It's been four years since the Black Halos released The Violent Years. In 2001, just when the band was quickly gaining notoriety, Rick Jones (widely recognized as the main songwriter) left the band in a move that so surprised and shocked the rest of the group that they almost instantly disintegrated and disbanded.
Just over a year later, it would seem that the Black Halos was still in most everyone's blood and the band began jamming again. Not everyone came back though. Bassist Matt Camirand was lost to his newly formed and sweetly depressing country group, Blood Meridian. Those two open positions cycled through a few times while touring the new material before settling on Adam Becvare and Denyss McKnight for the long-awaited and highly anticipated new recording.
So here we are in the two thousand and five and the Black Halos have finally released their third album, Alive Without Control, via notable hard rock label, Liquor & Poker Music. Just like "Shooting Stars" on their debut and "Some Things Never Fall" off of the Violent Years, Alive Without Control starts off with "Three Sheets to the Wind," a blistering first track that is so catchy, so energetic and so ferocious that it clutches your attention and you won't want to take it back. Vocalist Billy Hopeless is just roaring with razor blades and phlegm flying out of his throat with all the anger and urgency he can muster. It would appear to me that in the last 4 years Billy's been downing a lot of hard alcohol and smoking a lot of cigarettes, because dude's voice has reached all new levels of throaty.
Throughout the rest of the record it is apparent that the band has not missed a beat since the departure of Rick Jones, and proves that they can get along fine without him. Alive Without Control is more of the same New York Dolls meets Dead Boys meets Buzzcocks sound found on their previous two albums. The production is more glossed than before with a very crisp sound and dashes of studio effects here and there. I don't know what the deal is with the backup vocals are, though. It sounds like Billy is the only one with any passion while everyone else is just sort of...there.
For the most part, Alive Without Control is a fairly strong album with some really great songs and a few welcome surprises. "Mirrorman" could pass as Leonard Cohen in a hard rock band and the title track slides along with a pounding piano in the mix. The thing is, I wish someone talked the Black Halos out of releasing an album of this length. The whole thing is about 10 minutes too long. Some of the weaker tracks like "Last Call at the Toothless Saloon," "Studio Suffering," and "Third World USA" should have all been tossed into the B-sides bin. These songs really do the album a disservice and have a tendency to make the 45-minute record an unnecessarily exhausting experience. Sometimes knowing where to cut the fat can mean all the difference between a good album and a great album.
Three Sheets to The Wind