ANGELS IN VEIN
LONG TIME COMING
Released on April 7, 2023 (Perris Records
Way back in 2016, singer Chris VanDahl (L.A. Guns, Cherry St., The Vow) announced the formation of a new sleaze rock “supergroup” dubbed Angels In Vein. And while that term is often overused in the world of music, the band line-up did feature notable players within our favorite rock n’ roll sub-genre with names that, at the very least, would spark some interest from fans (such as myself) that keep track of musical resumes. The line-up at the time also featured another L.A. Guns alumnus in guitarist Stacey Blades and Faster Pussycat’s very own Eric Stacy on bass. The rundown of contestants was rounded out by another former Cherry St. member – Todd (Taz) Anthony on guitar — and drummer extraordinaire Troy Patrick Farrell (Gilby Clarke, Tantric, Tramp’s White Lion) behind the kit. At the time, the announcement of their collaboration generated a bit of buzz, and the impending arrival of the band’s debut album was coveted by fans. Fast forward a mere seven years, and their full-length debut album is finally upon us – made available to the masses via Perris Records.
“No One Gets Out Alive” is precisely the caliber of song that any great album needs right off the top. It’s energized and will make you want to throw your fist up in the air or bang your head – whatever you’re into. For the most part, this is a fair representation of the ten tracks that follow too – hard hitting and melodic with just the right amount of attitude muscled in. The one thing that jumped out at me right off the bat is that VanDahl’s vocals sounds like they have a lot of effects slapped onto them. Not in a bad way, mind you. It works for these songs. There’s a sleazy and edgy vibe going on right from the word “go”, and his vocal style fits right in perfectly with the material. My introduction to Chris VanDahl was actually with L.A. Guns’ American Hardcore album. I’ll probably be burned at the stake by L.A. Guns fans for saying this, but I liked that album although I admit they should have used a different band name due to the change in sound. American Hardcore, at times, borders on straight-up metal and his singing on that disc felt much more organic there than it does here though. Not in a bad way, simply tailored to fit the material that he’s belting out.
Like any great frontman, he’s able to adapt to fit the mood of the song and continues to do so as this album unfolds. That’s evident on “With Me Tonight”, which is one of the CD’s strongest tracks and keeps the momentum barreling along. This initial pair of songs starts things off on a very high note, that fortunately doesn’t veer too far in terms of caliber for the roughly 40 minutes that follow. This is a very concise and to-the-point listen. I like that. Long Time Coming features a pair of cover tunes, and a befittingly tongue-in-cheek rendition of the T.Rex classic “Bang A Gong” is the first of them. Not bad by any means, but at #3 in the track listing, the placement of the song feels just a bit out of step in terms of sequencing. That could be due to the rapping of bongos in the background, which in all honesty I actually like. Even so, I think that saving the song for the close of the album would have been a wiser move. It has a decidedly different feel than the songs that precede and follow it, at a slight detriment to continuity. Switching gears too high or low can cause even the most high-performance engines to stall.
Back on the clutch, “Ready To Roll” is another burner with lots of cool factor, attributed to VanDahl’s screeching delivery that plays off the guitar wizardry churned out by Taz Anthony. The guitar tones here have a processed, piping sound that gives the song a lift and keep things from getting too familiar. Particularly at the solo, where that echoing screech dial up the overall score. All in all, I find his writing and musicianship throughout Long Time Coming to be inventive yet focused on the betterment of the song at hand. At just about the halfway point, “1973” shows no sign of things slowing down and is rocking from start to finish. It features a sleek, sultry vocal line that glides through the verses before flipping into to a raspy bark that’s punched up for the choruses. If I didn’t know better, I’d say that there’s a touch of auto-tune being put to use here. Even if that is the case, the Angels wouldn’t be the first to play that card and if done sparingly, it can at times be put to good use I suppose. That contrast makes the nastier moments of the song more impactful.
Things are no less impressive as we move along, with the ballad “If Only” doting on that human need to see our lost loved ones just one last time. Be it due to their untimely passing on or in the context of a relationship — being passed on. Either way, it opens with an effective acoustic passage that immediately distinguishes the song from the rest of the lot. It does so nicely, conveying emotion without coming across as sappy. I’ll spare you the token “sea of lighters at a concert” reference, but this tune would actually be that moment at an Angels In Vein show where you flick your Bic. For those that aren’t fans, this is it for the ballads. We’re back to rocking with “Don’t Want Love”. It has a contemporary, AOR vibe to it built around fantastic percussion and stretched-out harmonies. If not for those qualities and VanDahl’s occasional (but welcome) screams adding some personality to the track, it could very easily fit in with the plethora of bands that are currently dominating rock radio. This one is kind of middle of the road for me, but far from what I would consider a gutter ball. Though I do occasionally find myself reaching for the skip button with this song, it has grown on me. It’s all a matter of taste really. Every album has those corners, and “Don’t Want Love” is that moment of the record for me.
