ART OF ANARCHY
TWO GREAT ALBUMS…ONE TRANSITION
By: Craig Obert.
Like many great collaborations, the emergence of Art of Anarchy (AOA) came about almost by happenstance. Vince Votta, a guitarist widely known in the New York music scene, contacted longtime friend Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (GNR.) The proposal was simple—create a group from varied backgrounds with the sole purpose of making quality melodic, yet aggressive music. As evidenced by their 2 albums, they have absolutely succeeded. The self-titled album (2015) and The Madness (2017) are perfect examples of music made by seasoned professionals, but haven’t lost a bit of their edge.
The group was rounded out with bassist John Moyer (Disturbed,) Vitto Votta (drummer and brother of Jon) and vocalist Scott Weiland (STP and Velvet Revolver.) Unfortunately, Weiland passed away in 2015 It was a point of contention of whether Weiland was actually in band or just a contributor. The facts may never fully be realized, but what is known is that they created one helluva album.
The remaining members recruited vocalist Scott Stapp (Creed.) They released The Madness in 2017 to largely positives reviews. These 2 albums are both exceptional.
Art of Anarchy (2015): Definitely harder edged, a rougher cut. Weiland’s high register vocals deliver the quintessential rock star performance. Overall, the music is more aggressive—almost frenzied at times. It is more akin to Metal than its successor. Bumblefoot, the Votta brothers and John Moyer complement each other perfectly. I wouldn’t exactly call it Metal, but that’s not the point of this record. This album will find its way into your personal playlist…guaranteed.
“Small Batch Whiskey” is hard rock gem with a trudging bassline, edgy distorted guitar and Weiland’s spot on vocal performance. It flows seamlessly in “Time Every Time” whose chorus demands audience participation. “Drift,” and “Superstar” conjure images of a frantic stage show. If only we could have seen this live! Horns up….way up!
“Get On Down” and “Death of It” offer a powerful almost melancholy vibe, perfectly balancing the rockers on the album “Until the Dust Is Gone,” which has an accompanying video, is an especially amazing song. Poignant lyrics that undoubtedly speak differently to each listener. Multi-layered and very powerful, it is my personal standout. Mandatory lighters raised! I had the opportunity to see AOA (with Stapp) perform “Dust.” It was amazing to see how he made the song his own.
The Madness (2017). If you heard the first album a couple of years prior, you were probably wondering “what is Scott Stapp gonna bring?” His deeper vocals and earnest delivery are an astounding addition to AOA. This album is more melodic and finessed, but make no mistake, from the opener “Echo of a Scream” to the closing notes of “Afterburn,” the album puts the listener on notice that band will be IN YOUR FACE for a full 36 minutes.
“Echo” and 1000 Degrees” are very strong opening songs. Both feature commanding vocals and a dynamic chorus. Of note, the solo in “Echo” is split between Bumblefoot and Jon Votta. I didn’t know this until I saw them live. Fists WILL be in the air.
“Light In Me,” Won’t Let You Down,” and “The Madness” are impressive and anthemic. They are conveyed with extreme urgency…almost inspirational at some turns. Again, lyrical interpretation is up to listener.
“Somber” and “Changed Man” are both outstanding power ballads. Stapp’s vocal style is perfectly suited for these tunes…a little too perfect perhaps. “Somber” has many hallmarks of Creed. This is not a bad thing, mind you. I think (regarding these songs) there would be a little more difference between the Stapp chapters.
“Changed Man,” is clearly an account of Stapp’s past and the ultimate reconciliations. It seems more at home on his 2 excellent solo albums. Still, on their own, they are both first-rate.
The closing tracks “Dancing With the Devil” and “Afterburn” kick ass with the best ‘em. Perfectly offsetting the lighter moments on the album. “Afterburn” most closely resembles a Metal song. Raw vocals, frantic yet perfectly executed instrumentation—it is the quintessential closer.
For fans of outstanding musicianship and passionate vocals, both albums are highly recommended. Personally, I look forward to the next chapter….just hope it isn’t too long in the making.
CRAIG OBERT/MHF MAGAZINE.