Smoke And Mirrors sees the return of singer Oni Logan to the Lynch Mob line-up. He joins drummer Scot Coogan (Brides Of Destruction) and bass player Marco Mendoza (Whitesnake) in backing up guitar legend George Lynch, who despite his reputation as a master shredder has never really felt the need to make Lynch Mob about himself. After seeing Lynch Mob live last year I really got the feeling they were a real band, not a guitarist’s vanity project, and I was psyched to see what they would come up with in the studio. The album will be out September 18th in Europe and October 13th in the USA but I was lucky enough to get to hear it pre-release so, without further ado, and with special emphasis on the guitar aspect since this is a guitar site, I give you Lynch Mob’s Smoke And Mirrors, track by track.
21st Century Man
After about 10 seconds of seductive atmospherics, the Mob kicks in with the driving rhythm of ‘21st Century Man’ and wastes little time in getting to the vocals. Y’know that vibe of being at a gig and the intro tape starts, but before you know it the band is already on stage rockin’ out? Well somehow this CD manages to distil that feeling into zeroes and ones and spit it right back at you through the speakers. Right from the beginning Lynch’s guitar tone is powerful, clear and punchy. Man, this dude really understands how to use a minimum of distortion yet still kick your ass with awesome rock power. There’s a cool dirty flanger tone in the bridge, then the chorus kicks in again and off we go. The vibe of this song kinda reminds me of a slightly slower and less smartass ‘Hammerhead Shark’ by David Lee Roth. In fact, Lynch’s phaser-laden solo at the end seems to tap into a similar post-Van-Halen vibe as Jason Becker summoned on that DLR album. (Audio sample)
Smoke And Mirrors
Ok, here we go with some acoustic bluesiness in the verses, with choruses kicking into meat-and-potatoes late 70s/early 80s hard rock in the style of Whitesnake before they got all hairsprayed and started writhing with Tawny Kitaen on the hood of a Jaguar. This track would be quite at home on modern FM rock radio, but don’t let that scare you off. Lynch even gets in quite a decent amount of wah-wahed slide guitar throughout the verses, and there’s a funky middle section which almost sounds like something from Extreme’s latest CD, Saudades De Rock. Again Lynch’s electric tone is crunchy and dirty but by no means is it distorted, so you can hear every little nuance. It really makes you appreciate what a great all-round guitarist he is, above and beyond his shred hero status. Meanwhile Oni Logan is in fine form vocally, with lots of power and control when needed, but restraint too when that’s called for too. Awesome. (Audio sample)
More tasty phaser tone in the solo. In terms of pacing, this song is a good choice to follow the second track – it’s another laid back, 70s-ish tune that has a LITTLE bit of an edge but is more suited to being played on Lynch’s Strat-like ESP GL-56 than his Skull & Snakes model. That’s probably the best way to describe these two tracks: it’s the vibe of old American guitars rather than shiny new Japanese shred machines. There’s some straightforward chording and a singalong chorus, which means this one was probably written for the chicks. In concert it’ll probably come about two thirds of the way through the set, when your girlfriend is about to lose it with you for ignoring her so you could check out Lynch’s pedalboard for the past hour. Then this song comes on and you have something to sway together to for a few minutes, and you remember how lucky you are to have an awesome girlfriend who will go to a Lynch Mob gig with you. Then the band kick into Mr Scary and you forget she’s there as you run up to the stage to watch George’s mad fretboard skills again. You jerk. There’d better be a 24-hour flower shop on the way home.
My Kind Of Healer
Oh yeah. This one has a cool riff. A solid rock/funk feel (as opposed to funk-rock). There’s something about this that reminds me of Motley Crue’s John Corabi era without the overwrought Bob Rock production. Listen for some really cool playing by George under the verses; killer tone with wild wah wah licks in the solo; and a few well-placed Chuck Berry licks for good measure. Technically it’s not one of George’s more out-there solos but it fits the song’s vibe perfectly and shows off his ultra-cool phrasing.
Favourite song on the album! This has a bouncy feel, a moody middle eastern-sounding riff, some killer semi-clean flanger tones in the verses, and a powerful performance from Logan that reminds me of Geoff Tate’s delivery on Queensryche’s Tribe album. It’s hard to really explain how and why this song kicks so much ass but I think it’s fair to say that it you’re a Lynch Mob fence-sitter this one might possibly just sway you over to the HELL YES side of the fence. It’s loud, intricate, powerful and heavy, and if this track isn’t included in live sets I’m staging a mutiny. Listen out for an almost Tom Morello-like tremolo section in the middle right before a killer solo comes in and decimates everything in its path. The rhythm section is really cooking under the solo too. And the phaser is back to help kick the solo section up to a whole extra level. This song is so friggin’ cool.
