VENREZ
"Sell the Lie"

(Monarch Music Group)

01. Karma
02. Yesterday
03. Insanity
04. Melting
05. Ants and Sands
06. Sell The Lie
07. Unplanned Fate
08. Can't Find My Way Home
09. Messenger
10. My Only Light

RATING: 7.5/10

If nothing else, there is an interesting story behind the formation of VENREZ, not to mention the pedigree of the players and the meaning behind the band name. It seems vocalist Steven Berez enlisted some folks to assist him with improvements on his humble (or otherwise) abode. Those folks happened to be guitarist Jason Womack and drummer Ed Davis (both of whom played with JULIETTE LEWIS AND THE LICKS), guitarist Alex Kane (ex-LIFE SEX & DEATH and MARKY RAMONE'S BLITZKRIEG), and bassist Michael Bradford (Womack's childhood pal). As for the band name, it is the combination of the last syllables of the first and last name of Steven (VEN) Benrez (REZ). The good news is you can scratch the "if nothing else" part since "Sell the Lie" rocks proper and leaves a positive impression.

The everything-but-the-kitchen-sink description goes something like this: "Sell the Lie" is a no-frills, catchy hard rock album with some vague '70s influences, some 90s influences, some modern sensibilities without all the suffocating studio tricks, and a personality identifiable only as VENREZ. The quintet has a pretty distinct sound too. It's not like one band jumps right out as an obvious influence. It's more like you could hear "Sell the Lie" being released as one of the more purely hard rock albums that managed to sit alongside releases from that early-to-mid-'90s "alternative" rock movement. THE TOADIES' "Rubberneck" would be an exemplification, although outside of a few Benrez vocal moments, it's not an exact fit either. At other times "Sell the Lie" has this underlying ALICE IN CHAINS thing going on. But that's really only in a very broad, atmospheric sort of way, one possible example the relaxed rock flow of "Melting", which features a nice melodic center and a great chorus (with great lyrics) that really sneaks up on you. Then there are those times when Benrez's vocals recalls something along the lines of Scott Weiland (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS) and Axl Rose's (GUNS N' ROSES) low register, yet the musical aspects aren't quite there to make those comparison points very accurate.

So maybe it's best to just point out that "Sell the Lie" is an ably written, competently played album with some very good rock songs that don't sound too much like any other band. Getting back to the tunes then, the other standouts include the hard-driving "Karma" (in a tie for best hook), and the bullshit-free, hot-licked rockin' of both "Yesterday has Gone" and "Insanity". A verse defined by swampy picking and a tough 'n tuneful chorus makes the title track a keeper too. A little attitude and a lot of oomph go long way on "Ants & Sand" (also notable for the guitar solo bits sprinkled about in tasty quantities). "Unplanned Fate" and laid-back closer "My Only Light" won't burn any barns, but are nevertheless respectable, while the cover of BLIND FAITH's "Can't Find my Way Home" is just ok. Hey, if those are the only "cons" (and really only by default), then we must be talking about a rock album for which one should start saving pennies in the event that a purchase opportunity is presented. As it turns out, that is in fact what we are talking about. Well, that and a certain honesty and freshness in VENREZ's sound make "Sell the Lie" a disc about which you should inquire.

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