DOWNFALL OF ACES - Sonic Assassin (Nicotine)
You can count the number of Italo-Franco rock and roll bands playing Detroit-inspired high energy music on one of the prongs of a tuning fork, so if competition isn't a factor in their southern European backyard, getting recognised just might be. Sonic Assassin probably don't care less and neither should you. They pack enough of the good stuff into the 40-minutes of their second full-length album to prove they don't need to be pretty or fashionable to be good.

The Italian arm of Sonic Assassin are A10, the band that backed Scott Morgan and Deniz Tek on their 2000 tour of France and Italy, the recorded fruits of which were released as a formidably monstrous live platter on Career Records called "3 Assassins". (Stefano Costantini has since moved on to be replaced on guitar by Cristiano Riccardi, but played on the album.) Frenchman J.P. "Rauky" Molinier (of psych band Little Green Fairy) supplies the vocals. So that's the cast.

If you want to a handle on what they sound like, think a little less abrasive M-16's or a less bluesy Asteroid B612. Europeans might liken them to The American Ruse. and Jeff Dahl and them would get on just fine. They'd also be a fine match-up for Italy's The Loose. Maybe, post-gig, they could split the cab fare home.

"Downfall of Aces" starts strong and gets stronger. I like the second half better than the first because the later songs summon up greater dynamics and the band mixes it up with backing vocals and riff variations. Rauky's not Serge Gainsborough but that doesn't matter, his vocals fit the bill (and many of my favourite voices are guitar players anyway.)

"Gimme Danger, Gimme What I Need" is one of the poppiest tracks and has what sounds like a James Williamson Lesley-d guitar in one channel and an overdriven one in the other. "Never Be Alone" has a hint of Sonic's Rendezvous Band's "Mystically Yours".

"Looking For Your Love Again" lives on its the power of a quality riff and an even better lead break. Costantini's fretwork on "I'm a Vampire" scales the heights too (*so much so that you can excuse the goofy lyrics) and there's a lot of Dr Tek's tek-nique applied on the instro "Pi(ppo)nocchio's Theme".

"Never Be Alone" ripples with sinuous energy while its brother, "Mirror Trip", rises and falls on alternate waves of glistening and squawling guitar. They're a nicely-matched pair that pushes sonic envelopes.

I made the mistake of not grabbing a copy of the preceeding album when I spied one in a Spanish store. Don't fall into the same trap when you can procure this one with the click of a button. - The Barman


STATE IS ENEMY, FOREVER!!! - Sonic Assassin (Freakshow)
You wouldn't expect southern Europeans to be any good at Our Kind of rock'n'roll. The wine, the food, the beautiful women, the relaxed pace of living - where's the rage and intensity supposed to come from? But you'd be wrong, of course. This mob of Italians (formerly of the A-10), fronted by a Frenchman, have the finest Detroit/Oz credentials firmly in place: proteges of Kent Steedman (as Yage, the riddim boyzzz have three records out with Steedman on guitar/vox, and a fourth with a Spanish female singer is in the can), touring bandmates of Scott Morgan and Deniz Tek. Their album kicks all kinds of ass on any number of pretenders from farther north, and practically every other disc I've heard so far this year (the new Hydromatics "Powerglide" on the same label being a notable exception).

These Assassins play harder and more aggressively than just about anybody else around. Guitarist Stefano Constantini is an axeman in the classic mould of Brother Wayne Kramer and the aforementioned Messrs. Steedman and Tek, laying down brutally pummeling chords and cutting loose with sheets of wah-drenched, over-the-top lead. The Pasquini brothers rhythm team - Pippo on drums and Romano on bass - is as thunderous as those OTHER brothers, the Ashetons, in the "Iggy & the" version of the Stooges. In other words, these boys don't forget the ROLL. Vocalist Rauky is often buried in the mix, but from what I can hear, his vocalismo is fine, possessed of the requisite amount of dementia. What I mean is, all the pieces are in place.

These guys really wear their influences on their sleeves with the covers. You get Birdman "Murder City Nights" and "Love Kills" (the latter an unusual choice, upping the heaviness quotient considerably from the original, or maybe it's just the absence of klavier here - YOU decide!!!), Dead Boys "Sonic Reducer," a standout version of the Lipstick Killers' "Hindu Gods of Love," and a Tex Perkins tune ("What I Done to Her") redone as punky reggae a la Clash (and believe it or not, it works). The good news is that their originals are every bit as good.

"Set My Brain On Fire" kicks things off at an appropriately high energy level, with an ascending guitar line in the chorus that'll only take a couple of listens to etch itself indelibly in your synapses. "I Wanna Turn Off Your Smile," with Rauky singing through one of those compressor doodads that the guy from the Butthole Surfers used to like so much, sounds like something the latter-day New Christs might have done, while "Take It Easy to the End" shows that these Assassins have more dynamic range than lotsa their Euro neighbours to the north, sounding as it does like something from the moody, experimental side of the Celibate Rifles (down to the pronounced Damo similarity in the vocal). "Let's Burn Together" and "Eyes for Eyes" (am I hallucinating, or does Rauky sound like Paul Westerberg on this last one?) are rockers that chug along nicely, while the nicely-titled "I'm a Liar, I Play with Fire" sounds like a garage rock apocalypse. "Rest In Pieces" is another blasted, moody piece (dig those octaves, Stefano).

Who woulda thunk it - a Euroband with more in their arsenal than just energy. I'm up to my sixth or seventh play today already and this disc shows no signs of wearing out its welcome. I'm not even gonna ask what that album title's supposed to be referring to. - Ken Shimamoto