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Red Dragon Cartel: Red Dragon Cartel

Who saw this coming then? Not me and truth be told, not many others either. However the return of one time Ozzy guitarist and Badlands leader Jake E. Lee is a most welcome surprise, as is Red Dragon Cartel and their self titled album. Lee is at pains to point out that this new venture is a band, and not a flash in the pan project, with live date (to early mixed reviews) already underway with bassist Ronnie Mancuso also of Beggars & Thieves, drummer Jonas Fairley and singer D.J. Smith, better known as Darren Smith, the drummer in Harem Scarem, joining Lee to make up this cartel of red dragons.

With such a lengthy time out of the spotlight, I really had no idea what to expect from Lee and I'm probably more shocked that opening track "Deceived" has slight hints of the guitarist's time with Ozzy, than if it had been Peruvian nose flute music; think The Ultimate Sin album double O and you won't be far away in terms of guitar or vocal attack. From there things begin to joyously veer all over the joint, "Shout It Out" stupendously surging on an almost Industrial guitar slam, with a far rawer, aggressive vocal giving a more melodically inclined Rob Zombie like chorus. Cheap Trick's Robin Zander adds his vocal magic to "Feeder", Mancuso's bass bulging to bursting point, Lee squealing and howling his way through the barrage. Cleverly the song is nothing like the Trick at all, allowing Zander to really stretch out and offer something different, while still sounding as no other singer can.

"Fall From The Sky (Seagull)" slows things down in a way that broods and threatens, while still sounding fragile and beautiful, Ultimate era Ozzy again slightly brought to mind. "Wasted" thrums with staccato riffing and hammering drums; producer, mixer, masterer Kevin Churko proving his worth, the sound across the whole album being positively HUGE. The surprise choice of guest vocalist here being one-time Iron Maiden man Paul Dianno. A bit of a left field invitation, but it proves to be inspired once more, the singer's gravely tones hitting the mark big style.

The standard up to now has been remarkably high and while there isn't a bad song in sight, things do begin to dip ever so slightly. "Slave" starts out with some of the most fierce six-string work on show, before easing off a little and becoming possibly the least impacting track, while the dirty bluesy swagger of "Big Mouth", aptly fronted by Maria Brink of In This Moment, lacks the focus of what has preceded it. "War Machine" ups the ante again, the track being a successful, intentional homage to Black Sabbath, a grinding riff and spitting vocal reminding of "War Pigs". While the surging seduction of "Redeem Me" featuring the enigmatic vocals of Sass Jordan also lives long in the memory, before the beautiful instrumental piece "Exquisite Tenderness" closes the album out in fine style.

Red Dragon Cartel are a breath of fresh air, a band taking risks and making them pay off. Yes there's a couple of dips mid-album and yes, truth be told vocalist D.J. Smith could be seen as an acquired taste. Personally I think he nails it time and again and I'd happily have traded a couple of the guest slots to hear more of his input. However with the likes of Rex Brown, Todd Kearns, Brent Fritz, Scott Reeder and Jeremy Spencer also turning out, the list of contributors keen to be involved here is impressive indeed. The results however are even more hard hitting, creating an album that might disappoint Badlands fans, but marks it out as a stunning comeback from a much missed artist.

2014 just got off to a cracking start!

Track Listing
1. Deceived
2. Shout It Out
3. Feeder (featuring Robin Zander of Cheap Trick)
4. Fall From The Sky
5. Wasted (With Paul DiAnno)
6. Slave
7. Big Mouth (featuring Maria Brink of In This Moment)
8. War Machine
9. Redeem Me (with Sass Jordan)
10. Exquisite Tenderness

Added: January 18th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Red Dragon Cartel
Hits: 2581
Language: english

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Red Dragon Cartel: Red Dragon Cartel
Posted by Butch Jones, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-01-18 18:21:04
My Score:

The long waited return of Hard Rock guitar hero, Jake E. Lee, is in the form of his new band entitled, Red Dragon Cartel and their self titled new 10 track record. Featuring 5 guest vocalists including, Robin Zander (Cheap Trick), Sass Jordan (Canadian Idol Judge, Juno Award winner) and Paul Di'Anno (original Iron Maiden singer) and band vocalist, D.J. Smith on the rest of the material, this debut Red Dragon Cartel record is a welcomed return of the ex-Ozzy and former Badland's shredder.

This record is a really solid effort with Jake E. Lee providing some great guitar pyrotechnics that you were hoping for. The CD opener, "Deceived" has quite a "Bark at the Moon" feel, with a couple of licks borrowed from the song (hell, he wrote it, so he's entitled!). Jake doesn't waste much time throwing in some classic riffing and this is the case throughout the entire record. Jake twists and turns and deposits a slew of angular riffage on "Redeem Me" (featuring the one and only Sass Jordan on vocals) and with maybe the surprise performance on the entire record being turned in by Paul Di'Anno, absolutely killing it on vocals on, "Wasted". Red Dragon Cartel singer, D.J. Smith's vocals are vastly manly with a nice rasp to his voice and he reminds me of the singer of Avenged Sevenfold.

All and all, I found this debut to be a great one. There was an air of doubt about the band after seeing a YouTube clip from The Whiskey in Hollywood, but this studio release is great and let's take it from there. Welcome back Jake! You've been missed.

Red Dragon Cartel: Red Dragon Cartel
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-01-18 07:12:36
My Score:

Former Ozzy & Badlands guitarist Jake E. Lee returns with his new band, titled Red Dragon Cartel, and their debut self-titled album for Frontiers Records. If you've long waited for Lee to dip back into his '80s metallic hard rocking ways, that wait is now over. This band has put together some really catchy, hard hitting stuff here on their debut, with Lee all over the place with plenty of wicked riffs and blazing solos. Not quite like the commercial metal he was doing with Ozzy, nor the '70s styled bluesy heavy rock of Badlands, Red Dragon Cartel is somewhere in between but with a modern flair. Tunes like "Deceived" and "Shout it Out" are just completely addictive from the outset, and "War Machine" crushes, probably the heaviest thing Lee has ever done. Lead singer D.J. Smith has plenty of swagger and attitude, which is certainly needed for this ballsy hard rock, and the rhythm team of bassist Ronnie Mancuso & drummer Jonas Fairley lock things down with more than enough bottom end. Toss in a few guest singers (including a stunning Sass Jordan on "Redeem Me") and you have a debut that is a hell of a lot of fun, and a great return to form of a guitar hero who has been gone from the spotlight for way too long. Welcome back Jake!

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