Following up their 2017 album, The Missing Peace, widely considered to be somewhat of a comeback for the band, L.A. GUNS returns with The Devil You Know out now on Frontiers Music. Unfortunately this one does not exactly live up to the previous album’s sound. There are a few good tracks on here, but there are also some that run on longer than they should. This lineup is pretty much the same with guitarist Tracii Guns, singer Phil Lewis, drummer Shane Fitzgibbon, bassist Johnny Martin, and new member Adam Hamilton on guitar.
Starting us off is the heavy and fast paced “Rage.” The tone of this song definitely fits its name, especially by the crunchy punk-vibe from the rhythm guitar played by Hamilton. Guns’ solo evokes a feeling of urgency to go along with all the rage emanating from the track. “Stay Away” begins with an exciting heavy riff from Guns. Meanwhile, Martin’s equally hard and heavy drumming comes through strongly so as to not be missed in the rush of everyone else. Interestingly, I tend to get an island vibe from the very beginning of “Loaded Bomb” until Lewis comes in fast and hard. This track gets old fairly quick, however.
Title track, “The Devil You Know,” has a very BLACK SABBATH influence to it, especially with Martin’s heavy bass during the bridge and Guns’ wailing solos. Lewis’ howling vocals accompany the tone of this song exquisitely. The overall sound is hard, dark, and heavy. The next song, “Needle to the Bone,” brings the tone back up to light and energetic. “Going High” follows the flow of the previous track but seems to overstay its welcome. All I can say about the next number, “Gone Honey,” is that it seems very…repetitive. And far too long.
We return to a crunchy, more familiar L.A. GUNS sound with “Don’t Need to Win.” Most of the song tends to run into each other until Guns’ solo snaps you back from spacing out with its muted, classic rock style guitar tone.“Down That Hole” has an alternative rock feel to it which sounds a little bit strange coming from this band. This one also lasts much longer than it should.
Bringing my interest back is the bluesy solo to kick off “Another Season in Hell.” This is definitely my favorite track on the album. The heavy handedness of the bass along with the ache in the guitars and the burning hunger of Lewis’ vocals makes this one surely stand out above the rest. Finishing the same as it started, heavy and fast paced, is “Boom.” This final number evokes a strong desire to headbang and enthusiastically move about the limited space of my apartment as it rocks through the speakers. My downstairs neighbor probably thinks we are moving furniture right now.
The problem is, as I said before, this disc doesn’t rank nearly as high for me as the one that came previously. There are definitely a few good tracks, but there are also some that tend to go on longer than necessary. And while it may not be at the top of my L.A. GUNS list, if I can get two or three good songs off of an album, I consider it money well spent.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Stay Away,” The Devil You Know,” “Another Season in Hell”