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Non-Prog CD Reviews

The Step Kings

3 The Hard Way

Review by Mike Korn

Yo! Listen up, youse guys! Dis here is da latest plate from da Step Kings, 3 tough-lookin' mooks from Noo Yawk who been crankin' out a rough and ready brand of rock for a few years now.

OK, OK, I won't torment you with any more cliché Bronx-speak but you do feel like talking that way when you listen to true blue collar tunes like those belted out by the Step Kings, Biohazard, Agnostic Front, et al. The tough guy act has never impressed me that much but it's the music that does the talking. And I gotta say, I like "3 the Hard Way" more than I thought I would. It's a lean and mean collection of hard-edged rock and roll. I hesitate to call it metal or hardcore because there's definitely a poppy edge to the material here. It would appeal to fans of Green Day or Offspring, but there are occasional real heavy parts Ala Biohazard to spice things up. Nu-metallers should enjoy the shouted semi-rap vocals and gang choruses along with the simple, beefy riffs. And there's some surprising melodies popping up also.

I can't say I go a bundle for this sort of approach but the Kings definitely keep it short and sweet and they mix up things enough to keep your interest. That's not a bad thing these days. So grab a holda dis one if youse is looking for real rock wit dat true New York style!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2002 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Nucleus
The first track features a funky, hard-hitting sound with a lot of crunch and trade-off vocals between Fern and Bob McLynn. It's a bit like a less brutal Biohazard and features a great catchy chorus over surging power chords...a Step Kings trademark.
3 The Hard Way
The title track has even more of a funky tone, a bit like Rage Against the Machine. Plenty of tough guy, from the street attitude is present here.
California
This track won't win the band too many fans on the Left Coast, as it is a ringing indictment of the phony California attitude. The track is pretty commercial and a cross between pop-punk and nu-metal.
Zeroes and Ones
This definitely shows the more melodic side of the band. I'd describe the song as alternative rock with a poppy feel. This kind of music is very generic and does little for me, but the lyrics, describing the perils of Internet dating, are quite original.
Helicopters
This one really throws a lot of styles at you. It begins with a ska/reggae type feel and then heavies up considerably. Though the riffing gets gradually more brutal as the song goes on, but the vocals retain that reggae feel. Lyrically the song is a unique take on the 9/11/01 bombings.
Palisades
This tune begins deceptively with some very jazzy tones, but then erupts into a GREAT heavy rock tune. The chorus is superb and at about the 2:15 mark, it kicks in with some awesome power riffing with an almost majestic feel. It is the album's best song by far.

The Dove
Another killer hard-hitting tune, the staccato riffs on this remind me of the late, great Helmet, but then the band unleashes another one of their impressive choruses to make things even better.
Younglife Crisis
This reveals the more rappy side of the Step Kings. Over a HEAVY bass riff, they give us a taste of that New York style tough guy rapping. The song then hits a kind of Green Day vibe on the chorus.
Goodbye
This track is a pretty generic alt-metal song, sounding like it could have come from any number of such bands like 3 Doors Down, etc. It's a bit heavier than most tracks of that ilk but it doesn't leave much impression on me.

12/23/01
This sparse acoustic tune ends the album. Believe it or not, this actually reminded me of the mellower moments of Opeth! At the end, there's a unnecessary minute or so of riffs and feedback.

 
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