American Bombshell: ‘Knives Out’ EP
KNIVES OUT EP
Released on January 29, 2023 (American Bombshell)
I was getting concerned. 2023 was rolling along and I hadn’t heard any new album that I even thought was worthy of making it onto the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2023. Sure, it seemed a long away before I would be putting that list together but as any new year progresses, I make mental notes in my mind of which albums should make it on that year end list. Luckily, American Bombshell‘s new EP Knives Out is the first record to make the cut in my mind. Whether Knives Out figures on the actual year end list remains to be determined but there is no doubt that the EP is currently the frontrunner in that regard.
I actually knew right off the bat after listening to the opening guitar riff from the first single “Knives Out” that this was going to be a special album. There seemed to be a real return by American Bombshell to the rawness, grittiness and attitude exhibited on their debut album No Regrets. Don’t get me wrong, American Bombshell‘s sophomore album Tattooed ‘N Bruised was a solid album but it was a more polished affair that lacked that grittiness that first attracted me to the band’s music in the first place. If anything, Knives Out feels like a return to the roots for the band so to speak. Funny enough, since the release of Tattooed ‘N Bruised in March 2019 and until about a year ago, things had been kind of tumultuous for the Indiana State rockers. First off, only 18 days after the release of Tattooed ‘N Bruised, it was announced that guitarist Steve Boyles was no longer a member of the “Bomb Squad“. I always thought that was a real blow to the band since Boyles wrote a lot of the material and brought a real punk element to the group. The next casualty was Boyles‘ replacement Dustin Webster who lasted about a year in the band. Webster‘s departure paved the way for singer Jay Cee‘s long-time friend Justin Bryant to join American Bombshell but unfortunately, that didn’t last either.
In July 2021, American Bombshell announced the addition of two new members — guitarist Slick Mick (who relocated along with his wife from Green Bay, Wisconsin to Indianapolis, Indiana so that he could join the band) and bassist David “DJ” Jones (who had actually heard the group’s debut album No Regrets before it was even released) who were replacing respectively Bryant and original bassist Dusty Green. If that wasn’t enough, shortly after, Jay Cee suddenly announced that he was retiring from the “band scene” and playing live music. New singer Jeff Stearns was brought in but lasted less than five months. Things seemed quite bleak for American Bombshell but some very sad news was actually the catalyst for the return of Jay Cee to the band. American Bombshell‘s huge and long-time fan Yoshi Baxter was battling a non-operable form of pancreatic cancer and the group ended up playing a surprise intimate set for him at someone’s house with none other than Jay Cee on lead vocals. That turned out to be the catalyst for Jay Cee to rejoin the band and about a year later, we have the Knives Out EP. Fittingly, the EP is dedicated to Yoshi Baxter. who actually passed away exactly one year ago.
I’ve already covered how the song “Knives Out” seemed to be a real return to American Bombshell‘s grittier sound exhibited on their debut album No Regrets. Part of it surely has to do with the return of Scott Rainey who is back as co-producer (along with the band) and who also handled the recording and mixing of the EP just like he did for the debut record. It should be noted that American Bombshell had signed with the EMP (Ellefson Music Productions) Label Group for their sophomore album Tattooed ‘N Bruised and they had a different production team for that record. That label seems to understandably be on hiatus ever since rather embarrassing videos between former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson and a young woman were leaked to the public back in May 2021.
If all the songs on American Bombshell‘s new EP were as good as the title track, I would be mentioning “album of the year”. As it turns out, four of the five songs on the EP are of the stellar kind but there is one song — the second one titled “You And Hell” — which unfortunately feels more like filler than anything else. It’s a slower plodding type of track and I find myself skipping it half the time. It’s actually not that bad of a track but it pales in comparison to what is offered on the EP. Perhaps the band felt that they needed to include a slower track to counter the four pedal to the metal songs on the EP? The third song on the EP — “Bastard From Birth” — really reminds me of The Wild! with its chase like intro, the slower verses and the sped up chorus section with gang like background vocals. The guitar melodies, solo and harmonies on this one are really something else and next level. I love the “Oooh oooh” section midway through and towards the end of the song.
“Slow Drag (1 More Last Time)” starts off slowly as if you are having one last drag of a cigarette before the song picks up the pace. This is probably my favorite vocal performance from Jay Cee on the EP as he really showcases his vocal range on this one. Once again, the guitar melodies are heavy yet melodic. It’s hard to tell whether new guitarist Slick Mick has had such a big impact on the guitar playing since the songwriting is simply credited to American Bombshell but I never really noticed the guitar work on the group’s prior albums as much as I have on the Knives Out EP. “Cocaine Blues” closes out the EP and is another fast paced rocker. Jason Carr‘s drumming is fast paced on this one and the song never lets up. I absolutely love the guitar harmonies on the track and would love to see more on that on future American Bombshell songs.
Overall, it seems that American Bombshell have gone back to their roots (i.e. debut album) with Knives Out except that there is an upgrade with respect to the guitar playing. It’s not a knock on former American Bombshell guitarist Steve Boyles rather than just a nod to Andy Nixon and new guitarist Slick Mick on a job well done. There is no need to say that American Bombshell‘s Knives Out EP is my favorite release of 2023 to date.
01. Knives Out
02. You And Hell
03. Bastard From Birth
04. Slow Drag (1 More Last Time)
05. Cocaine Blues
Jay Cee – lead vocals
Jason Carr – drums
Andrew “Nix” Nixon – guitar
Slick Mick – guitar
David “DJ” Jones – bass
Daniel Carr – cigar box guitar (3)
Scott Rainey – additional backing vocals
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Scott Rainey
Produced by American Bombshell and Scott Rainey
Reviewed by Olivier for Sleaze Roxx, February 2023
American Bombshell‘s “Knives Out” lyric video: