“Supergroup” is a tag that is thrown around a lot these days. Like A LOT. It’s a term that some musicians hate (Scott Ian being the first that comes to mind, seeing as he told me that himself), but if you want to use the term, it certainly applies here.
Alice Cooper – 6 decades in the music business. Constantly re-inventing himself. Household name. Still relevant to this day.
Joe Perry – 5 decades in the music industry. Revered by his peers and fans alike. Key founding member of Aerosmith.
Johnny Depp – 4 decades as Hollywood Star. 70+ movies totalling a box office tally of almost four billion dollars.
That’s just the three “core members” of Hollywood Vampires – enough to grab my attention, which they did with the arrival of the debut self titled record in 2015. Now comes the follow up – the often dreaded sophomore album. Let’s see how it shapes up…
Rise is 100% the better of the two albums. Not only because it features more original material this time around, but because it actually feels like a band this time – not just a collection of muso mates getting together for a jam. Alice Cooper still sounds phenomenal, as does Joe Perry’s slick but loose guitar style, and Depp is a surprisingly great guitarist/singer himself.
The opening track, I Want My Now, is Hollywood Vampires version of an anthem. It’s energetic and a great deal of fun – there are those trademark Cooper vocals, and some fantastic guitar flourishes, but the honky tonk styled piano is the driving machine here. We’re off to a great start.
Then, we have the minute long interlude, Good People Are Hard To Find. It’s weird and bizarre, coming at us with some sinister laughs but the way it rolls into Who’s Laughing Now is great. This track is driven by an extremely chunky bass line. Here we have Depp trading off vocals with Cooper, and their voices work really well together.
How The Glass Fell is another interlude. Short and sweet, but once again, intros the next track well. The Boogieman Surprise wouldn’t be out of place on an Alice solo record, but without the Joe Perry signature swagger that we are treated to here, the song wouldn’t have the same feel.
Jeff Beck and John Waters make an appearance on Welcome To Bushwackers – a bluesy number, featuring some tongue in cheek lyrics. This is a fun track – maybe a little out of place, but welcome just the same. The Wrong Bandage is another short instrumental interlude – a soundscape of oceanic noises and piano give way to acoustic strumming, as a cover of Johnny Thunders You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory takes the stage. Johnny Depp takes lead vocal duties here, and does a fine job, but it’s a little too polished. Sorry, but Duff McKagan did it better on The Spaghetti Incident.
Git From Round Me is massive. Rumbling bass, a sinister guitar riff, and some pretty aggressive vocals from Alice are the high points. The weird vocal effects on Depps voice are actually kind of irritating though. He more than makes up for that on their cover of Bowie’s Heroes though. I love this version – it pays tribute to the original beautifully, and Johnny Depp sings it well.
A Pitiful Beauty is yet another instrumental interlude. Fuzzy guitars and intergalactic sound effects carry us in to the next track, New Threat, which is a hard rock banger. Big choruses, excellent backing vocals from Depp, and of course, Perry oozes his personal swagger all over the track.
Mr Spider is an epic dark and theatrical number – and would be another easy addition to an Alice Cooper solo album. We Gotta Rise takes the theatrical element to the next level – actually feeling like some sort of twisted show tune.
People Who Died is a groovy track, paying homage to all of Alices dead friends – the catalyst for this bands entire existence. The blistering guitar solo is awesome, and Johnny Depps vocals are surprisingly impressive again.
Closing the album is the spoken word Congratulations. It’s a jangly acoustic number, with all core members taking turns in quoting some original poetry. An interesting track at any time, but certainly a different way to finish an album.
Rise is impressive, surprising and thoroughly enjoyable. Hollywood Vampires are no longer a glorified covers band, and this album is their true debut.
Review by Shayne McGowan