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Extreme – ‘Six’ album review

Extreme’s new album, ‘Six’ is a big deal. It’s their first album since 2008’s ‘Saudades de Rock’ and only their sixth album since their 1989 self titled debut. Thats 34 years. Six albums in 34 years is not a great creative return for fans of this talented and often experimental band but there isn’t a fan out there that is going to be disappointed with ‘Six’, although there might be more than the odd one somewhat taken aback by the ferocity of some of the music on offer here.

Similar to fellow rockers, Winger, who have just recently released their rather superb album, ‘Seven’, Extreme are back after an extended hiatus, seemingly prodded into action by the death of Eddie Van Halen and guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s feelings of responsibility towards a young generation of guitar players. Both Winger and Extreme are often, erroneously, used as examples as purveyors of the hair metal sound that the mainstream media have been pouring scorn on for the last thirty or so years and that was put to the sword by messers Cobain, Vedder, Cornell et all in the early to mid 90s. But it has to be said that both bands, Winger and Extreme, had more to offer (and clearly still do) than most bands of their ilk in terms of their flair, creativity and talent and both bands have returned in 2023 with an urgency and a much harder sound behind them than they had in 1992.

The law of Rock n Roll states that there is diminishing returns and diminishing quality to a bands’ musical output as they age. It happened to the Stones, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Def Leppard to name just a few as all these musical talents aged, sometimes not with much grace and dignity. Springsteen is perhaps the exception that proves the rule but I’m going to throw Extreme’s name into the hat here on the evidence of ‘Six’. Rock n Roll is often considered a young man’s game but in 2023 Extreme are rocking harder and pushing the boundaries of their creativity now just as much as they have ever done and it makes ‘Six’ a diverse, intriguing and rewarding listen.

The album opens with two monster cuts. Both ‘Rise’ and ‘#Rebel’ are ferocious slices of bone-crunching Rock. ‘Rise’ could easily fit neatly onto a Shinedown album. It opens with a huge riff that drives the song as singer Gary Cherone sings about being lifted up in the anthemic chorus. Extreme have taken everything that they were good at back in 1992 here and blended it with the likes of Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and even the Red Hot Chilli Peppers to produce the perfect mix of classic Rock and 90s Grunge. Nuno Bettencourt gets to show off a little too as his extended solo veers perilously close to being a ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ tribute. ‘#Rebel’, meanwhile, comes across as a sort of punch to the guts mix of Metallica and Audioslave as Cherone rants about mob mentality and social media.

It’s clear, at this point, that this is a hungrier, angrier and leaner version of Extreme as opposed to being some pension cash in from a nostalgia act happy to live forever on the royalties from ‘More Than Words’. Nowhere is that more in evidence than on the nearly 6 minute long ‘X Out’. Some serious industrial vibes on this song put you in mind of bands like Rammstein although the chorus takes a surprising melodic turn as Cherone sings about faith, hope and love underneath a synthetic, female vocal chant. Bettencourt gets to go full ‘Malmsteen’ in the song’s mid section and by the end you are left almost breathless in terms what the band have achieved on this unique and ferocious song but it is ‘Save Me’ where we get to hear the heaviest riff on ‘Six’. The band embrace all elements of metal, classic rock and grunge on this powerful track which sees Cherone positively spitting out lyrics of self -disgust on a track that is both heavy in its sound and in what it has to say too.

Throw in ‘The Mask’, which opens with some Faith No More-style bass and a huge Marilyn Manson drumbeat and ‘Thicker Than Blood’ which wouldn’t be out of place on an Alter Bridge album with its heavy, portentous vibes and you’ve got enough songs to really piss the neighbours off the next time they have a barbecue and all you can hear is Take That coming over from their side of the hedge! This version of Extreme is a thousand miles away from the one that sang about ‘Kid Ego’ and did the ‘Decadence Dance’ back in the late 80s / early 90s.

Thankfully, there are moments of brevity on ‘Six’ too, moments you can relax into and enjoy the experimentation that these talented musicians are bringing to you at this late stage of their career. ‘Banshee’ carries a lineage right back to their classic ‘Pornograffiti’ days with it’s 80s leaning chorus and the kind of funk Rock that would get the sweaty denizens of Nottingham Rocky City up and dancing at midnight every Friday night back in the late 80s. ‘Other Side of the Rainbow’, meanwhile, has a kind of Led Zeppelin beginning as Cherone weaves a vocal tale of finding love again and second chances. There’s a Queen-esque quality to the mid section here as Cherone gifts us his best Freddie Mercury impression and Bettencourt’s guitars play us out with an extended outro and one final chorus. “….Rainbow’ isn’t the only time you’ll hear a Queen influence on ‘Six’. ‘Small Town Beautiful’ feels like May & Co jamming with the Beatles whilst ‘Hurricane’ brings a kind of ‘hippy Queen-meets-Zeppelin’ feel to proceedings and even contains some vocal harmnies Simon & Garfunkel would be proud of but it is on album closer, ‘Here’s to the Losers’ that the Queen influence can be heard the most. ‘…Losers’ is a clarion call to those of us who have tried and failed, who ‘dropped the ball at one time.’ Who hasn’t done that, right? ‘Hold your head up high,’ Cherone says, ‘we’ve all been there before, won battles, lost the war’ on this ‘We Are the Champions’-esque inclusive anthem that is a perfect, arms-round-the-shoulders way to close down this unique and original album.

2023 Extreme is a surprising and ferocious beast. Ferocious in terms of what the band still have to say, ferocious in terms of some of the heaviness of the songs on offer and ferocious in terms of the the creativity and sheer urgency and intensity that they are bringing to the table 34 years after their self-titled album. It’s going to take some people by surprise but once you relax into it you’ll be able to (hole heartedly) embrace who and what this band stands for now and how brave and courageous they have been in releasing this kind of album when it would have been much easier to rewrite ‘Get the Funk Out’ over and over again for the nostalgia crowd eager to dip back into their youth and forget about what’s happened in the last 30 plus years. Extreme chose not to do that and, boy, did it reap some handsome rewards for them.

Tracklist: 1. Rise 2. #Rebel 3. Banshee 4. Other Side of the Rainbow 5. Small Town Beautiful 6. The Mask 7. Thicker Than Blood 8. Save Me 9. Hurricane 10. X Out 11. Beautiful Girls 12. Here’s to the Losers Record Label: earMUSIC Release Date: Friday June 9th Buy ‘Rise’ now

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