Sound: Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects about Black Label Society bassist John J.D. DeServio's new side project is the fact that it was not a spur of the moment creation. Cycle of Pain has it's roots going back years upon years, all the way back to DeServio's teenage years. Guitarist Joe Taylor and vocalist/drummer Gregg Locascio were jamming out with DeServio to oldies like Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden back then, but it was only recently that the bandmates finally were able to take a break from their main projects to reconnect musically. In recording Cycle of Pain's debut self-titled record, the band added drummer Rich Monica (Tantric) and additional guitarist Russ T. Cobb, but you'll also find quite a few familiar names (hint: one is a pinch harmonics wonder) popping up on various tracks as well.
The 12-track CD (13, if you include the bonus track Mick Do I) definitely draws from DeServio's years with BLS. There is certainly the same gritty approach and Locascio's vocals at times are quite reminiscent of Wylde's own style, but in the same breath Cycle of Pain is far from being a carbon copy. The main difference comes with the guitars, which is undoubtedly a result of having so many guest musicians appearing on the album. Billy Idol guitarist Brian Tichy provides one of the most soulful solos on Reign Down, and Wylde makes an appearance providing his magic touch to Do My Work High and I See Heaven.
There are several stylistic influences that are apparent on the record, and it strays from the straightforward rock/metal vibe that you might get with BLS material. One distinct different is in the overall mix, with the bass coming through loud and clear. Even during insanely good guitar solo in the track 5 (this particular lead work is done by Joe Taylor), you can every little nuance that DeServio is playing on the bass. That results in many grooving and even funk-oriented tracks, which offers a nice contrast from just the usual rock fare.
The list of guest musicians is pretty lengthy, with everyone from Sen Dog of Cypress Hill to Hugo Fereria of Tantric showing up along the way. While those players do give things a bit more variety, it's DeServio's song construction that is the main focus. He doesn't stay in one place very long, and tries out everything from a bluesy jam in M to the exotic, tempo-changing Egypt (which at times sounds like The End by The Doors). And the biggest surprise? At no time does Wylde ever steal the show. // 9
Lyrics: There's nothing too surprising on the record lyrically, but the content usually works well for the music that it's accompanying. The bluesy Babe certainly has your standard lines like, Babe, I don't want you to worry, Babe, I don't want you to cry, and Cypress Hill's Sen Dog does not shock by rapping on a song called Do My Work High. The lyrics aren't quite as experimental as some of the musical portions that you'll find on Cycle of Pain's record, but again, they live up to your traditional rock format. // 8
Overall Impression: DeServio makes some bold choices on Cycle of Pain's debut, but it still preserves the edge that you would get in a BLS record. And at this point, you're actually getting a higher ratio of rock songs to ballads than you would on some of what Wylde has written on the past few albums. DeServio isn't afraid to throw in rap, industrial metal, funky grooves, or even some electronica-tinged sections, and usually it all meshes fairly well together. Guest musicians like Wylde, Tichy, and even Korn's Ray Luzier are all valuable assets on the record, but it usually ends up being the core roster of De-Servio-Taylor-Locascio-Monica that makes the biggest impression. // 8