Band: Salems Lott
Title: Mask of Morality
Release date: April 6, 2018
Format reviewed: CD/Hi-Res download
There are two very distinctive elements to SALEMS LOTT material on their debut full- length release “Mask Of Morality”: 1. the shock rock component, and 2. the remarkable musical versatility. Combining these two components with the band’s over-the-top glam metal imagery, resulting in a very unique blend of rock/metal musical styles and influences, that without doubt pushes the boundaries of their music far outside any and all preconceived linear directions. Their ability to showcase their versatility and capability is self-evident on each individual track of the album, allowing the listener to transition from one track to the next in uncharted fashion, not knowing what to expect. From pure fury to theatrical dramatics – “Mask Of Morality” is nothing short of stunning!
The elements of shock existed in music since the mid 1950s, when Screamin’ Jay Hawkins pioneered the use of macabre stage props and theatrical performances. Throughout the 60s additional “shocking” elements were introduced: destruction of instruments on stage (The Who), setting guitars on fire (Jimi Hendrix), vivid makeup and flaming headpieces (Arthur Brown), and violent and erratic stage behaviors (Iggy Pop). Paving the way to more expensive and creative stage props and antics – well refined by Alice Cooper in the early 70s with their unique blend of punk rock and heavy metal, elaborated stage props, and completed with sardonic and controversial lyrics. Proving to be an inevitable influence on KISS, in the 70s, W.A.S.P., Gwar and King Diamond, in the 80s, and the Marlyn Manson of the 1990s. On the other hand we have the unambiguous flirtation between glam, as imagery and otherwise, and a lot heavier styles in the metal realm. One solid example would be the 1974 release of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy”, a song described as being thrash metal before the term had been coined and assertable as the first thrash metal song ever recorded and released. Among other examples, this “crossover” between imagery and musical style was evident in 1985 on Detroit’s Seduce self-titled debut.
Initially released as a three tracks EP in 2017, “Mask Of Morality” (I) was packaged with seven additional songs (II), and independently released as SALEMS LOTT’s full-length debut album on April 6th 2018. SALEMS LOTT formed in Hollywood, California, in 2013, and released a self-titled debut EP two years later, in 2015 (physical copies sold-out in Japan in under 2 weeks). The band’s lineup remained unchanged since inception: Monroe Black (lead vocals, lead & acoustic guitars, piano, keys, strings), Jett Black (lead guitars, vocals, acoustic guitars, piano, keys, strings), Kay Kaos (bass, vocals) and Tony F Corpse (drums). From the get-go the band managed to stir local controversy with their violent stage antics: in 2015 they were banned from the Viper Room (on Sunset Strip) for the second time, allegedly due to illegal use of pyro, stink bombs and a rotten cow’s tongue, which Monroe chopped in pieces with a machete and threw in the audience. A mocked chainsaw execution and self-mutilation lead to their first ban from the venue. Throughout the years the band continued to delight the local Los Angeles audiences, with sold-out shows at famed venues such as: Roxy Theatre, House Of Blues, Whisky A Go Go, SIR Studios and many more. The aforementioned blend of styles, crossovers and influences are undisputable and an integral part of SALEMS LOTT. Adding a very strong visual aspect to that mix, a touch of J-metal, Vinnie Vincent Invasion like dynamism, and a great tempo variety – round things up nicely. What really sets this band far apart from the flock: the utter flamboyance in composition and execution, Monroe’s vocal gymnastics (a bit more about that in a second), the increased dramatics with the use of piano, keys & strings, and, very importantly, the expansive speed & neoclassical metal shredding melodies and sweeping arpeggios courtesy of Jett. Lyrically, the listener should not expect political correctness. The violence, lust, anger, power, hypocrisy and rebellion lyrics adding substantial weight to the album. As I previously mentioned, Monroe’s vocal delivery is top notch. Ranging from the badassery of Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P., the anxious delivery of Steve Whiteman (KIX), to the unmistakable grit of “Dizzy” Dean Davidson (Britny Fox), and a top range and tone in the vein of Udo Dirkschneider, places Monroe Black’s vocal capabilities high on the metal’s singers list. My only negative note to an otherwise nearly perfect album, is the loud, compressed production – a syndrome highly evident to not only rock/metal, but most music releases of the past 10 or so years. But that’s a discussion for another time. “Mask Of Morality” was produced by the band, and was mixed and mastered by Arthur Indrikovs. The cover art and booklet illustration was created by the up-and-coming Romanian graphic artist Oana Roxana Birtea (Yuuza). The album premiered at #8 on the iTunes Rock Chart and the physical CD sold out in under 2 hours at SA Music Japan.
If you ever wondered where the glam metal of the heydays was heading, look no further: SALEMS LOTT is certainly paving one of the high paths. Bombastic, yet virtuosic – loud, yet complex – angry, yet lustful … As self-described on one of their t-shirts: Glam as fuck! Heavy as fuck! Get ready to be shocked! Highly recommended. 9/10 UHF