Charm City Devils – Sins – Album Review

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Maine Music News has been anxiously waiting for September 20th. Why? Because we love straight up rock and roll shows, that’s why. Opening for Hinder and Candlebox at the State Theater in Portland, Maine, on Friday the 20th is Charm City Devils. These boys kick ass. If you do not have your tickets yet what are you waiting for? Click here for tickets.

In my next life – yes, I like to think how it could be different – I’m coming back as a songwriter so I can sing out loud and clear all those things, good and bad, that I wish I could say, yell, shout, and stomp out in perfect rhythm. How liberating it must be to tell the world what you are thinking – I mean really tell them. And that is exactly what the boys from Charm City Devils do on their latest CD release, Sins. All those things you wish you could say to your ex-asshole partner? They go right ahead and say it. All those heartfelt emotions you wish you could say to the person you live for? They go right ahead and say it.

Charm City Devils, and Sins, are for everyone who loves the classic 1980’s hard rock and roll sound and attitude – never surrender and refuse to be silenced.

Touted as Baltimore-based and working-class blues-oriented rock, Charm City Devils match forthright lyrics with hard-driving, interesting melodies and rhythm. Lead vocalist John Allen, former drummer for SR-71 (catch his interview with Maine Music News here) has a voice fine-tuned for rock and roll. He is able to hold on to honest emotions while ducking and weaving through compositions that are interesting and raw, clever yet not over-polished. Backing him up on guitars, Vic Karrera and Nick Kay create strong, surging riffs and catchy rhythms while bassist Anthony Arambula pulls everything together and drummer Jason Heiser crashes and pounds. These are interesting arrangements, and the band is put through their paces, but they easily show off their talent and ability. This is full-frontal classic rock and roll without the gratuitous raunch. Incorporating just enough from the modern rock sound and added effects to make it new, Sins is refreshing and worth playing over and over again.

Let’s start with the singles, “Devil is a Woman” and “Man of Constant Sorrow.” Dark and gritty and pulling from age old sentiment, these songs stick in your brain because they are so good. The latter you know as the vintage, backwoods piece of Americana from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, but this time it is turned upside down and into rock and roll but still truly depicts anguish and betrayal.

If you’ve ever wanted to roll through town with all your middle fingers in the air, Charm City Devils has your soundtrack ready to go. “Spite” is a dizzying homage to my favorite motivational emotion, and Allen sings the ultimate reason to keep going – “My hate will live forever.” “Unstoppable” is just what it sounds like – a fight song, a battle cry. The lyrics to “Still Alive” are dark and inspirational: “You are the fire inside, you’re the reason I’m still alive, I won’t lay down and die, I will fight it, I’m still alive.” This is honest and raw – good or bad – but it is cutting right down to the marrow.

I tend to hone in on lyrics, and although Charm City Devils music is thick with catchy, edgy twists of language and snarl, they are consistently laying guitar riffs beside a strong drum line and heavy, driving bass. This is classic rock and roll made brand new, folks. “Start it Up” and “Love n War” are fast, pounding, and infectious roller coaster rides. “Blame” keeps the party going with a growling thrash and tells it like it is – “I don’t care if you’re really happy, but thanks so much for calling up to explain that I’m the one to blame.” That will teach you to answer the phone. Similarly, “Problem” says “You’re not my parachute, you are my lead brick.” Surrounding the dose of reality is hard-edged guitar and rhythm.

Changing gears, “All You’ll Ever Need” is as close to a ballad as Charm City Devils is giving out, and I completely appreciate honest, hard-won sentiment short on the sticky sweet Hallmark goo. This is a nice change from the worn out love song. Wrapping up, “Doorstep” is subdued but still gritty. Life isn’t all pretty or easy or angry or ready to fight. Sometimes it is “fate or lucky that you came into my life.”

Come on out to the show if you’re of a mind to take in an evening of rock and stomp and attitude. At the very least, update your CD collection with Sins from Charm City Devils – I’m pretty sure you could use some new tunes for your personal soundtrack. You’ll find everything here hits a nerve and shouts out what you wish you could say.

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