Shackle Jack - "Jack In Irons" (CD)
"Jack In Irons" track listing:
1. The Rules
4. Depths Of The Damned
5. Asleep At The Wheel
6. The Righteous Sound
7. Six Feet Deep
8. Take A Number
9. Bitter End
10. Full Metal Racket
12. Split Decision
13. Hard Rock Man
Reviewed by rocket on November 2, 2006
Shackle Jack doesn't waste one second with the opening track 'The Rules' in laying out their 70's throwback sound that is highlighted by a great party anthem-like chorus and a free-wheeling guitar lead. Their sound literally ties Cheap Trick and Black Label Society's together and bottles it up for you to swig down in all out rocking glee. The second track 'Helpless' is driven by a gutsy, low to the ground bass line and with fearless, down from the gut vocals. It's not as radio friendly as the first tune but it still keeps you interested enough to want to hear what's coming next. Track three, 'Farther,' is easily one of the album's best. It's one of the best produced and engineered out of the entire batch, offering the lyrics: "It's been doom and gloom since the harvest moon, I'll soon not forget I did you wrong," widening open with a great chorus to remember.
Track four, 'Depths Of The Damned,' downshifts into a more laid back rocker but the chorus is still a killer and that's what seems to be the band's strong suit. Lead vocalist, Eric 'Buddha' Evenhouse, combines that Dave Mustaine talk-snarl approach to his singing the verse lines and then seems to channel the great Robin Zander when it really counts. Track number five, 'Asleep At The Wheel,' kicks it off with one of the heavier riffs and allows the talented singer to show off some more of that higher pitched vocal range that he seems to wield like a weapon, though it's definitely the one song that could've been left off the collection due to the fact that the mix of the guitars and drums seems a bit scattered and uneven in its finished delivery. Track number six, 'The Righteous Sound,' builds up like a revved up engine with a sloppy but well-purposed Ramones-like rhythm. It's followed by track number seven, the totally forgettable 'Six Fee Deep'. The only thing memorable about this song is that it ultimately did come to an end. The guitar sputters out in a monotonous riff and the vocals just seem rather unconvincing. But the best has been saved for track eight. And this is why I love doing what I do for a living - it's the sweet triumph in musical discovery. 'Take A Number' is a shit-kicking, let's rip the doors off their hinges and light up the bong classic. Buddha sounds spot on to Mustaine here (in the most flattering sense) and the tune's whisky-fueled energy with dual guitar work from he and Dustin Rae, along with with a thumping Jesse Davis on bass and Justin Glover on drums is where this band needs to be all the time. Track nine, 'Bitter End,' falls way off the mark, however, finding itself void of any real direction. That's okay though. Every starting rock band is going to make mistakes on their debut full-length. Rarely do you ever get a Guns N Roses 'Appetite For Destruction' with one classic after the next offered.
All this said, the band delivers big with track ten's 'Full Metal Racket'. It's got a great production mix finally and opens with a sawed off shotgun being cocked for action, bursting out into a Pantera-ish guitar riff and is met head on with Buddha's vocal brilliance. This song is so good that it makes you kind of scratch your head. Why couldn't the rest of the album at least sound half this good? 'Full Metal Racket' has got a cool middle section too and features a guitar solo that's both bluesy and perfect in length - a definite 'bang your head' keeper for sure. Track eleven is 'Hellride' and it sounds like old Korn with its downtuned guitars. Buddha does an uncanny impersonation of Johnathan Davis here, oddly enough. It's too bad because the song has some cool structure and Sabbath-vibe but is just messy and not something easy to embrace due to this. Track twelve 'Split Decision' is more of the same problem, unfortunately, though Buddha returns to his own initial vocal style that was set forth at the opening. The final track starts with two guys talking on a cell phone, apparently Buddha is one of them and soon enough cries out the title 'Hard Rock Man'. But this song is again, depsite all its hopes, not effectively mixed down properly. The levels are just out of whack and too much here with not enough of that just leaves one scratching their head more.
Shackle Jack's 'Jack In Irons' is not a failure as a total product for a young band that is trying to find its own identity by mixing up what's been popular in radio-rock over the years and bottling it up for a so-called different taste, but I think they would have been better off just doing what comes best to them as heard in a few solid rockers here. They should just forget about those influences and formulas and just lay it all out on the line. Shackle Jack have that potential and it'll be interesting to see what they do next.
Highs: 'Take A Number' is a shit kicking, let's rip the doors off their hinges and light up the bong classic!
Lows: The spotty at best production value overall is what hinders this collection of songs from start to end.
Bottom line: For a debut album, Shackle Jack has made a good impression with this critic.
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