(Hard Rock) ALCATRAZZ - Born Innocent album review
Release date July 31, 2020 (Silver Lining Music)
Born Innocent is Alcatrazz's fourth studio album since their 1983 inception following singer Graham Bonnet's departure from the Michael Schenker Group. They have disbanded and reformed repeatedly since the late 80s, and this is their first album in 34 years.
This version of the band finds original members Bonnet, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and bassist Gary Shea all back in the fold, as they have been for all four studio efforts. Replacing Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai on guitar is former Exorcism axeman, Joe Stump. Drums are handled by Mark Benquechea.
Alcatrazz were never an easy band to listen to, as their complex hard rock sound requires that you pay attention in order to get what they are putting out, and Born Innocent is no different. Different parts of songs reference Rainbow and Deep Purple, as well as other bands that tiptoe along the line of hard and progressive rock. But when taken as a whole, Alcatrazz have a unique sound that is immediately identifiable, but entirely their own. No other band sounds quite like them.
If you are already a fan of Bonnet's vocals from his days in Rainbow, MSG, Impellitteri or others then you will know what you are in for with his strong, distinct vocal signature. And his vocals on this album are as strong as ever. Stump's guitar work fits in seamlessly with the Alcatrazz sound, as initiated by Malmsteen, and the rest of the band show their usual flair and competence. There are some guest guitarists on a few songs, including Chris Impellitterri on the title track, which he wrote. Steve Vai also contributes a song he wrote by way of the the excellent rocker "Dirty Like the City".
The first nine songs and 40 minutes are all Alcatrazz, with soaring vocals, awkward lyrics, crunching riffs and that signature guitar sound. Highlights not already mentioned include "I am the King", "London 1666" and "Polar Bear". But the last four songs start to see the quality of the product drop off. While saying that they suck may be heavy handed, it surely would have been a stronger album if they were left on the cutting room floor.
A must-have for any Alcatrazz fan, and a should-investigate for fans of hard rock and heavy metal with progressive leanings.