Claws of Paradise – s/t

Whomever the opponent, pick Claws of Paradise for the early round knockout. Hard rock has a new champion.

This band musters tenacious influences: early Sabbath doom mongering, the skin-breaking riffs of Guns N’ Roses, the scarred blues of grunge’s most wanted. And all this jump started with a nitro shot of brass.

Yes, saxophones and trumpet actually work on this powerful debut.

Brass sections have a dicey past in hard rock. Their formidable blaring often comes off sounding obnoxious, and this alienates rock fans who see no reason to screw with the classic guitar/bass/drum dynamic. But Claws of Paradise pull it off successfully. The horns fit and blend; they sound substantial, yet remain in check. They’re not Count Basie’s brass, but these guys hold their own. They especially shine on the sludgier parts.

Claws of Paradise call to mind some the most original acts of the 1990’s, including Morphine, Alice in Chains, Toadies and Soundgarden. Their effort gives us a supped up, terrifying version of Clutch. The guitar cuts and bruises, the bass stomps and the drums bring it all together.

And we haven’t even gotten to the singing. At least four members throw in on vocals. Their various deliveries heighten the overall aural aesthetic. And their unique harmonies lend some polish to this brawny assault.

The disc starts with a soundtrack for trouble called “Set it to Blast”, a driving, low-end riff jamboree. Then “Avenue X” picks up momentum and tries out some effective chord changes. This is a great track. “Drunks” whips out a satisfying lead vocal, punctuated with grunge forsaken sludge. And then comes “Jersey Devil” – an early favorite.

Track 5, “Cheap Perfume”, stumbles a bit. It’s too rich, and the horns could have been reigned in some. “Sic Sided Di” also lacks the power and execution of the earlier tracks.

The album picks up again with “Kill Caesar”, a bullying drum and bass blues piece. “Between a Friend” is a slight departure, coming off more meditative. The harmonized vocals here keep it steady but inventive. “So Far” isn’t so good. But “Daddy Do You” rocks like late 1980’s Aerosmith, when guitarist Joe Perry wasn’t screwing around. “Bleed the Tree” is slow, heavy, and Iommi-esque. “The Hold Up” has both its weaknesses and its charms while showing off some nice guitar work. And final track, “Motor”, is a solid, fully fleshed out closer. Each track is executed to perfection.

Do yourself a favor and check out this debut.