There’re are few bands in the world that you can look at, or listen to, and say, “yeah, those dudes fucking know the road.” And, while there aren’t many that would trump the almighty Motörhead, there’re those that share the punkish gonads, the old-school blues, and the electrifying energy of Lemmy & Co. Against the Grain know the road and dominate the Midwest. And they do it with a style that fuses Kilmister-core, Down, Ghoultown, Death Alley, Brand New Sin, Blue Öyster Cult, and Church of Misery. Hailing from the grimy streets of Detroit, Michigan, these bluesy, doomy, hard-rocking metalheads sport the kind of music best enjoyed in a dingy dive—double-fisting Jack ‘n’ Cokes and sporting shoddy denim jackets. You won’t find the next Motörhead in Cheated Death. Nor will you find the next Lousiana sludge band or the globe’s greatest doom/stoner act. What you’ll find, instead, are rockers dedicated to their fans. And, those fans are about to Cheat
The fifth record from this Motor City quartet won’t disappoint longtime fans. Nor will it disappoint those into this kind of thing. Like Death Alley‘s 2015 release, Black Magick Boogieland, Cheated Death has an upbeat drive for the Crossroads. But, unlike Death Alley, Against the Grain doesn’t shy away from the sandpaper-y, heavy-hitting approach of the globe’s blues/doom outfits. In less than a decade’s time, they’ve have dropped album-after-consistent-album of gritty, booze-drenched, road-trip rock on the world. And Cheated Death shows no signs of the band letting up anytime soon.
In true-blue fashion, Cheated Death speed along faded yellow lines with the Death Alley-meets-Motörhead title track. Of all the tracks on the record, this one is the most upbeat and rocking—with a fun chorus and a slick, old-school guitar outro. Of similar ilk is the Lemmy-lap-dancing “Sacrifice” and high-energy “Enough’s Not Enough.” Both compliment the opener’s need for rough-edged punk and blues. Yet, they shine even brighter than their predecessor with their catchy choruses and flailing solo work.
But the winners of high-energy are “No Sleep,” “Rolling Stone,” and “Last Chance.” The gruffy, full-band chorus of “No Sleep” oughta please fans of old-school Brand New Sin, while “Rolling Stone” should please anyone with its sheer weight and testicular fortitude. “Last Chance,” like compatriot “Enough’s Not Enough,” borrows from the thrashy vox of Anthrax and Reign of Fury to produce the best chorus on the album. The greatest contribution “No Sleep” and “Last Chance” bring to the disc, though, has to be the fantastic bluesy bass and guitar outros. The result is a combination of old-school blues with Iron Maiden-esque guitar harmonies. They are some of my favorite parts of the record and their simple, yet creative, structures make them unforgettable.
What’s special about Cheated Death is the album’s unique curveballs. Especially in comparison to the band’s straightforward approach to records like Motor City Speed Rock and Surrounded by Snakes. “Smoke” will surprise all with it’s straightforward Down and Church of Misery approach and “High Heeled Woman” will catch you off-guard with a glam metal delivery that no one (and everyone) will enjoy. “Devils and Angels” will Volbeat you down with its ballady boxing mitts and “Into the Light” will be your melodic ride into the sunset. Though there’s a lot of meat to Cheated Death, it ain’t long-winded—capping off below forty minutes. That said, it’s longer than previous releases. But, all the diversity in songwriting and vocal approach pushes the boundaries and doesn’t allow Cheated Death to go stale.
Unfortunately, “Going Down Fast” and “Jaded and Faded” don’t do much for me. Not to mention they almost kill the momentum toward the end of the disc. But, this doesn’t take all the steam out of the record, as “Into the Light” fixes most of the issues. Along with 2015’s Road Warriors, Cheated Death is one of the most diverse of the band’s discog. It has fist-pumping numbers, doomy and bluesy pieces, and plenty of melodic, energetic, and addictive moments. Against the Grain, and their newest release, keep it cheap and simple but, goddamn, this is one of the most fun I’ve had this year. So, if you’re into this old-man shit, you need to give this a spin.