It’s unbelievable how heavy the new Firehouse record turned out to be. Wait a second – this isn’t a new Firehouse record, actually. This is Rubicon Cross’ debut disc, the brainchild of Firehouse vocalist CJ Snare and Furyon guitarist Chris Green.
Sure, it’s got all the hallmarks that the North Carolina-based hard rock hitmakers are known for – Snare’s expressive vocal heights, fist-pumping guitar riffs, and run-and-gun drum entrapment that’s custom-built for an evening of rock ‘n’ roll bravado, arena style. What’s remarkable about Rubicon Cross, however, is that it sounds firmly planted in the now, with a slightly fiendish edge that should grab even the most jaded of anti-hair metal pessimists (FYI: Firehouse was never actually a member of such a club).
Opening with “Locked and Loaded,” the vibe is unmistakably anthemic ‘80s machismo, darkened up for a crass generation by way of pummeling Mark Tremonti-esque guitar and aggravated vocals that sound delightfully distressed. “My Own Worst Enemy” will drop a few jaws upon first listen, in awe that something so violently fun would have Snare’s name attached to it – the track is just that chaotic that one fully expects to hear Corey Taylor’s voice pipe in after the first riffs.
Standout tracks like “You Will Remember Me” are stunning examples of how classic melodic hard rock can be successfully programmed to avoid sounding dated – the clean, digital production value being dinted with an analog heartbeat makes for a satisfying 21st century AOR experience. “R U Angry” also follows this vein, with a familiar sing-a-long quality, but offset with an overwrought roller coaster of sentiment à la Three Days Grace, as Snare digs his heels in with, “Can’t believe that you could be any more unemotional.”
The ballads are in check, minus extraneous sap. Think the air of disturbance from Slipknot’s “Snuff” and you’ll get what Rubicon Cross is going for on “Moving On” – haunting acoustic passages swelling into fits of metal agony. “Shine” is a bit more Firehouse in structure, perhaps more preferable to a Nickelback radio platter than this record, but still wrapped up in iron-clad, blue-collar honesty. For something completely unexpected, check out album closer “All the Little Things” for a crushing dose of power pop that’s equal parts Enuff Z’Nuff and Bowling for Soup – bubblegum-punk harmonies that hum.
A stabbing reminder of just how infectious good hard rock can be, Rubicon Cross brings guilt-free fun without the filler back to mainstream taste buds.
Rubicon Cross ‘Rubicon Cross’ Rating: W W W W