I went into this review as skeptical as anyone and expected little from this debut album from the band fronted by actress Jada Pinkett-Smith. I came out of it with a healthy appreciation for the heavy rock/modern metal of WICKED WISDOM. Cutting to the chase, if your music of choice doesn't involve bands like OTEP or even SEVENDUST, then you probably won't get much out of WICKED WISDOM. Granted, the fact that I don't often listen to this style of music may have made "Wicked Wisdom" more refreshing than it would have otherwise been. Be that as it may, rather than a collection of over-produced, gimmicky pop rock tunes, the album is an honest blend of aggression and melody. It's not the most original effort, nor is every song an ace, but on the whole the disc rocks hard and leaves a favorable impression.
Of the 10 songs, the first six are the best. "Yesterday Don't Mean" and "You Can't Handle" hit especially hard, the latter a balls-out jam with some pummeling drumming by FISHBONE founder Phillip "Fish" Fisher, the former featuring an up-tempo riff-ripping chorus that is undeniably metal. An ominous, string-bending riff, a dark groove, and some death growls by Pinkett-Smith makes "Cruel Intentions" a keeper, while the tough rhythms and staccato vocal attack on "One" is worthy of note as well. "Bleed All Over Me" may be predictable with its bass-heavy groove and familiar clean vocal melody, but the tune is still catchy. "Something Inside of Me" is arguably the best of the bunch, its mix of riff-heavy thud and hooky lines very well done. Throughout the album Pinkett-Smith does a convincing job with the aggressive vocals and her clean singing may not be stellar, but it is heartfelt and competent.
The rest of the tunes are basically average and sometimes overly formulaic, but all are at least tolerable. "Forgiven" is the most accessible and lightest song (i.e., bland); it is also the weakest. "Set Me Free" offers soul-burn vocals sung over a slithering bass line with sparing piano key strikes to add ambience — not bad, not great. The rappy cadence (more like semi-speak than rap) that pops up periodically is also heard on "Don't Hate Me", another track that is just OK. "Reckoning" completes the disc and follows a similar heavy-groove-with-melody approach.
I don't expect the elitists, the metal purists, or the 24/7 haters to give WICKED WISDOM a chance. Hey, that's life in the Internet age. Those taking a more objective view should realize that this is a band at least worth checking out, provided you can stomach the "modern" end of rock/metal.