Sound: When you first listen to Brand New Sin's latest CD Tequila, you might just think you've stepped into a scene from a western showdown. A whistling wind hums in the background as the snare builds up a steady rhythm and a Spanish-style guitar seems to build the scene of a gaucho roaming the plains. Of course, just when you're ready for the plot to build, the rock and roll takes over. This opening track, Said And Done, is suitable introduction to a band that always has an underlying southern rock feel, but also won't hesitate to lay out a guitar solo full of pinch harmonics.
Tequila has several influences running throughout it, and it's actually interesting to hear them all melt together to make the Brand New Sin sound. While the band hails from New York, vocalist Joe Altier definitely has a tinge of a southern accent and it's easy to think of Lynyrd Skynyrd at first. But the band couldn't sound further from the usual bands associated with southern rock. Altier seems more akin to Pantera's Phil Anselmo than Ronnie Van Sant. The combination of Altier's gritty delivery and the riffs from guitarists Kenny Dunham and Kris Wiechmann, which could be at home in a Black Label Society tune, keeps things interesting.
One of the biggest highlights of Tequila is the cover of House Of The Rising Sun. Many a band has done this one -- from Leadbelly to The Animals -- but Brand New Sin (rounded out by drummer Kevin Dean and bassist Chuck Kahl) actually manage to add a new twist to the song. The band manages to pull off this feat primarily through the solo work that is featured at intervals throughout the track. While Dunham might be playing a lower-range, restrained solo, Wiechmann will be doing his own faster-tempo solo. This happens a few times, and each time it's fascinating to hear how two such different solo interpretations can work so well on top of each other. And to its credit, the band knows when to hold back at the appropriate time. When Altier tackles an introspective verse, the backing instruments are kept way down in the mixes. Altier's voice is given center stage, giving the song an extremely personal feel.
There are areas that aren't quite perfect and can at times feel a bit too similar to bands of the past. The best example is the song Ice Man, which would be a fantastic track if it did not resemble Black Sabbath's Hole In The Sky so much. The song is not a blatant rip-off by any means, but Sabbath does come to mind in the chorus. The band has included Sabbath as an influence, so it's most likely just a natural extension of what music shaped their sound. // 9
Lyrics: There is a good blend of emotionally charged and harder-edged lyrics on Tequila. See The Sun, the lyrics are reflective in nature, but do tend to get predictable in the rhyme scheme area. Altier sings, A long time; You sat there; Realized now you're holding on too fast; Slow it down; Hold it down; You looked around; See what you found. The lyrics do seem to be basic in nature, but the band does keep a sense of consistency in this track. The second verse is constructed very much like the first, but with a little twist because a few words are substituted with others. This style actually translates well musically, making it seem like there's a new layer that has been added -- only in the form of words rather than a newly added instrument.
The lyrics don't break too much new ground, but at the same time they fit the music that they support. In Spare The Agony Altier declares his search for strength and independence in hard times. He sings, Don't feel the pain; don't feel the crime, don't feel the shame; Slip through the fire. The words are pretty standard rock lyrics and while they won't have you reevaluating life, they are not out of place in a basic rock song. // 7
Overall Impression: Brand New Sin is not the most well-known band, but they immediately make an impression on Tequila. If you're a fan of blues-based rock that is generous with the distortion, you're likely to enjoy the Syracuse-based band's third full-length album. The sound of Brand New Sin feels like a little bit of everything at times -- from Danzig to Black Label Society -- and listening to the CD will be an enjoyable experience if you've got eclectic taste.
There are times when Brand New Sin doesn't have enough of an independent identity from the bands they sound like, but the band can rock hard regardless. This is the kind of band that will sound incredible live and seeing them play in a smoky, intimate bar would probably be the best setting. There is an earthiness to Brand New Sin's sound that is not present in most bands these days, and Tequila provides a nice escape from the overproduced bands of today's music scene. // 9