Speed X: Flat Black
Speed X Targets Mainstream Rock Fans with Debut Album
When members of separate, established bands unite to create a new album, the end result typically has some similarity to the musicians' previous outfits. Not so for Speed X and its debut record, Flat Black.
Right from the start of the opening high-octane rocker, "Speed," it's clear guitarists Nick Catanese (Black Label Society) and Mike Stone (ex-Queensryche), drummer Mike Froedge (ex-doubleDrive), bassist Josh Sattler (ex-doubleDrive), and vocalist Jason Fowler have combined the energy usually harnessed by younger musicians, with an infectious, raw, "take no prisoners" attitude and created something uniquely their own.
The 11-track bombardment continues at a slightly slower pace with "Fly." Featuring a punishing groove melded with a dramatic bridge, the song sums up the musical diversity found on Flat Black and sets the tone for the remainder of the record. In all, the album alternates nicely between all-out rockers and more melodic cuts, giving Flat Black an entertaining and consistent flow.
Fowler, the last piece added to Speed X's lineup, brings a vocal style reminiscent to Buckcherry's Josh Todd. Although not very distinct in terms of range, Fowler's versatility as a melody singer is on full display, particularly when the band drops down a gear to the album's mid-tempo title track and alternative-tinged "River."
For fans of the band members' other groups, don't fret. There is one very distinct quality from them that makes a transition to Speed X -- guitar solos. As one would expect from Catanese and Stone, the duo shred the hell out of their solo sections. The solo in "Loaded Up," for example, gives the cut's tempo a good kick in the ass, a trend found throughout Flat Black.
Ironically, Flat Black's mainstream hard rock appeal is also its most glaring shortcoming. While solidly constructed with plenty of guitar candy and song variety, the album lacks a clear single and catchy hook. Nothing on the record, with the exception of the closing number, a rocking cover of Sly Fox's "Let's Go All the Way," seems memorable enough that you'll find yourself humming it days later.
Despite that criticism, Flat Black still has potential for success. Although the songs fail to break any new ground musically, they possess enough intangibles for Speed X to be given a shot by a wide variety of rock listeners. At the very least, the tunes on Flat Black will get your blood pumping. And isn't that what rock and roll is all about?
- Brian Heaton
Copyright 2010, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.