocals – is contradicted by the darker strains of ‘Ritual’, while ‘Half The Way’ is equally cocksure and refreshing. The trio of tracks lead us to the closing ‘Hands Are Tied’ with its blues-based riff and Rolling Stones styled Mick Jagger swagger amid a riff of sax and sleaze.

“I’d love to rock ya, but my hands are tied” Monroe blasts, but on this form he could ooze out this type of peroxide rock ’n’ roll standing on one leg and blindfolded. Horns And Halos… it’s only rock ’n’ roll but I like it.

Neil Arnold

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