REVIEW: Kris Barras Band – Death Valley Paradise

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It is rather interesting how the term, “anthemic hard-rock banger,” has taken on a whole new meaning over the past few decades. In 1984, it used to refer to a hard-rock party anthem singing praise to eternal youth, promiscuity, and alcohol, whereas in 2022, it is more likely used to refer to a hard-rock number talking about personal empowerment, venturing through some personal darkness, and thriving regardless of whatever hardships life keeps throwing our way. One of the top releases of 2021 was TREMONTI‘s magnificently anthemic studio album Marching in Time and after a few spins, it becomes obvious that the UK-based hard-rock powerhouse, KRIS BARRAS BAND, kind of follow suit with their new outing, “Death Valley Paradise,” which due out on March 4th, 2022, via Mascot Records. It is a new batch of eleven songs that zoom in on the chaos of our everyday life from different angles and clear a path through the thick vegetation of dark and dismal thoughts with a sharp, sonic machete. The overarching sentiment on the outing is that of a personal triumph – of turning harsh conditions to your favor, like turning those in the notorious Mojave Desert in Eastern California into a paradise. Fans of TREMONTI and ALTER BRIDGE should not have trouble finding a soft spot in their hearts for this band.

The album sets things in motion with the somewhat 1980s-tinted opener, “Dead Horses.” The vocal delivery, along with the robust riffing, is subtly reminiscent of the “Slippery When Wet” -era BON JOVI. It should gently remind us that there used to be a time when BON JOVI was a legitimate household name in the pantheon of hard-rock – and KRIS BARRAS BAND seems to have no trouble in joining the ranks. The following two anthemic bangers, “Long Gone” and “My Parade,” further pronounce this mighty good first impression. The latter resonates with the air of a call-to-arms protest song with all the hallmark elements of class-A arena rock. There is an overarching catchy quality to all the songs, probably stemming from the fact that the album was conceived as a collaborative effort with heavyweight songwriters such as Jonny Andrews (THREE DAYS GRACE, FOZZY), Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, AIRBOURNE, Rob Zombie), Blair Daly (HALESTORM, BLACK STONE CHERRY), and Zac Maloy (SHINEDOWN, Tyler Bryant). Yes, the outing sounds rather mainstream – but in a feel-good, vibing way.

Despite the somewhat introspective themes of the song lyrics, this selection of eleven new songs is marked by a certain driving feel. There are only two songs that can be considered ballads. “Wake Me When It’s Over” ventures into hard-rock melancholy in the best BON JOVI fashion you could imagine and “Bury Me” resonates with a subtle SHINEDOWN vibe. Otherwise, the songs are driven by tight, up-tempo riffs. The riffs sound big enough to fit, say, the iconic Wembley Arena in the UK – where the band is set to warm up for THUNDER in 2022. It is no wonder, then, that – before to the global pandemic turned everything upside down – these hard-rockers were witnessing a meteoric rise on their home turf in the wake of their magnificent two studio albums, “The Divine and Dirty” (2018) and “Light It Up” (2019). With the execution of their new batch of songs being of this caliber, it is easy to see that KRIS BARRAS BAND will continue spearheading the heavy-rock revival in the UK and elsewhere. This is exactly the sort of hard-rock that works like magic on stage.

Quite obviously, the more anthemic tracks stand out like a bunch of high-voltage calling cards, but it needs to be said that the outing is rather consistent and coherent in providing quality riffs and vocal hooks throughout. Even after a good number of spins, you may not feel like skipping a song. Despite the themes of broken relationships, letting go, or other types of mental struggles, the overall feel is somewhat empowering and good-vibey. This is one of those albums to put on when you need a gentle motivational kick in the butt – or, to put it in a bit more clichéd manner, this is the kind of music to put on when you want to awaken the fighter in you. It might have something to do with the fact that the talismanic frontman has had a decade-long career of blood, sweat, and broken bones as a cage fighter. The album presents us with a question: when what you do is who you are, what do you do when that is dragged out into a wilderness of doubt? It also suggests in its sneaky and sly kind of way that, quite obviously, you put up one hell of a fight.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Dead Horses
  2. Long Gone
  3. My Parade
  4. These Voices
  5. Who Needs Enemies
  6. Devil You Know
  7. Wake Me When It’s Over
  8. Hostage
  9. Cigarettes and Gasoline
  10. Bury Me
  11. Chaos

Lineup

Kris Barras – vocals, guitars

Josiah J. Manning – keyboards, acoustic guitars/bass

Kelpie McKenzie – bass

Billy Hammett – drums

Label

Mascot Label Group

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