Ron Gallo spent close to a decade exploring the boundaries of his blues, country, and roots rock influences with his band Toy Soldiers, but when he jumped ship to go solo, he left all of that behind. At least that's the very strong impression given by Gallo's second solo album, 2017's Heavy Meta. Gallo's first solo effort, 2014's Ronny, was a step away from Toy Soldiers' sound into a brighter and poppier direction, but with Heavy Meta, he's done an about-face into raw, wiry, guitar-based rock & roll. Backed by bassist Joe Bisirri and drummer Dylan Sevey, Heavy Meta is a gritty, energetic exercise in punk-informed 21st century garage rock, with Gallo's buzzy, rough and ready guitar figures and high-attitude vocals front and center in the mix at all times. Even the relatively subdued numbers like "Black Market Eyes," "Started a War," and "All the Punks Are Domesticated" are sharp-witted and lyrically cutting (especially the latter, a bitter tirade against the cultural abuses of contemporary thirty-somethings). And when Gallo and his bandmates shift into high gear on "Young Lady, You're Scaring Me," "Please Yourself," and "Put the Kids to Bed," the fusion of Gallo's dirty but melodic melodies and waves of lyrical swagger suggests how Bob Dylan might have ended up if his primal influence had been Black Francis instead of Woody Guthrie. And chances are slim anyone will release a better song in the foreseeable future about bad parenting than the ferocious "Why Do You Have Kids?" Gallo's songwriting is Heavy Meta's greatest strength, but the production by Gallo and Bisirri is excellent, documenting the performances with force and clarity but retaining just the right amount of rough-edged texture to keep this music tough and effective. Heavy Meta is the sound of Ron Gallo reinventing himself, and he does it so well that one could view his impressive body of work with Toy Soldiers simply as a warm-up; this is tough, smart, impassioned rock & roll with a sense of purpose and lots of swagger, performed with the confidence of a veteran and the scrap of a newcomer. It's heady stuff well worth your attention.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming