The hard-hitting song titled after the band Maxx12 itself opens up the 16 track wonderfully packaged eponymous CD, Maxx12. Lead vocalist Albert Mendez has a voice that reaches into the Brad Delp/Steve Perry/Lou Gramm heights, and he shows it off well on the quick two minutes and thirty-eight seconds of the opening tune. The album itself crosses hard rock genres, “Headed for the Sun” utilizing a clever guitar riff and plodding rhythm a la Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers” or Roxy Music’s “Manifesto,” with Mendez again leading the charge on another composition that borders on anthem, the group two for two in that regard.
The sixteen titles span sixty-three minutes over the CD, “Headed for the Sun” splashed on the back of the packaging in a little ball of sun, “Lord of the Flies” (track 15) promoted on the inside cover, which holds the booklet. “I’ve Got The Music” is exactly the son of Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” similar in structure, tempo, and theme. Followed by the ominous “Revolution” the musicians switch hats again following Ratt and updating that 80’s sound for the new millennium. It grooves and drives and zips in and out at 3:17. It’s a highlight on a disc full of good moments. “Rockbound” also drives, though the style moves sideways again, perhaps into Def Leppard land; it features a guest appearance by Kevin Manion on lead guitar. The 4:28 of “Boy” mellows things out, a “Wish You Were Here” from Pink Floyd moment while the 3:14 of “Unbroken Chain” adds a little magic from The Hobbit or Harry Potter at the opening into a wonderful instant climbing chorus, a very commercial song deserving of hit radio airplay.
Animals starts the second half, another succinct three minute and a half tune, a highly sexualized chant with all sorts of intriguing chord changes and sounds creating a very appealing moment on the disc that goes into a number of directions, lively guitars leading back into the energetic theme. The hard ballad “Lonely 2 Lonely” follows the previous assault, with a chorus as effective as the two superb prior selections. It leads directly into the onslaught of S.A.M. – Secret Agent Man – breathing new life into the chorus created by P.F. Sloan and owing quite a bit to the Johnny Rivers’ hit – “pretty face can hide an evil mind” morphs into “beware of pretty clouds” – there are a number of references to the Sloan classic, with “drones in the sky” marking the era in no uncertain terms. “There are a lot of bodies in that swamp” precedes very sexy guitar that balloons out of proportion while the mesmerizing rhythmic stomp continues. It’s a four and a half minute spy vs spy Orwellian play that cascades down its different avenues very nicely. The “We are watching you” ending perfect for director Will Eubank’s recent Laurence Fishburne flick, The Signal. 1:51 of Hell’s Heroe’s prelude then takes the stage, a segue into the lengthiest track of the disc (even without the prelude) and yet another superb hook. Maxx12 knows how to get a song into your head with strong melodies and relentless musicianship. Mendez goes into a tender Aerosmith/Steve Tyler voicing, though the music is geared more towards 70’s progressive rock than the hard sounds of “Smith. The bass of Jonny “Mongoose” Hampton and drums of Chris Sepulveda keep it all in check as the chorus drives on. Engineer Duane Hayes and producer Aaron Leigh get great sounds throughout the extended album. “Fool’s” – Track 13 – is close to four and a half minutes that again follows the Foreigner formula to good effect. “Burnin’ Down In Paradise” takes things up a notch, with an Alice Cooper riff (think “School’s Out” backwards, perhaps) and slithering T. Michael Riddle guitars, back into Ratt’s territory. The second to last track, “Lord of the Flies” is not a nod to Aerosmith’s “Lord of the Thighs” – it’s got a more snappy tempo, mafia-music-bordering-on-genocide rock. The finale, “MONGOOSE,” is produced by Ronnie Montrose with Montrose as the voice of Rikki Tikki Tavi. It clocks in at nearly six minutes, 5:56 to be exact, and goes in a bit of a different direction. Jungle pounding on the rhythm, a minute and forty seconds before Albert Mendez’ vocal comes in with authority. It’s a hard-driving dive into the depths that charges along at a nice pace.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.