45 Grave

Pick Your Poison

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AllMusic Review by

When going through a thesaurus to pick out adjectives to describe a 45 Grave album, mellow and pastoral probably aren't words that would readily come to mind, but "A Desert Dream," the lone instrumental in this comeback album, is just that. New guitarist and keyboard player Frank Agnew, formerly of T.S.O.L., Social Distortion, and the Adolescents, has chops to spare and this instrumental excursion does indeed suggest dry, bright, open spaces with subtle slide guitar and sparse keyboard accents. The slide guitar on "Desert Dream" isn't the only touch of country on the album. "Johnny" is a twang-filled country stomper that gives lead singer Dinah Cancer a chance to show off her wicked sense of humor. The band, or more properly Cancer, the only original bandmember in this lineup, has always thought outside of the box, or coffin, so "Johnny," with its arch humor (at one point she actually says "gosh darn it"), fits comfortably into 45 Grave's current set list. The material includes a few older tunes the band never recorded in its heyday, including "Highway 666," a straightforward rocker with a metal guitar freakout by Agnew, and a remake of the grinding Halloween anthem "Night of the Demons" that gives Cancer a chance to show off her best sinister growl. The new tunes, like "Johnny" and "Dream," are packed with surprises. "Winds of Change" sports a full horn section and a funky backbeat that drops a bit of R&B into the mix. The title track sounds like an early-'80s punk-metal rocker, while "Child of Fear" is almost a power ballad, but Agnew's aggressive guitar and Cancer's wailing vocal save it from that sad fate.