As is usual with newer metal bands on the mainstream market, you can either be so ridiculously heavy that radio refuses to play you (a la Mastodon) or you can cater to the masses and give them accessible headbanging. Crooked X appears to be one of those bands that fall under the latter description, but not without taking a bite out first. In the spirit of Black Tide and a generation of Guitar Hero talents, Crooked X pushes this concept further: none of the band’s members are over the age of 14.
Lead vocalist/guitarist Forrest French insists that the band does not wish to be noticed by their age, but instead by their music after vehemently stating, “Yes, we write our own songs.” So while I sense some mealy-mouthed hipster spilling the word “gimmick” eventually, we intend to give them a fair shake. Like the big boys with the big balls, CoS will give them an unprejudiced album review by introducing Crooked X’s eponymous debut.
It should be immediately noted that you would not know the age of these band members based on instrument skills and vocals alone. French pulls out some serious Nugent grit in his throat throughout the majority of Crooked X‘s track listing. The album’s opener, “Gone”, even invokes Black Label Society before bringing absolute power to the brim with the appropriately titled, “Adrenaline”. So far so good, it seems.
What strikes as particularly interesting comes from the epic nature of just the first three songs alone. According to the official website bio, these kids are seriously influenced by some major names in metal. The immediate parallel one could draw from hearing this album is of Pantera or the previously stated Black Label Society. If one were to be so daring, they could catch a hint of “Time Is Now” and almost feel that these kids’ are writing dedications to the greats like Dimebag Darrel or Zakk Wylde, although it’s possible Darrel’s riffs come as second nature to French and co. However, where’s the harm there? I would rather hear their lead guitarist, Jesse Cooper, take on Darrel’s shredding as opposed to the likes of say, Nickelback (“Side Of A Bullet” anyone?).
One standout track comes via “Nail In The Coffin”. The power track features a phenomenal solo, French makes his presence really known, and there is no mistaking the inspirations without being such a direct ripoff that it beckons re-examining by copyright officials. The same might be said for “Nightmare”, which almost brings to mind some memories of Black Album era Metallica. The only real disappointment stems from the track “Fade”, but only due to its slight misplacement. Frankly, it would have done better as the final track, or at the very least, later on than at track five.
Crooked X is not hyped by the high school freshman garage band notoriety. There are no gimmicks here, and I would not be the least bit surprised if Crooked X stuck around longer than Black Tide. Namely because while Black Tide is talented, the act lacks enough modern gloss to gain a wider audience amongst the metal majority. Then again, it’s really apples and oranges. Black Tide was inspired by ’80’s Metallica, as opposed to the more Motor City approach of Crooked X. Being rather optimistic, the chances are good that these newcomers will last longer, based solely on the digestion of the more current sound. Crooked X is a real band with a real future, so long as hurried induction into stardom does not alter them drastically.