Review by Pete Finn for MPM
Originating from Torquay in Devon, Kris Barras has led a life that a biographer would dream about writing. As he grew up influenced by his father’s band and huge record collection, he started to learn how to play a guitar, whilst around the same age he began training in martial arts.
Over time the martial arts won and he became a renowned ‘Cage Fighter’ living in Las Vegas and Thailand, fighting in front of up to 8000 people in Asia. But music was his passion and in 2014 he quit the cage, and in 2016 the Kris Barras Band released their debut full length album ‘Lucky 13’.
Six years later and it’s album number four, ‘Death Valley Paradise’. Along with Kris Barras (vocals/lead guitar) the band features a rhythm section of Billy Hammett (drums) and Kelpie Mackenzie (bass), making up this strong quartet is Josiah J Manning (rhythm guitar/vocals).
‘Death Valley Paradise’ gives us 11 tracks with a combined running time of 40 minutes. Kicking off is ‘Dead Horses’ which was also the first single to be released.
In fact, if you have seen the Kris Barras Band live recently this has been included in their set. Billy Hammett starts the album with short salvos of drum beats, the heart starts racing, Barras’ vocal is strong and forceful, we’re whisked away with a seismic solo. This is guaranteed to get the hands swaying, great opener.
Before you know it, we have ‘Long Gone’ it has a dirty Blues intro, and moves effortlessly in to a track with a more Stoner feel, Mackenzie’s bass is hard and prominent, Barras tells the story between the different instrumentals, a lot of thought has gone into the construction of this track, it works very well.
Next is the stadium sing-a-long anthem ‘My Parade’, again this had been added to their recent set, the crowd love it, there’s plenty of opportunity for fist pumping and chanting, it builds nicely through with some crashing drums.
‘These Voices’ start with a bright guitar riff, Barras shows that he has a good vocal range, slowing this track down and employing a softer vocal style. This song has been composed with a musical blend and vocal balance that forms a comfort blanket for your ears, it’s a nice place to be and my personal favourite on the album.
The tempo is increased for ‘Who Needs Enemies’, Hammett and Mackenzie keep the pace quick, Manning adds a fullness to the sound. Barras’ voice is neatly complimented with the backing harmonies that guide us head on into a fabulous solo.
‘Devil You Know’ gives us another different sound, there is a circular riff, mixed with distortion that is laid as the track foundation, Barras’ crisp vocal and clean sounds from Manning and Mackenzie are then layered on top to build a strong song.
Wake Me When It’s Over’ begins with a gentle ballad intro, then it grabs you and shakes your senses, you’re placed down as it reverts back to the original feel, it’s toying with your emotions as it’s sung with passion. The guitar solo has a subtle nod to an 80’s Power Ballad.
Track number eight is ‘Hostage’, the drum and vocal opening made me think of Green Day, but it’s not too long before it’s blindingly obvious, that this is very much a Kris Barras Band song, this will keep the arms swaying if played live, Manning’s rhythm guitar keeps everyone in check, neatly filling the changes in pace.
Cigarettes and Gasoline’ has a chanting vocal, the use of the effects pedal gives the song depth and body, the bass adds soul and intensity as the song builds to its climax.
‘Bury Me’ starts a lot slower, these capable musicians, add texture as the track develops. We end up with a full-bodied sound that’s a real pleasure to listen to.
We arrive at the final track ‘Chaos’, with Barras back in storytelling mode, the punching drum beat is trading blows with bass and guitar riffs, then the lead solo covers you and winds you through the fight, bringing us way too quickly to the end of the record.
This is a great album and a showcase for some wonderful talent. The Kris Barras Band has exchanged some of their earlier Blues/Southern Rock, for a more powerful rock sound with great success. Both of these styles the band perform very well.
This mix will make for some incredible live shows, if the band keep evolving and producing records like this, it won’t be too long before Kris Barras is performing in front of 8000 fans again.
Official Website: https://www.krisbarrasband.com