CD Review: House of Lords / Big Money
Reviewed by: Roger Scales
Of all the 2011 releases, the new House of Lords was high on my list of the most anticipated. I have been a huge fan since the 1989 self-titled debut and have weathered the storm of lineup changes, musical direction shifts and poor label support/direction. The one constant which has kept the House of Lords ship afloat has been James Christian. He has been the stabilizing force behind the band since it was taken out of the mothballs in 2000 (after a roughly 7 year layoff) and has been its leader ever since.
My constant fear when listening to any new album from a band that has a long established history of creating top notch releases is that they try and change their style or create something more “modern” sounding to try and reach a new audience. When that happens the band typically doesn’t reach anyone new and in the process and alienates the core listener who doesn’t connect with the bands intent to change direction. Big Money does none of that. Thankfully James Christian and the rest of House of Lords give you more of what you love about the band in the past: big vocals, great hooks, quality production and some of the best songwriting of their career.
Starting right out of the gates with the title track “Big Money,” you get the sense that Christian and the boys wanted a giant size opening number with a razor sharp guitar solo and an energetic chorus. You get that and more as it leads right into “One Man Down” which has a more serious tone and feel to it but still has those trademark Christian harmonies. I also enjoyed the slow haunting intro on this one, something of a trademark of House of Lords over the years. Up next is “First to Cry” and what I believe is the albums best track. I enjoyed the playful lyrics on this one and again more power vocals from James. You can really feel an element of the “You’re not going to break me, I’m going to break you” angle that I think this song was trying to get across. It works. By the way, is that Robin Beck doing the intro to the title track with the line “The Root of All Evil”?
‘Someday When” has some really stellar keyboards and sounds like something the band could have recorded on the first or second album, I say that with every degree of sincerity. Some slick guitar work on this one from Jimi Bell, this one will get your pulse raising. Next is “Searchin” and it is high octane rock and a potential single and video for sure. It has a very commercial appeal that may even sound better unplugged, if House of Lords were ever inclined to record an album or show in that environment.
“Living in a Dream World” is the most ambitious track on Big Money by far. Lots of different tempo changes on this one with some very slick leads from Bell. Massive harmonies on this one as well, biggest on the record. This one made my computer shake!! “The Next Time I Hold You” is a sweet ballad that showcases House of Lords not afraid to be sensitive but still able to rock out with a dazzling lead from Bell and more tasteful keyboard work. Hands will be waiving in the crowd when this gets performed live.
“Run For Your Life” keeps the album moving without a ton of flair but just more quality arena rock and some of the best drumming on the record from BJ Zampa, especially at the tail end of this track. “Hologram” is one of the few moments on Big Money that left me scratching my head. It has a vocal effect used by Christian that I don’t particularly care for. Not certain what the bull horn sound brought to the chorus on this one but it did lose me..if only for a moment. “Seven” is one of the great celebrations of the 80’s recorded in the past 10 years or so. What a blast to the past with catchy vocals and an awesome chorus. Clever cheesy lyrics but I think it was meant to be that way (sort of tongue in cheek approach) and it truly worked. It really lifts the disc back for me. “Once Twice” tells the story of a guy getting burned by the same chick multiple times over, up tempo and more crunchy guitar work from Bell. “Blood” ends the album on a high note and a heavy one as well. Some of the loudest guitars I have ever heard on any House of Lords record “Blood” is the bands best shot at a true metal sound but still has the Christian harmonies intact.
Big Money is exactly what I want from a House of Lords record, Thank God. Frontiers is once again leading the way for hard rock melodic acts to continue to produce great music and give it’s fan base more of what it desires – quality acts given the opportunity to keep entertaining their audiences album after album year after year. Big thanks to James Christian for keeping that vision the same not only for me but fans of House of Lords all over the globe. Big Money is putting a “Big Smile” on my face and one that I think may not go away anytime soon.
Big Money track listing:
1. Big Money
2. One Man Down
3. First to Cry
4. Someday When
6. Living In A Dream World
7. The Next Time I Hold You
8. Run For Your Life
11. Once Twice