Something Else! sneak peek: Red Dragon Cartel, “Feeder” from Red Dragon Cartel (2014)

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Since the death of vocalist Ray Gillen and the end of Badlands, we haven’t heard much from Jake E. Lee. The guitarist who rose to fame as Ozzy Osbourne’s sideman on Bark at the Moon and The Ultimate Sin has done a couple of solo albums, a few projects here and there and some tribute records, but has largely been silent since the 1990s.

Now, he’s ready to re-introduce himself to the world with his new outfit, Red Dragon Cartel. The band’s debut album is due out on Frontiers Records in January 2014, and Lee and Co. have given fans a taste of the new music with the single “Feeder,” featuring vocals by Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander.

The first thing we here on the tune is a little echoing lick from Jake E. Lee, before bassist Ronnie Mancuso (Beggars and Thieves) comes in with a driving and somewhat interesting sounding groove. There’s almost a mechanical or digital sound in the line. Then Lee is off to the races laying down some undeniable guitar licks to get things cranked up even as Zander comes in with a sardonic sneer on the vocal line — and the band delivers a big, hard rock chorus.

While the song has Lee’s signature sound, it’s also not quite like the things that he’s known for. The tune isn’t nearly as bluesy as Badlands, and while there’s plenty of the flash he showed with Osbourne, this is not nearly as heavy or metallic. One thing, though, is for sure. Lee has not lost his touch. He shreds all over the song, yet never allows it to cross the line into wankery that detracts from the song itself.

It’s interesting that Lee, Mancuso and drummer Jonas Fairley all seem to be doing their fair share of riffing throughout the tune, yet it remains cohesive and flowing. That’s a hard thing to do.

If there’s one weakness of “Feeder,” I think it might be that I’m not sure I’m sold on Zander’s vocal line. It’s a bit off-putting at first, but with more listens, it has grown on me. In addition to vocalist D.J. Smith, Zander is just one of several guest singers, which also include original Iron Maiden vocalist Paul Di’Anno, Sass Jordan and Maria Brink (In This Moment). Also appearing on the record are Pantera/Kill Devil Hill bassist Rex Brown and Slash band members Todd Kearns and Brent Fitz.

I’ll admit that I have mixed feelings on Jake E. Lee’s previous catalog, but I like what I hear in this one song. His guitar work sounds as good as it ever has, and everything comes together nicely. Red Dragon Cartel definitely makes the list of 2014 albums I’m looking forward to hearing.

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Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips

Fred Phillips is a veteran entertainment writer with a love of hard rock and heavy metal. He has written music reviews, columns and feature stories for several newspapers, Web sites and a national wire service, while running a stand-alone site called Hall of the Mountain King in various places and incarnations since 1997. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelse reviews.com.
Fred Phillips
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