The vampy “Just Like You” follows and actually reminded me of The 69 Eyes a tad the first time that I heard it. It has a darker, moodier sound than the rest of the record without costing them any cohesion. But after hearing this song, you certainly can’t say that all of the band’s songs sound the same. This one is right in line with Simple Minds’ “Don’t You Forget About Me”, which finishes out the cover material found on Long Time Coming with positive results. It’s given a rock n’ roll facelift, with the synth diminished but not abolished to the point of erasing the original song’s identity. Between the two, I much prefer this one over “Bang A Gong”. “Don’t You Forget About Me” is lush and dramatic, with cool drumming by Troy Patrick Farrell. Perhaps I’m biased though — I’ve always much preferred the original version of this song to the T.Rex version of “Bang A Gong”.
It’s not a cover, but “Black Blossom” also harkens back to a bygone era while darting around the musical map. It achieves a ‘60s/psychedelic vibe thanks to a plunky tempo, distorted vocals, and lots of whammy on the solo. Still, there’s something interesting going on here that ultimately renders the song a winner. It’s a quirky, oddball moment of the album that’s flavored with a funky beat, entrancing chorus, and what sounds like a theremin. The first time I heard this song, I hit replay for a more in-depth listen. “Black Blossom” has tremendous potential in a live setting (not to mention it would also make for a cool band name). I can envision Angels In Vein throwing this one down in concert and the song evolving into a full-on jam session. For the album’s finale, “Trip of A Lifetime” thankfully gets back to basics and ends things on a very high note. It’s anchored by a breakneck beat that paves the way for screaming guitar licks (contributed in part by Stacey Blades) and VanDahl’s very best Scott Weiland impersonation. No offense taken – it works here. Although it’s the close of their album, this is ironically a song with so much energy that it would be ideal to open a show with. Hopefully I’ve dropped enough hints that we need this band to play some shows.
I liken Angels In Vein to a band like Buckcherry. They’re rooted in the fundamentals of hard rock but subtly incorporate in elements often used by more current acts. Alas, those “roots” that I speak of tend to scare off any interest by major record labels who simply don’t know how to market bands such as these. Fortunately, Perris Records swooped in and brought this album to the light of day. At their core, the songs on Long Time Coming are high-quality hard rock fare with some modern twists and turns in terms of production. Raw…. they are not. But more importantly, the 11 songs here just sound cool and are fun to listen to. Isn’t that what it’s all about? It’s an album that’ll you’ll want to crank it up in your car and attempt to sing along to. It’s a fantastic, contemporary-leaning rock album that doesn’t come across as postured or contrived. The bulk of the material was written by Anthony and VanDahl, who also conceptualized and hatched out the band. It goes without saying that their songwriting partnership is a fruitful one that should continue! Unfortunately, with most of the musicians involved in this project having moved on to other endeavors, it isn’t likely that we’ll see any live shows to support the album — or a sequel. But who knows? With strong word-of-mouth and a positive response, we could see a follow-up. Stranger things have happened.
This is a CD that reeled me in from the first listen and has had me coming back for more ever since. With the release of the album being hyped for so long, the title is apt for sure. Long Time Coming is easily one of my favorite albums to hit the shelves in 2023 and the saying is true. Good things come to those who wait.
01. No One Gets Out Alive
02. With Me Tonight
03. Bang A Gong
04. Ready To Roll
06. If Only
07. Don’t Want Love
08. Just Like You
09. Don’t You (Forget About Me)
10. Black Blossom
11. Trip of A Lifetime
Chris VanDahl – lead vocals
Todd “Taz” Anthony – guitars
Adam Kury – bass
Troy Patrick Farrell – drums
Stacey Blades – additional guitars (11)
Smokin’ Joe Escriba – horns, piano, B3, arrangements
Jackie Wiatrowski – additional vocals (3)
Paul Alvarez – additional guitars (11)
Produced by Chris VanDahl and Todd (Taz) Anthony
Reviewed by Jeff Onorato for Sleaze Roxx, April 2023
Angels In Vein‘s “1973” video:
Angels In Vein‘s “Trip of A Lifetime” (radio version) song: