Thursday, August 7, 2014

RECORD REVIEW: Glenn Evans "Overload"

Glenn Evans
(Sidipus Records)

Something wacky happened 
recently when Glenn Evans
went studio shopping for a 
possible Nuclear Assault 
reunion album. He cut a 
solo record.

When I first met Glenn Evans back in 1987, he was on the American leg of Nuclear Assault's Game Over tour. Comprised of Evans on drums, bassist Danny Lilker, vocalist / guitarist John Connelly and lead guitarist Anthony Bramante, the "golden era" Nuclear Assault line-up was practically starving on the road — traveling across the country in a dilapidated school bus. I was impressed immediately by this brash new band's un-compromised dedication. Fueled by sheer determination and possessing far more street cred than its crop of contemporaries, Nuclear Assault rose quickly to the top of the international hardcore metal scene and soon was touring worldwide with the likes of Slayer and Testament. The band's 1990 Handle with Care album enjoyed significant chart success and gave birth to the MTV staples, "Critical Mass" and "Trail of Tears." 

A bona fide hardcore metal classic.
In 2014, the highly-anticipated KISS-style reunion of the classic Nuclear Assault line-up remains in the talking stage. However, Evans felt compelled to get proactive and begin a nationwide search  for the perfect studio in which to record a potential new release. "I mainly wanted to find a great drum room for the final Nuke album," the songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer explains. "It was the day after Christmas, 2013. I had nothing written, so I jumped on a plane, flew to Sonic Ranch Studios in El Paso, Texas and recorded a solo album of cover tunes. I'm playing everything. It was recorded and mixed in a few days. Then, I had it mastered at the Panic Room in Sweden." 

Nuclear Assault - circa 1990
(Bramante, Lilker, Connelly and Evans)
My immediate concern upon first hearing about Overload was that Evans likely would be covering a glob of obscure speed metal tracks. But, HOORAY — they're ALL "A" list gems! Evans goes super-old school — back to his (very) early roots and serves up savory samples from all four basic aural food groups — pop, rock, metal and punk. Simply put, Overload (Evans' third solo effort and his first in more than 20 years), delivers — big. The production is impeccable and the musicianship — superb.

But be sure that although  Evans' guitar work is certainly exceptional, it's his machine-like drum skill that continues to serve as his true calling card. And nowhere on the record is that fact more evident than on the opening track — Motörhead's anthemic, "Ace of Spades." Wow, is it possible actually to bring MORE energy to this classic? Apparently so. And with his signature stormtrooper-style, Evans proves that his double-kick technique still packs as much rib-cracking punch as dual battering rams.

This rare X-ray reveals that Glenn Evans'
feet actually ARE battering rams!
Evans' no-holds-barred, savage vocal delivery makes Ace Frehley's "Hard Times," his very own. The guitar sound and style (especially during the solo) are pretty freaking close to the original. And the creative lyrical liberty that  Evans claims ("I got arrested, everyday life in New Jersey") is hilarious. In fact, I'd wager a bet that Evans' version likely sounds closer to how "the Spaceman" would have  recorded the track, had KISS not already morphed into a corporate kiddie band when it first appeared on the 1979 Dynasty album. 

"Bad Time?" Are you kidding me? THE "Bad Time?" Holy cow, I thought that I was the only "seasoned" metal dude who possessed a passion for this pop / rock guilty pleasure. A Top Five smash for Grand Funk in 1975, the song first appeared on the band's 1974 album, All the Girls in the World Beware!!! and over the years it has remained one of my absolute personal favorites. Musically, Evans doesn't stray far from the original recording. However, his vocals are a smidge more "heartfelt"  than Mark Farner's. Not only is "Bad Time" the highlight of the record, it also quickly has become one of my all-time favorite Evans tracks — behind "Brainwashed," "Search & Seizure" and "Critical Mass," of course!

The Sex Pistols staple, "God Save the Queen" has been bludgeoned to death —  plain and simple, by more seemingly well-intending artists than I can count. But by combining Tom Araya's gut-wrenching vocal sensibilities with C.C. DeVille-inspired cock-rock riffin', Evans manages to make this weathered  old bar hag somehow appealing again. 

Glenn Evans "Ace of Spades"
(Official music video)

In sum, Overload is an extremely impressive offering — one that keeps me reaching for the "replay" button over and over. And through its release and subsequent success, I hope that Evans prevails in his lofty mission to "poke the bear" and inspire the (true) Nuclear Assault reunion that fans have been patiently waiting for.

-Christopher Long
(August 2014)

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