Rubicon Cross - RUBICON CROSS

Here we have FIREHOUSE vocalist CJ Snare aligned with FURYON/PRIDE guitarist Chris Green in their new unit, RUBICON CROSS. While there are certain elements from Snare's commercialized home base brought into this one, the pleasant surprise is RUBICON CROSS is nothing like FIREHOUSE.

A bit harder, a bit dirtier with enough hooks to stay melodic, RUBICON CROSS at times treads into LILLIAN AXE and IMPELLITERI turf without the latter's keys (though they manifest here intermittently) and less shred. That's the good news. The so-so news about RUBICON CROSS' self-titled debut is that its appeal will be relegated mainly to diehards who won't let the hair-rockin' late Eighties go without a fight.

Of course, this appears to be RUBICON CROSS' reason for being. The differential to RUBICON CROSS, however, comes in the means of diverse song structuring than what CJ Snare's surrounded himself in FIREHOUSE. Many of RUBICON CROSS' tracks stay on a rocking glide, which suits Snare well. Without hitting any ear-splitting falsettos, Snare rides in high alto throughout agreeable fast bangers like "Locked & Loaded", "You Will Remember Me", "Kill Or Be Killed" and "Next Worst Enemy".

Ironically, where Snare struggles is the ballad department. "Save Me Within" is delivered by the band with delicate rolls, but the slower pace and softer tones trump the obviously excited CJ Snare, who warbles and congests. Though not quite a ballad, he gets messy and choky throughout "RU Angry", which comes off as deliberate on the choruses, but his exuberance betrays him on the verses. He does redeem himself on "Shine", however, and as far retro power ballads go, it's a nice ride.

Snare also nails the unhurried but loud drag of "Movin' On" and with his dedication to toughening up for RUBICON CROSS' punchier cuts, one almost forgets his alma mater altogether. CJ Snare's confidence and straying from his pesky shrieks in FIREHOUSE equates into an overall appealing performance. His chuffing on the verses of "Kill or Be Killed" may or may not be inspired by Gene Simmons, but it's a cool touch.

Chris Green is terrific all over this album. With Jeff Lerman and Simon Farmery fortifying his front line, Green shines with sparkling solos, whammy shots, grooving riffs and superb acoustic arches. Farmery's bass fills a ton of space and he (along with drummer Robert Behnke) keeps even the sweet and sugary moments on this album pulled down.

RUBICON CROSS have their hearts in a good place. The dabbling with old time rock 'n roll and melodic punk on the album's closer "All the Little Things" is a natty salutation, even as CJ Snare overshoots his hipness factor with some bonus cussing that sounds silly from him. Nevertheless, this is a harmless bit of fun that could've been a train wreck. Instead, it entertains just enough to call it a day.

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