Review: Justin Larner – Hot And Dangerous
SnR (April 20th 2021)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
Guitarist Justin Larner’s second album ‘Hot and Dangerous‘ is a project that features four singers and covers an array of musical landscapes where the singers that were selected best suit the material crafted by Mr. Larner. If there’s one word to describe the material on this album, that word would be diverse.
Sometimes albums like this featuring different singers can go off the rails in a way where the diversity of the material inadvertently creates sub-par songs, since the focus is more on being different than actually being good. Thankfully, this does not happen here, as Larner has crafted both varied yet strong sounding melodies. To truly enjoy the material, it’s best to expect that you should not get comfortable with one style and just go along for the ride.
The album opens with one of my favorite songs, the title track ‘Hot and Dangerous‘ featuring the only song sung by Jonny Sparks. Jonny’s voice is perfect for sleaze metal and that’s exactly what you get here. The chorus is infectiously catchy and I absolutely love where the song goes with the guitar solo, it’s double time (and double bass) beat kicking it up a notch. I just wish there was more of this style on the album.
It’s probably best to discuss the songs on the album by focusing on each singer’s contributions. Singer Joe Hill covers the most ground on the songs that he partakes. ‘Take Me Away‘ has a boogie swagger that incorporates a mix of swing and rock. A very interesting catchy track, but then the other songs he’s featured on, ‘Let Me Go‘ and ‘Alive‘ are completely different, with more of a 90s Alice In Chains vibe. Kudos to him for pulling off both songs extremely well. He changes things up one more time with ‘Oblivion‘. What sounds like it could be a ballad kicks into overdrive at around the 90 second mark and becomes a full-on metal track, ripping guitars and double bass drums tearing things up and only slowing down slightly for the chorus.
Let’s move on to the material sung by Elisha Martin. Both of her songs are genre similar and are reminiscent of bands like Halestorm and Evanescence. ‘Can You Feel It‘ is one of my least favorite tracks on the album. The drumming during the verses does a rhythm that involves the snare drum being hit three times, then once, then three, then once. It’s a weird rhythm that might be suited for a prog rock song, but just seems to throw me off here. ‘Breaking Out‘ is a mix of a ballad and a mid-tempo heavy rocker. A decent song and while Ms. Martin does a fine job, I find her songs to be the weakest ones on the album.
I’ve saved the best for last. Singer Jane Gould sings on lead single, ‘Find Your Way Home‘. There’s a reason this song is the single. It’s catchy, hook-laden melodic hard rock with a strong vocal performance from Ms. Gould. Hands down the best song on the album. ‘Best Laid Plans‘ is the one true ballad on the album and credit once again must be placed on Justin for selecting the best singers to fit the songs he created. She’s perfect for this song. Around the three minute mark, the song gets heavier with the introduction of Justin’s guitar solo followed by an introduction of keyboards to lead us back to the quieter aspects of the song as Ms. Gould sings a few more lines and the song fades out. Very moving and well done.
The album closes with ‘Losing It‘, an instrumental track from Justin. Admittedly I’m not much for instrumental songs but I will state that his guitar playing is excellent and this song rocks. Think “Mr. Scary” by Dokken and you’ll get the vibe he was going for.
Justin Larner is a musician I was not familiar with, but someone I certainly want to hear more from in the future. Very impressed with all the different genres and vibes covered on this release. There is something to be found for everyone on the album and should absolutely be checked out and purchased.