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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Russell Allen's Atomic Soul

Russell Allen's Atomic Soul

Review by Josh Turner

The Darkness can step aside. This is the real deal when it comes to rock retro. The late shows should be calling up Russell Allen to have him demonstrate how it's really done. Atomic Soul is so hot it roasts. My ears are still blistering from the first spin. Since then I've be playing it incessantly. At this point, my persistence has resulted in first-degree burns. It's easily one of the best hard rock albums I've heard in years. The songwriting is simple, but the energy is awfully engaging. Any listener will be lassoed in on this one. This high quality creation brings some of the biggest "A" list names to mind such as AC/DC and Audioslave, but the back-catalog of many other legends appears to be fair game as well. The music should be filed away with the entire class of hard rock classics.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Blackout
He couldn't have started his solo career with a better song. This lead-footed, high-octane, nitro-infused number will bring sweat to your brow. It has all the power and the glory of Symphony X along with the bravado of ageless classic rock. There is no question this is modern metal fare. It's as fierce and outrageous as Zakk Wylde and Rob Zombie. Nothing like it came before, yet it borrows so much from the yesteryears. This is a phantom punch and if you're not careful, you'll be pounded into complete unconsciousness. When it's done, you'll awake from your stupor, not knowing exactly what just hit you over the head. Bar none, Blackout is a total knockout.
Unjustified
This is another raucous clip that rocks with fire and fiery. While there is not much beyond an amped-up axe and Russell's raspy voice, by no means is this some kind of dud. This dude sure can carry a tune. His electrifying voice is enough to justify this album's existence.
Voodoo Hand
This delves more into the past with influences that range from Led Zeppelin to Deep Purple. I'd say there is a touch of King's X in there too. One short sequence in the middle actually even manages to incorporate some of ELP's essence. That's what I like most about the disc. It is a compilation of all the classic sounds, but it also integrates some very modern-sounding melodies. Not to mention, he must be using the latest technology in terms of its production as the mix is quite immaculate.
Angel
While the last song had a nostalgic feel, this one is keeps with the current times. I hear a lot of Soundgarden in this song and it's hard to believe it's from the same voice. Russell has tremendous range. One moment he is Robert Plant, the next he is Chris Cornell. There are even instances where he sounds like Steve Perry.
The Distance
This is more along the lines of a power ballad. It's not as aggressive as the other pieces, but it is certainly inspired by hard rock. While Russell sings with peace and passion, the guitars growl like an aggravated mutt. Again, we get some progressive effects in the middle and a guitar solo that is soaked in gasoline. Tensions flare as nearby flames create the potential of a dangerous trigger. The album maintains its center of gravity without giving us too much of the same while staying true to its rock roots. Fans of hard rock will be thoroughly impressed with its integrity and balance.
Seasons of Insanity
Without getting too loud or obnoxious, this nears the hardcore sides of the spectrum and even slips in some punk. It's almost as insane as Insane Clown Posse. Russell really hits every part of the scale here. Like Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth, he snarls one second, the next his singing is spic n' span.
Gaia
This is the closest you'll find anything on the album that compares to Symphony X. The keyboard orchestrations are the responsible party as they create the connection. This wouldn't be too out of place on one of Symphony X's earlier albums.
Loosin' You:
Russell's phrasings suggest a little attitude. His tone is belligerent and lax. It sounds like his woman has been lying and cheating. He can't get through to her and can no longer take it, so he draws a line in the sand and lets his emotions flow. His choice of words and delivery is simply incredible. This song is best suited for all those newly single swingers.
Saucey Jack
We get down-home blues in the vein of Stevie Ray Vaughn. The guitar licks are laced with a thick and spicy sauce. The bass is marinated in a mixture that's just as bold as it's bodacious. This is finger-licking-good barbecue. While it has a jazzy and improvised feel, it's actually performed to perfection. My compliments go out to the chef. This culinary creation is so succulent and scrumptious that it sends chills down the ear canal.
We Will Fly
While it's not exactly a symphony sonata, the song plays in parallel with a piano concerto. It's hard to gauge what this album is all about when it's composed of elegant pieces such as this one. It has hard rock at its core, but several progressive rock innuendos make their way to the surface.
Atomic Soul
In an album that has persistently provided the most potent pieces, this is one powerful end. This is one of the better tracks, second only to the first. It's an incredible way to cap his creation. Russell bookends his divine design with two colossal and spirited songs. Everything in between is almost as impressive. It's hard to believe this is his earliest attempt at a solo effort. Heed the warning on the label. Russell Allen's Atomic Soul is really one explosive album.
 
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