The opinions expressed below are mine and mine alone.–LKD
I love music. I can’t even fathom a day without music. I believe that music (like all art) either touches you, or it doesn’t. I’m no longer the kind of person who will say that music that I don’t personally care for sucks. (I did in my 20s, but me in my 20s was rather judgmental. what can i say.) I am a rock fan–typically leaning towards alternative or songs heavy metal tinge. I ‘discovered’ Sixx AM after reading Nikki Sixx’s book “The Heroin Diaries” and began listening to his radio show Sixx Sense. I bought the book several years before I read it, scared to read what I knew would be a horrible, terrible, honest description of life as a heroin addict. My brother is a heroin addict and I wanted to read this to gain an understanding. When I did finally screw up the courage to read it, I read it in 2 days, 2 days of crying and searing pain for me. But it has helped me heal as well. Then I bought the album “The Heroin Diaries”. And then I was hooked on Sixx AM.
I really like ‘Prayers for the Damned’. I think that overall this is Sixx AM’s best total work. Nikki Sixx, James Michael, and DJ Ashba are gelling nicely as artists together and putting out high quality melodic rock with lyrics that are insightful. (Disclaimer: I was a so-so fan of Motley Crue–always loved the music but never the lyrics. Sorry Nikki.) ‘Prayers for the Damned’ begins with the single ‘Rise’ which is definitely the most radio-friendly song on the album. This is a fist-pumping get-you-going kind of song and sets an expectation that the album will be filled with Sixx AM’s signature hard-charging rock with positive energy. This expectation does not really come to fruition–the next several songs are fairly dark, setting up a relationship but with an undertone of impending doom due to personal demon wrestling. I have issues with “I’m Sick”–not lyrically, but for the section where the singing stops and the talk/rap?/sing section starts. I hit the next button almost every time. Just doesn’t do it for me. My first few times through “Can’t Stop” were difficult as well–the frenetic sound and pace were stressful. Then I realized that was intentional and was able to listen more closely. Overall, the first six songs are good, solid entries.
The tone shifts further into the darkness with “When We Were Gods” and “Belly of the Beast”. Nikki Sixx answered a tweet about ‘Gods’ saying it was a love song. OK. I can see that. But it is a wistful, reminiscing of love, not a current celebration. And then ‘Beast’ comes along and we are wrestling demons full-on and simultaneously facing betrayal. Ouch.
In my opinion, the great thing about rock–and what separates it from pop–is the rawness–the unpolished emotion and energy. Sixx AM is at their best when they allow that raw energy to stay raw. Nikki Sixx’s driving bass line coupled with Dustin Steinke’s drums anchor several songs on this album (which is definitely an album to be listened to front to back–you can hear the storyline arcing throughout). Raw and real are songs 9 and 10 — ‘Everything Went to Hell’ and ‘The Last Time’- respectively. The righteous anger in ‘Everything’ snarls in brutal lyrics “I watched you fucking him, Right then your life was over, Thought you were heaven sent, then everything went to hell. I watched you take him then (note: I originally thought this said take him in, which is more graphic, but I think more suitable to the nastiness of this song) and I just stood there frozen, You killed what could have been, Then Everything Went To Hell”. Who but the most callous and jaded amongst us could fail to feel that? (side note: I am dying to know if the telephone message played was real — can you imagine having your begging displayed for the world? Or the sweet taste of such a public revenge?) Determination and grit mark “The Last Time” as Michael vows “I’ve been broken, I’ve been beaten down, this is the last time my heart will ever hit the ground”. To me, this is the triumph, the phoenix rising from the ashes. That line is the Rise promised in song one. I desperately wanted ‘Rise of the Melancholy Empire’–the last song–to be a triumphal slash in the face of a horribly failed relationship, but it just misses. I think it is too produced, too much of the naked, exposed humanity polished. I wanted it to be either a giant middle finger extended at the world for another betrayal or a quiet strength and certainty facing down yet another maelstrom. ‘Rise of the Melancholy Empire’ tries to be both, I think, and manages neither.
Buy this album. Buy every Sixx AM album. This band is on a journey and it is musically documented splendidly. To date, their best song is “Skin” on 2011’s “This is Gonna Hurt”. This is a song that perfectly encapsulates raw emotion and showcases the best of what Sixx AM can offer. Prayers for the Damned is to be the first of two albums released this year–I have not yet seen a release date for album 2, and the band has an intense tour schedule. I hope that they resist the urge to polish their musical gems too much, just let their edges and imperfections shine.