Nice name, eh? Formed in 1995 by TROUBLE guitarist Rick Wartell, the debut album from Chicago's WET ANIMAL now sees a 2005 release. Along with Shane Pasqualla (vocals/guitar), Jeff "Oly" Olson (drums), and Michael "Vito" Diprima (bass), the band has created a respectable hard rock album with cutting riffs and competent hooks.It is difficult not to think about ALICE IN CHAINS when listening to the disc, but that is primarily a result of Pasqualla's very Staley-like vocal approach and the occasional misery-riddled edge and doomy riff. There is a bit of the AIC guitar tone on songs like "Soul Alone", "Lost in My Head", and "Outside a Hole", though it is not dominant. The material is not nearly as drug addled or despondent either; a blues-by-way-of-SABBATH influence can cast a shadow over damn near any rock tune. Furthermore, when a member of TROUBLE is the driving force behind a project, no one should be surprised at the tone and style of the guitars. Anyway, those three songs also happen to be the album's best tracks. The strong grooves, catchy melodies, and hot licks that characterize the album as a whole are most apparent here. Heading back to the '90s Northwest, the acoustic "Left Behind" has a very Seattle/Chris Cornell approach, and is quite likeable. On the whole, the album flows well and kept my interest. A notable accomplishment is the better than average arrangement variety, enough so that nothing sounds too similar, yet the atmosphere and style never veers outside of a comfortable zone. The sound mix could stand more low-end, but the emphasis on the axe work makes up for it. I'd guess that the live performance puts the studio effort to shame. Even though the styles are not interchangeable, I can see fans of TROUBLE and ALICE IN CHAINS getting at least some level of enjoyment out of WET ANIMAL's self-titled debut.
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