YES! More of the rock-funk feel from ‘My Kind Of Healer’, and some very cool guitar/bass unison fills tying together every fourth bar of the verses. Nice open-string work from Lynch, while Mendoza kicks ass in the background. Why this dude never played bass for Yngwie I’ll never know. In fact, back it up to the very end of ‘Time Keepers’ and listen to what he does there. Yikes!
Let The Music Be Your Master
The Motley Crue/Corabi reference from earlier pops up in this song, which reminds me a little of ‘Power To The Music’ in the first few bars, but it’s probably a coincidence. There are some very cool Black Sabbath-style vocal melodies from Logan and while there are a few guitars overdubbed for texture, it never loses that organic, real-musicians-rockin-out feel.
This song almost sounds like it could be a leftover Dokken track, yet somehow the main riff also kinda reminds me of some of the more upbeat stuff Devin Townsend does, like ‘Traveller.’ High energy, a cool double-time fist-pumping chorus, and vocal layering that kinda reminds me of Mr. Big’s Eric Martin. This would be a huge song live and a great way to start a gig. Monster tone for Lynch’s solo, with killer phrasing and that legendary vibrato. That phaser pedal pops up for a few notes here and there once again – in fact I haven’t heard a phaser pedal tie an album together as neatly as this since Van Halen 1.
Where Do You Sleep At Night
More cool phaser (actually it sounds like a UniVibe) tones, a ringing chordal riff, and soulful 70s-style vocal performance from Logan. Really, so much of this album sounds like it could have been recorded in the late 70s, but an alternate-universe late 70s where they understood how to record drums properly. A subtle, short, tasty Lynch solo then back into the chorus. Probably not one of the album’s most memorable tracks but certainly not a bad song. It seems perfectly placed within the pacing of the CD.
More of the groovy rock-funk feel, combined with a Sabbath-y, ‘Fairies Wear Boots’ type of groove, topped off with an intangible Bowie/T-Rex vibe. Once again Lynch provides a crash course in how to get killer rhythm guitar tones from an overdriven amp, as opposed to a distorted amp. Big difference. Great middle section too, where you can really hear the monster bass tone. Then solo time! This solo has a great live, off-the-cuff feel. Oh and there’s the phaser pedal again. Man, if this album catches on like it should, Lynch is going to shift so many phasers.
We Will Remain
Oh my god! This totally sounds like an Yngwie or Rainbow track without the castles and demons. It has a similar feel to ‘Faster Than The Speed Of Light’ and a crunchy tone that seems to combine Yngwie and EVH. Cool backing vocals. It takes balls to take a song as cool as this and put it second last on the album. This is the kind of song that demands to be played on a big stage with lots of pyro. Coogan kicks ass on this track, pushing just a little ahead of the beat and daring Mendoza and Lynch to keep up. Great tremolo-picked, reverb-soaked pre-solo section, before launching into the solo proper and firing off lots of phaser-enhanced arpeggio flurries, then into some tasteful wah/whammy bar work. More killer vibrato. Then a short post-solo section which I guess I would label ‘Toms Of Doom.’ Seriously, crank this song up to 10 and rattle some windows, but don’t try this while driving. (Audio sample)
Before I Close My Eyes
A poppy, restrained way to close out the album. Warm, ringing chords over a steady bass line. Mind remind some listeners of Bon Jovi. Probably a good choice for a single for FM radio but man, FM radio listeners will have their heads knocked off when they buy the album and happen across ‘We Will Remain,’ ‘Time Keepers’ and ‘Madly Backwards.’ Another chick song. Interestingly, it’s the only track on the CD that fades out. Everything else has a rockworthy ending.
Mansions In The Sky (Bonus track)
Logan seems a little uncomfortable with the lower range of this vocal melody but as the song progresses and the guitar parts opens up, he moves back to where he’s comfortable and puts in a cool, animated performance. Lyrically, this track evokes Dorian Grey. Cool. Another track which could remind some listeners of Dokken, but with more naturalistic production.
So there you have it. Smoke And Mirrors track by track. I don’t know what kind of sentimentality you, dear reader, attach to previous Lynch Mob albums but this is definitely my favourite. You might dig Wicked Sensation more but for me the rawness of Smoke And Mirrors gives it that extra boost. The great moments are fricking awesome, and even the ‘meh’ moments never hit you as bad, they just don’t quite live up to when the band is really cooking. I’d definitely consider this an essential George Lynch album well worthy of pre-order.
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