Fucking Metal Album Reviews: John 5 – The Art Of Malice: fucking-metal-album-reviews-john-5-the-art-of-malice/
June 4th, 2010. By groverXIII
John 5 is, for the uninitiated, best known for his guitarwork with Marilyn Manson and, more recently, Rob Zombie. Those two names might be enough to make you skeptical when I tell you that the man is an absurdly talented guitarist with a number of impressive solo albums under his belt. However, I assure you that this is indeed the case. The Art Of Malice brings this total to five, not counting an additional remix album; like his previous solo albums, The Art Of Malice features instrumental, guitar-driven tracks mixing metal and bluegrass in varying measures.
The album art may be enough to turn your stomach; between the loud colors, odd makeup, and questionable clothing choice, it’s fair to say that this is a pretty unappealing introduction to Senor Cinco’s music. However, I urge you to resist the temptation to judge this particular book by its cover. Once you dive in, you may be surprised at what you find.
The album starts off with a blast with ‘The Nightmare Unravels’, as atmospheric guitar sounds give way to an explosive riff and lightning-fast soloing. This track truly exhibits what John 5 does best, pairing lead pyrotechnics with catchy melodies. ‘The Art Of Malice’ is a shorter track of bluegrass picking, another of John 5′s calling cards, and features no additional instruments beyond the guitar. As the album continues on, the tracks almost seem to be divided between heavy and mellow, occasionally crossing paths as some bluegrass picking finds its way into the heavier tracks, but the album almost seems to alternate between the two styles.
There are some curveballs in here, though; ‘Ya Dig’ features a fast, heavy vibe and a guest bass performance from Billy Sheehan. ‘Can I Live Again’ is a slow, mournful tune, full of sadness and emotion. And ‘Fractured Mirror’ is a version of the Ace Frehley song, which would explain why it feels out of place. Still, all of these tracks are oozing with 5′s style; most of these cuts wouldn’t be out of place on his earlier stuff.
And in the end, that’s the part that trips me up somewhat. Perhaps it’s because of my level of familiarity with his older albums, but there something about The Art Of Malice that feels a bit stale. The heavier songs don’t seem to grab me quite the way that his previous work has, and it seems as though there are less heavy songs on this album than usual. I’ve always felt that the heavy stuff was his bread and butter, with occasional bluegrass interludes, and it feels as though the slower moments here start to disrupt the flow of the album a bit.
Still, The Art Of Malice is a really good album, packed to the gills with flashy guitar playing and catchy melodies. The slower moments are more than made up for by the stronger parts of the album, and as a whole the album is a worthy entry into John 5′s solo catalog. It’s certainly better than the last couple of Rob Zombie albums.
My score: 4.5 out of 6