Back in the day, Baltimore's hot rockers were KIX (along with CHILD'S PLAY, WRATHCHILD AMERICA and CRACK THE SKY), until they flocked to L.A. to enjoy a taste of success at the feasting table of the eighties hard rock smorgasbord. KIX, who recently released a brand new album, still sell out venues all over their native Baltimore, known affectionately by the locals as "Charm City". Though it's been many moons since the hairball heyday of Hammerjacks and The 8 x 10, Baltimore is still a rock and country-loving town.
The reason for this preamble is so you have a better understanding of the moniker CHARM CITY DEVILS. Vocalist John Allen is not just the brother of Mitch and one-time drummer for the likewise Baltimore-bred SR-71, which hit a commercial peak as a short-lived pop-punk act. John Allen drummed in CHILD'S PLAY and it's no wonder he and guitarist Nick Kay (also from CHILD'S PLAY) have been able to turn CHARM CITY DEVILS into an overnight sensation. With Nikki Sixx as their benefactor, CHARM CITY DEVILS have enjoyed a good ride thus far as a mostly retro hard rock band bearing nudges toward contemporary AOR.
"Battles", the band's third album, is a popping ball of energy that frequently salutes the old days in the vein of MÖTLEY CRÜE, GUNS N' ROSES and AEROSMITH. Though leaning more toward modern agro pop in the final portion of the album, "Battles" is a loud ‘n proud rock machine from guys who can remember the heavy metal legends who once lit up town where the Baltimore Ravens now play football.
Leaping out with an instant grabber, "Tear it Apart", CHARM CITY DEVILS rips it up with a fast-paced banger before turning a dime with the bluesy AEROSMITH-kissed strutter, "Crucify". John Allen wields a snaggletooth delivery on "Crucify" while guest player Spike Settles peels off some dirty harmonica amidst the song's clouting rhythm and digging riffs. With barely a transition, "Shots" keeps the album's drive at a pummel as Allen pulls a modified Axl Rose impression while the band blares their amps and slaps the cowbells on the drink-along choruses.
The shucking beat and filtered intro to "Everyday" signals another tail-kicker and CHARM CITY DEVILS rides this cut for all it's worth, punching out a killer cut with a hard groove from Jason Heiser and badass riffs from Nick Kay, Vic Karrera and Anthony Arambula. A slicked-down bridge and swampy acoustic slides on the outro spice up the track even more. "Want" hardly lays off the throttle even with a dialed-back riff primer. Jason Heiser interchanges his beats in different sections on "Want", but not once does the song lose its knocking swagger.
"God's Gonna Cut You Down" might as well be considered CHARM CITY DEVILS' brotherly nod to fellow Marylanders CLUTCH with its boogie-down feel, while "Destiny" pulls things into power ballad turf with a heavier lean to it. Here is where "Battles" transitions to the newer school of rock in the tone of THREE DAYS GRACE, NONPOINT and CROSSFADE on the subsequent tracks, "Lying to Yourself", "Rich N Famous" and "Karma".
"Battles" is a dynamic heat seeker that offers something for everyone coming to it. It has something for nostalgic CHILD'S PLAY fans who cruise 83 and 695 as if coming home from Hammerjacks (or simply "Hammer's" to Baltimore Gen X'ers) after the big rock show. It also has something for the younger sect who get their kicks at Federal Hill and Fells Point. "Battles" is a Baltimore rock album by locals who, like KIX, have been courted by the West Coast but affectionately keep their Charm City hearts planted smack at home.