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CD review: Rubicon Cross hit all the right notes on eponymous debut

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Rubicon Cross - S/T CD

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Ten years is a pretty long time to work on one album, but that is about how long the fermentation process was for the debut record from Rubicon Cross. Frontman CJ Snare of FireHouse fame, and guitarist Chris Green (Furyon, Pride) have been chatting, jamming, and composing off and on for a good decade: 11 years to be exact, which is when the two met during a show in Madrid, Spain, where Green’s band Pride was opening for FireHouse. At the time, Snare was thinking of doing a solo record, and he asked Green if he would be interested in working on it. Eventually the project took on a life of its own, and the solo project became a band concept.

In 2011, the band released a limited edition, four-track EP featuring songs which offered a tempting view of what was to come. The duo became a full band with the addition of fellow Pride member Simon Farmery on bass, Robert Behnke (Seventh Omen) on drums, and Jeff Lerman on guitar.

The band brought in producer Rick Beato (Shinedown, Framing Hanley, Bullet For My Valentine) to provide them some distanced perspective. The result is a 10-track monster of classic hard rock with an 80’s foundation and a modern tilt. One might call it “FireHouse on steroids," though CJ might take exception to such comparison.

The album kicks off in arena rock bravado with “Locked and Loaded”, giving the band a perfect concert opener. Fast driving rhythms and air-guitar riffing are table-setters for the rest of the record. Plenty of swagger and fist-pumping mayhem here.

“Next Worst Enemy” was originally on the EP, and it is only slightly revamped here. A fantastic hard rocker, with a hook so sick it will be stuck in your cranium for weeks. The lyrics are delicious as well; “I've been a victim of hit and run, serial monogamy…” Classic.

The album’s first single comes in the form of “Bleed With Me”, which finds Snare tapping into new areas of his vocal palette. It is one of the record’s more modern and edgier tracks with plenty of groove and attitude.

The album’s first balladesque track is “Save Me Within”, a personal remembrance by Green over the loss of his father. While Snare has done his level best to distance his regular gig with FireHouse from Rubicon Cross, it becomes a losing battle, in particular on emotive, acoustic driven songs such as this. His trademark voice is so unique that it simply has to be accepted for what it is, and appreciated for what it brings to the music.

A personal favorite is “You Will Remember Me”: Another raucous and infectious number with a kiss-my-ass lyrical bite. The fretwork is amazing throughout this record, and this song showcases only a small dose of that fury.

Every track on this record is packed with power, melody and emotion, from the rambling groove of “Moving On” (the first track Green and Snare wrote together), to the venomous tint of “R U Angry, to the poignant beauty of "Shine", to the ballsy edge of, “Kill or Be Killed”. Everything one could ask for in a hard rock record is represented on Rubicon Cross' debut effort.

Just as a great meal deserves a sweet treat for desert, Rubicon Cross saved a tasty sonic morsel for last. The album closes with the tongue-in-cheek bounce of “All the Little Things”, which recalls bands like Blink 182 and Bowling for Soup. It’s peppy and fun, and a reminder that the band does not take itself too seriously.

In all, Rubicon Cross reminds us of what made 80's metal so good; furious fretwork, big melodies, and memorable lyrics, all powered by a charismatic voice, addictive riffs and a propulsive rhythm section. They have brought all of that together on an explosive debut that is polished off with an inspired modern framework. Easily the best hard rock album of 2014, so far.

Rating: 9.2/10

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