Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, information about Maxx12 is somewhere between sketchy and muddy. It seems the principal players in the band, guitarist T. Michael 'Rooster' Riddle and bass player Jon 'Mongoose' Hampton, have roots in the melodic hard rock genre going back better than 30 years. Going back to 1984 they've had some affiliation and friendship with Ronnie Montrose (1947-2012), a guitarist of some notoriety in the Seventies and Eighties. Montrose actually produced the last song on this album, Mongoose.
This information aside, Maxx12 basically shoots themselves in the foot at the start with their presentation. It's unclear from the CD packaging what the name of the album is: Special Forces, Headed for the Sun, or Lord of the Flies, all found in different locations, yet with some prominence. (The image above is not the actual album cover, which is black with the band name in silver; it's the best I could find.) The informational booklet within is a hodge podge of photos accompanied by embellished bio material for Rooster and Mongoose. Then there's simple fact that you can find the song order until you open the CD shell and remove the inside booklet. Odd stuff. Maxx12 should probably fire whomever created this train wreck of album and start over.
But on to the music within, where Maxx12 redeems themselves.
Their sound is generally classic melodic hard rock, mid-Eighties and maybe dipping into the late Seventies, and touched with some Delta blues as Rooster was raised in Philadelphia, Mississippi. You'll catch this within songs like S.A.M., the ballad Lonely 2 Lonely, Fool's, and I've Got The Music, among others. Having said this, Rooster's guitar work is one of high points of the album being varied, yet distinctive to his roots. Another strength of the band is the presence of a strong rock groove in many songs. Sometimes it's swift as with MAXX12 or slow burning as with Lord of the Flies or Unbroken Chain.
If anything, the songs, and there's a lot of them, have some variation, and sometimes with an unexpected surprise. For instance, Boy forgoes swamp rock groove for basic vocals over acoustic guitar; it's fine song in it's simplicity making it stand out. It also points to another Maxx12 strength which are the strong, clean, and melodic vocal arrangements. Unbroken Chain and Lonely 2 Lonely, which follow Boy are fine examples of the necessary vocal harmony that's essential to good melodic hard rock.
Alternatively, another surprise comes with Hell's Heroes, a song so different from anything else here that it's hard to determine its musical direction. The band could have pitched that one, and it's intro, and would have lost nothing Finally, in this need not be a negative, I'm wondering if the band could have dropped a few more songs, saving them for next album, for a more concise package. Nevertheless, the strength of Maxx12 and Special Forces comes with the music, through their competent and creative musicianship and song composition (and not their CD packaging). Expect more from these talented fellows. Recommended.
The strength of Maxx12 and Special Forces comes with the music, through their competent and creative musicianship and song composition. Expect more from these talented fellows. Recommended.
Mat Sinner is both an icon and legend in the German, and the larger European, hard rock and heavy metal scene. Cranking out music since 1982, Sinner is an industrious and prolific musician and producer whether through his namesake band, the heavy metal heroes Primal ... [ Read More ]