Lawless is a band that brings together a few cult names from second division hard rock bands. Vocalist/guitarist Paul Hume and drummer Nigel Ogden have previous ties with Demon, while guitarist Howie G previously played with Persian Risk. ‘Rock Savage’, their debut album, pulls elements from various classic rock sources, adding up to create a release that has the speed of classic Dio and Saxon, coupled with the melodic edges of many a Euro rock outfit.
Hands down, the best track ‘Misery’ makes no bones about its borrowing from Dio in terms of both crunchy, mid-paced riffing and forthright vocal. Granted, Paul Hume doesn’t quite have the power or edge possessed by the late, great Ronnie James, but then few vocalists ever do. On face value, though, his voice is confident, tuneful and sounds as if it comes naturally. While not as tough as early 90s Dio-wannabes WWIII, Howie G’s guitar chops also have a great tone. In terms of classic hard rock riffing and overall punch, Lawless score full marks. As enjoyable, the punchy ‘Pretender’ offers another slice of slightly chuggy rock, where the darker tones are balanced by a strong lead guitar solo and at least one of the band members proving to have a good ear for a melody.
At first the slightly threatening stomp of ‘Scream’ sounds as if it’ll be similarly enjoyable in a nostalgic and retro fashion: the riffs are tough, the vocals are assured and there’s more than enough to please the classic rock fan…and then…Lawless falter at the chorus. Not so much falter, as fall flat on their faces into a steaming lyrical cowpat. They feel the sentiment of “She makes me scream, going down, down, down” is something most rock fans would still want to hear. Musically good enough to cut it, but still lyrically cringworthy, ‘Step In’ offers a brief bluesy intro before launching into a stomping tune with a solid and unflashy drum line and classic rock vocal – often left to fill some sparse moments during the verses. Howie G proves to be the real talent here once again, as his old-school guitar chops provide a great foundation. The featured solo is also of the near-faultless variety. If only they’d taken this tune and put it to better use: a tune with such an old spirit surely could have done without the chorus of “step in, girls in the house say whoah / step in, guys in the house say whoah”. Whoah…dear.
…And the band’s penchant for not caring about classy lyrics is the album’s ultimate downfall. With many musical elements designed to capture the ear of the 80s rock fan, Lawless have a strong musical foundation almost throughout this release, but this album falls on its arse at nearly every turn due to appalling songwriting. Absolutely no stone is left unturned as the band wail through a selection of tunes about ‘Black Widow Ladies’, ‘Heavy Metal Heaven’ and ‘Rock N Roll City’. Worse still is the rallying cry of ‘F.O.A.D.’, a misguided attempt at attitude that even Motley Crue would have cast aside in the name of dubiousness. It takes more than great riffs to make good lasting impression. The general tone of these numbers is so embarrassing, it almost does not matter whether Lawless are any good in the musical department or not. These guys really ought to have hired a lyricist to help them fashion songs that aren’t embarrassing in the extreme.
Their pre-release materials claimed that ‘Rock Savage’ is full of “the kind of riffs rock and metal fans are crying out for” – a statement as horribly misguided as the bulk of the material itself. Let’s assume this opinion was based on a quick straw poll involving the guitarist’s brother, two blokes from the record company office and an impartial opinion from that half-cut bloke outside the local who still sports double denim with an Ozzy Osbourne back-patch [every town has one]. The only people crying out for this have clearly spent most of the prior two and a half decades living in a remote location, blissfully unaware of anything that’s happened in the rock scene since Black Sabbath released ‘Dehumanizer’.
‘Rock Savage’ is not a record to be recommended to anyone whose preferences for rock and metal have actually moved on from the 80s. …And even then, some of the more dyed in the wool fans of the 80s style might find this collection of clichés a bit hard going, despite Howie G’s obvious musical talent.
August 2013/March 2015