After playing this CD entirely through more than a few times, I’ve decided that The New Czars are possibly the most difficult band to categorize I’ve ever reviewed; mixing elements of Hard Rock, Jazz Fusion, Psychedelic, Blues and Funk (yes, FUNK), The Czars remind me of the experimental acts of the 70’s (such as Todd Rundgren or King Crimson) with their unusual chord progressions, strange key signatures & guitarist/singer Greg Hampton’s muffled, swaying vocalizations. Fearlessly forging their unique sound like something arisen from the smoke ridden backroom of 1,000 highway saloons, The Czars get credit for artistic expression first – commercial viability second.
Joining Hampton in this endeavor are bassist Paul Ill and drummer David “Chilli” Moreno; collectively representing a musical resume that includes Alice Cooper, Lita Ford, Bootsy Collins, Buckethead, Reeves Gabrels, Bruce Dickinson, Puddle of Mudd, Courtney Love, Pink and more. To take this further, several songs also include the 6 string wizardry of the legendary Adrian Belew. With such pedigree, the Czars have taken years of hard earned chops & gone completely on safari with it. From driving intros that plummet headlong into squealing guitars & down-tuned harmonies (“Brush With The Devil”), to soul-laden fuzz tones (“Desperate”), echoing Pop riffs & Latin stylings (“Only Dreaming”) and even a few bizarre instrumentals thrown in for good measure (my favs being “Funky Detour” & the amusingly named “Crotch Critters”).
Clocking in at well over an hour (16 tracks), the musicianship & artistry being captured on this disc are undeniable. But honestly, this is probably too avantgarde for me – and I’m not a fan of Greg Hampton’s vocal style. This is definitely recommended however for the listener who appreciates the craftsmanship of Zappa or Beck while still insisting on the sophistication of a modern recording act.
Gentlemen, I give you The New Czars.