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The cover of veteran Boston-based eclectic metal band Extreme’s new album “Six” features a portrait of a menacing, red-eyed gorilla balefully staring directly outward. His lips are compressed, with a slight twist indicating strong displeasure with whatever his present situation may be. Make no mistake; this primate is open for business. As is Extreme.
Unfairly lumped in with ‘80s hair metal excess due in no small part to its best-known song being the acoustic ballad “More Than Worlds,” Extreme was always in the pop-metal world but not of it. The band’s lyrics were too outwardly reaching from the prevalent eternally adolescent non-stop party mentality to gain favor among the spandex and Clearasil crowd. Its music was too adventuresome and sophisticated to comfortably fit alongside the Mötley Crües and innumerable variations thereof. For the faithful few, Extreme was American melodic metal for people who hated American melodic metal. Now, at an age where its contemporaries are either milking the golden oldies circuit or hoping their deferred royalties will be enough to cover lingering drug issues, Extreme has, with its first new album in 15 years, released a blistering set of all that made it worthy of distinction back in the day and even more so now in the contemporary pop wasteland.
The album starts with twin sledgehammers in “Rise” and “#Rebel.” Blisteringly ferocious, each features vocalist Gary Cherone defying time with his impressive pipes still scorching out the high notes with ease. And what can be said about guitarist Nuno Bettencourt? Listen to the solos, but make sure there’s a full oxygen tank available first, as his liquid fire playing will take your breath away for all the right reasons.
All is not molten fury. Extreme has retained the gift of creating quieter, melodically pleasing songs without turning into mush, as “Other Side of the Rainbow” ably demonstrates.
And the beat goes on. Be it introspective numbers such as “Small Town Beautiful” or full-throated rockers like “The Mask,” Extreme never hesitates to throw precisely what the listener is not expecting into its songs. The result is not pretentious self-indulgence but fierce genuine creativity at work.
Lyrically, Extreme has never hesitated to embrace specifically Christian themes, and “Six” is no exception. ‘X Out’ is straight from Luke 16:19-31 with more fundamentalist fervor than a month of K-LOVE.
Forgive me Father
Show me your unfailing love
There is no other
Have Mercy on your wayward son
From grace I fell
Opened up my eyes in hell
Brimstone burning, crying out in agony
Father send someone
Quench the fire from my tongue
Where the worm’s eternal
And, I’m crying out in agony
As one can infer from the title, ‘Save Me’ isn’t far behind.
And you save me from myself
Save me from this hell
Help me heaven I’m forsaken
Lay me down to die
Cleanse me of these lies
I’ve become what I despise
Take me undertaker take me
Lay me down to die
You get the idea.
We live in insane times of political madness and attempted legalized perversion. On the surface, a hard rock’n’roll record is not on the priority list. Yet it is precisely at such times we need good music for relief and restoration. In ‘Here’s to the Losers,’ the album’s concluding track, these words ring true:
A winner knows what it’s like to lose
A loser what it takes to win
Life is rugged right now for many of us. We are facing the extreme on multiple fronts. Thankfully, we have Extreme, the band reminding us via an album loaded with burning excellence that going to the extreme need not always mean playing with the wrong kind of fire.