It shouldnt take a Johnny Cash song to make a record take off. With Checkmate, from Gonzales, thats exactly the problem. The first hook to really pull you in comes on Ring of Fire, which sets a positive tone for everything that follows after it. Unfortunately, thats only the final three songs.
At their heart, Gonzales seek to be a big guitar, balls-to-the-wall rock band, the kind that screams macho energy and falls somewhere in the neighborhood of Nashville Pussy, with southern influences and unabashed Lemmy adoration. Unfortunately, the first six songs really arent that laden with memorable hooks and the vocals are adequate but not gripping. Everything is decent, but it doesnt jump out. On Fallen there are some solos that capture attention, and the intro to Heaven Gone Wrong continues the trend, but, generally speaking, theres little variety to be gained, and seemingly one tempo until Ring of Fire kicks off. Lyrics including My baby knows how to blow my mind in the latter are indicative of the records tone.
After the cover song, the subtle rockabilly of Go to Hell is easier to discern, with some serious shredding filling the voids. The latter songs shift the sound a little further from the guitar, utilizing more backing vocals and choruses. This creates a more cohesive sound and the solos feel complementary instead of the driving force. The well-rounded rocknroll of Fiesta and My Son, at the records end, offers potential for a compelling rock record.
Its not so much that Checkmate is a bad record, but its without focus and ends up rather forgettable.
6.5 / 10
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