On Borrowed Time

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Never mind busting on religion, the Illuminati's full-length debut actively seeks salvation in its own way: through the healing power of rock & roll and, more importantly, the act of rendering something as old hat as classic '70s-based hard rock fresh and vital sounding once again. Curiously and -- to their immense credit -- uniquely, the Illuminati generally accomplish this feat through far subtler means than their heavy-handed, post-stoner rock contemporaries, conjuring incredibly infectious tunes on the strength of experience obviously acquired through years of dedicated blues-rooted rehearsal-room and on-stage woodshedding. Noteworthy examples such as "Black Russian Blues," "Message Home," and "Impressions" resonate with the confident, no-need-to-be-bombastic essence of Thin Lizzy, the James Gang, and Aerosmith, respectively -- though their influences mingle and merge in countless ways within any given song throughout. On such occasions when the Illuminati actually choose to turn up the intensity and velocity of their delivery somewhat (hear them soundtrack a barroom fight on "Goin' Down" and swerve into the Supersuckers' cowpunk territory with bonus cut "On My Way Back Home...Again"), they always seem to counter with impeccably restrained numbers like the title song, the bittersweet masterpiece "The Jericho Mile" (whose perfect solos alone are worth the price of admission), and the convincingly jazzy "Sir Lord Brubeck," which shows off their musical range by splicing jazz great Dave Brubeck with proto-metallers Sir Lord Baltimore! Not everything on On Borrowed Time earns the instant classic stamp, mind you ("Rain Delay" and "Lay Low," for instance, are serviceable but hardly life-altering), but the average Illuminati song still features more brilliant guitar riffs, searing hot licks, and unexpected twists and turns than most any of their competition's, while rarely breaking the three-minute barrier.

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