"For fans of Band of Gypsy's era Hendrix, Robin Trower, and Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush-this band will kick your ass!"
So proclaims the Peace Machine website, and damn if that isn't a fair and accurate assessment of their self- titled debut album. The band was formed by guitarist Robb Howell, formerly of The RH Factor and The Bill Ward Band, and he is joined by drummer Michael Dempsey and bassist Henry Ocampo. Peace Machine is filled with lots of funky hard rock, no doubt an album that would appeal to fans of the above mentioned artists, as well as Glenn Hughes, The Rick Ray Band, Pat Travers, or Govt. Mule.
Howell is an excellent guitar player, as his speedy and bluesy wah-wah laced solos permeate the 13 tracks on this CD. Hear his searing licks on the driving "Stand", or the funky metal of 'Real World", which also sees some deep grooves from the rhythm tandem of Dempsey and Ocampo. The band even attempt a cover of the Frank Marino classic "Dragonfly" which is so convincing that if you didn't know any better you would swear it was Marino and Mahogany Rush performing it! (as a side note, Howell is a long-time friend of Frank Marino) However, there are a few 80's styled commercial hard rock/metal tunes here that are very well performed and add a nice contast to the more "trio" type pieces. "Sea of Mystery" is a melodic anthem with huge hooks, lush backing vocals, walls of guitar riffs, and symphonic keyboards. This song is so different it almost sounds like another band performing the tune. Another pop rocker, "No Dreamer", has shimmering guitar chords and catchy vocals, while "Life's A Bitch" is pure funk 'n' roll, very much in line with the recent work of Glenn Hughes. The lead vocals on these songs are shared by the members of the band, and while not bad I'm thinking that these guys would be better served to get themselves a full-time singer to front the group. Many of these songs would be even better with a singer with a little more range.
That being said, there are a number of instrumentals on the album that are positively smoking. "Chippewa Boogie" is a raging number that combines heavy riffs with soaring lead lines from Howell, as he pulls out all the stops. You'll hear bits of Jeff Beck, Frank Marino, Joe Satriani, Steve Morse, Eric Johnson, and Ronnie Montrose on this one. "UJB" is pure bluesy hard rock, with wah-wah guitar solos all over the place plus Dempsey bashing the drum kit, while "Blu Morpho" is an emotional and passionate vehicle in which Howell lets his guitar sing over. Fans of Robin Trower and Frank Marino will love the wah-wah shred machine that is "No Sympathy", perhaps my personal favorite of all the instrumental cuts. It's heavy, has plenty of funk, blues, and hard rock edge. The concept is taken one step further on "Hambyland", another wah-wah injected scorcher, as the band kicks it up a notch with some furious rhythms and speedy licks.
Guitar rock is alive and well in 2005, and this debut from Peace Machine is one of the better offerings you will hear this year. This is a trio with a capital T-check it out!
2) Real World
3) Sea of Mystery
6) The Mission
7) Chippewa Boogie
8) No Dreamer
10) Blu Morpho
11) No Sympathy
13) Life's A Bitch