Red Dragon Cartel review

After years silence, guitar virtuoso Jake E. Lee has finally unleashed his latest project, Red Dragon Cartel, on the world. The self-titled album for Frontiers Records is also his first album of new material in almost 20 years. After such a long time away, as you can well imagine, there are extremely high expectations and quite a bit of buzz surrounding the album. Diehard fans of Lee’s previous work with Ozzy Osbourne and Badlands can rest easy as the album is an amalgamate of everything great in rock and roll, past present and future, that not only exceeds the hype but lays it to waste. There is not a single weak moment to be found in the album’s entire running time and, at age 56, Lee’s playing is actually better now than it was in 1986 if that is possible. The album also benefits greatly from a list of talented guest musicians like Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, Paul Dianno from Iron Maiden, Rex Brown of Pantera, Jeremy Spencer from Five Finger Death Punch and Maria Brink from In This Moment. Lead single and video “Deceived” features Lee’s signiture picking style and incendiary solos prominently but has the modern day sleazy hard rock sound of Buckcherry while “Shout It Out” is eerily reminiscent of “Porn Star Dancing” by My Darkest Days that should please all the ladies and help bring out their inner stripper. The infectious groove on “Feeder” brings to mind the Motley Crue album Saints of Los Angeles but is made instantly more accessible by Robin Zander’s almost-Beatles-esque vocal delivery in the verses. “Fall from the Sky” is akin to “Got You Where I Want You” by 90’s rockers The Flyys on a pychedelic trip with Soundgarden and features a smoking, born on the bayou blues guitar solo. “Wasted” is a balls-out heavy rocker with a punk edge similar to early Iron Maiden so it is only fitting that former Maiden frontman Paul Dianno belt out the harsh vocals. At the same time the fernetic riffing and breakneack pace of “Slave” finds them exploring Stone Sour territory and the blistering solo goes to further prove Lee has not lost a step. “Big Mouth” is an emotive rocker that features a soaring vocal performance by Maria Brink. Her one of a kind voice is the perfect complement due to the fact that the song sounds like it was written with her specifically in mind while “War Machine” relies on the heavily distored fuzz of vintage Black Sabbath and has a riff on par with “N.I.B.” or “Sweat Leaf.” It also sees vocalist Darren Smith doing his best Ozzy impression to help give the song that authentic Sabbath sound. Here’s the bottom line- While the album might not be what you would have expected, in the end it is everything you could have ever wanted or hoped for it to be. Rating: 9/10 -Eric Hunker