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Urbansnake - "Whiteknuckle" (CD)

Urbansnake - "Whiteknuckle" CD cover image

"Whiteknuckle" track listing:

1. Energy
2. Orphan
3. Alive and Lonely
4. Lines
5. Whiteknuckle
6. Blow Shit Up
7. Crawl Into Your Bones
8. Kill Your Master
9. Eight Feet Tall Six Feet Wide
10. Bulldozer
11. Hardly Real

Reviewed by on November 2, 2009

"If you really want to hear what Corvino can do, check out his bravura performance on 'Whiteknuckle,' which has him engaging in Chris Cornell-style 'high-but-low' vocals over riffs that blend Soundgarden and early Metallica in some intriguing ways."

Urbansnake's "Whiteknuckle" is one of those albums that on paper seems like an album that I'd like more than I actually do. Singer Vinny Corvino has a voice that reminds me alternately of guys like Dave Grohl and Chris Cornell. Guitarists Kevin Aponte and Andy Romeo play with a punky fury that reminds me of Motorhead with enough Metallica and Sabbath thrown in to keep things on the heavy side.

And yet, many of the songs are missing the kind of spark that would elevate them from the "good, not great" category. I found "Whiteknuckle" to be perfectly listenable, but, if I'm being honest, it never really distracted me from anything else I was doing when I listened to it multiple times in an effort to appreciate it more.

"Energy," the track that opens the album, is aptly titled, with a high-speed burst of guitar opening in a manner quite reminiscent of the Foo Fighters at their finest. Corvino's Grohl-like voice makes its first appearance here. Sure, the song sounds like a Foo Fighters outtake, mixed with some chugging metal guitars, but that's by no means a bad thing.

The band's heavier direction on "Orphan" is intriguing, and I can instantly see why they chose this song for their video (which is included on the album). I like the stuttering riff that accompanies the verses on this one and Corvino starts to exercise the top end of his vocal range here.

If you really want to hear what Corvino can do, check out his bravura performance on "Whiteknuckle," which has him engaging in Chris Cornell-style "high-but-low" vocals over riffs that blend Soundgarden and early Metallica in some intriguing ways.

The thing about any album, but particularly a metal one, is that you can only pull from the same bag of tricks so many times before it starts to sound a little old. Toward the end of the disc, songs like "Eight Feet Tall Six Feet Wide" and "Bulldozer" start to feel like retreads of earlier, better material on the album. Even so, they're expertly played, with the vocals really standing out on "Bulldozer," and a great wah-wah-laden solo on "Eight Feel Tall Six Feet Wide."

The album "officially" ends with the 11th track, "Hardly Real," but there are actually two bonus tracks, the first of which has a superb bass line from James Papa. The second bonus track is a weird mix of balladry and quick bursts of heavy guitar that works much better than it should.

The production on the album is okay, though it seems a bit tinny to my ears — especially when it comes to Hemi Bordowitz's drums. Corvino's vocals rightly have a place of prominence even when he's singing quietly.

Though some of the songs, especially toward the tail end of the album, fall into the "average" category, the only one that flirts with being a genuinely bad song is the serious-but-silly "Blow Shit Up," which marries a goofy chorus with lyrics about suicide bombings.

Urbansnake's "Whiteknuckle" is a perfectly good metal album. The thing that maddens me is that it's got just enough moments of greatness that I can't stop thinking about the album that could've been had the band given us more of those moments.

Highs: "Energy," "Orphan," "Whiteknuckle" and the two bonus tracks at the end.

Lows: Slightly tinny production, the serious-but-silly "Blow Shit Up," and some songs that start to feel repetitious at the end.

Bottom line: A perfectly good metal album with a mix of styles, but one that lacks the kind of spark that would make it great.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)