Open Fire

rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. The Cleansing
02. Void of Harmony
03. Words of the Dying Man
04. The Beggar
05. None Shall Return
06. Whiskey War
07. A Dreamer's Fortune
08. Valor
09. Open Fire
10. Brave the Rain
11. Greed

Virginia's ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY just keeps rolling along, cranking out album and album of southern fried hard rock and metal boogie, no matter who happens to be holding down the vocalist spot. The band's fifth album, 2005's "Fulton Hill", was the first for vocalist Johnny Weils who replaced Johnny Throckmorton. The group didn't miss a beat with Weils at the helm, as evidenced by the quality of music heard on "Fulton Hill", a disc that was far more diverse than 2002's sludgier "Staring at the Divine". After the departure of Weils, ATP miraculously found what just may be their best vocalist yet in Kyle Thomas (ex-EXHORDER, FLOODGATE) and went for a decidedly more stripped down, balls-to-the-wall rockin' approach on "Open Fire", and once again the quality level remains sky high. Thomas wails with fiery soul and whiskey-soaked abandon all over this baby.

Above all else, "Open Fire" kicks ass from beginning to end; things never mellow out and momentum is never lost. And let me tell you, these boys know how to rock with a vengeance and it all starts with the blazing guitars of Ryan Lake and Erik Larson. This one is bursting at the seams with hot licks and even hotter solos. Just listen to the album-opening boogie stomp of "The Cleansing". The group charges out of the gate with the song, raising the bar high and keeping it there all the way through the eleventh track, "Greed". Twin leads are heard at various points as well, most notably on the "Valor", a song that immediately brings to mind the dual guitars of THIN LIZZY. "Open Fire" is a guitar lover's dream; not because of blinding technicality, but because of the band's obvious skill at creating riffs to die for and solos that will melt your face.

But what is sure to make "Open Fire" one of the year's better pure rock/metal albums is the songwriting. It's not about complex structures or meandering arrangements; it's all about the kind of old school metal spirit that made certain you could remember a chorus or melody line, no matter how much tail was being kicked along the way. On "A Dreamer's Fortune", Thomas pulls off the perfect combination of rip snortin' attitude and alluring melody (classic southern rock style) with the vocal patterns. Pick just about any song — "Void of Harmony", "The Beggar", "None Shall Return", the title track — and you'll come away with something that sticks to the ribs.

This is southern hard rock crossed with vintage heavy metal and it leaves one hell of a mark across the forehead. If you're tired of all the cross-pollination and wish only to find an album that kicks out the hard jams, then look no further than "Open Fire".

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