Badd Kharma – On Fire Review

We live in a society where people add extra letters (specifically u’s) to words that don’t belong. As well as spelling words purposely (I think?) wrong to give them more emphasis. Or they use words that don’t mean what they think they mean. Who could forget the days of “wassup?” and “wazzup?” I mean, what’s not hip about saying “what’s up?” or “what is up?”1 Or remember when people used the word “bad” but actually meant “good”? Or when you use “cop” instead of “get” and “whip” instead of “car”? What the fuck is going on around here? Now there’re umlauts over consonants and v’s instead of u’s. “Lead” is “led,” “funeral fuck” is “fvneral fvkk,” and “rand”2 has a “5” in front of it. And now… there’s Badd Kharma. It might be bad karma to unload this rant3 on you all before reviewing the Greek sextet’s debut record, On Fire, but I have no discipline.

There’re three things you can always expect from ‘80s heavy metal/hard rock: a strong vocalist, galloping riffs, and wild guitar solos. Badd Kharma has them all. Surrounding themselves with an interesting combination of influences, that include Dio, Eclipse, and Yngwie Malmsteen, Badd Kharma is all about bringing back the past while modernizing it with a melodic-metal hook. Not surprising, you can expect bombastic choruses, dueling and baton-passing guitar solos, and everything from slight to grandiose key work. And while the vocal approach could be anything from Bon Scott to Ronnie James Dio, the closest comparison I can think of for vocalist Nikos Syrakos is Tom Englund (Evergrey). Which should work well for the absurd number of “ballads” and emotion-driven pieces on this disc.

And that’s the main issue with On Fire. Of the thirteen tracks4 and sixty-two minutes of music, five of them are slow-moving sappers. It’d be no big deal if they didn’t all burrow their love-sick heads into the back-half of the album. Not to mention that “Fools Parade,” “Burning Heart,” and “Lost in Her Eyes” are back-to-back-to-back. The first is a beautiful combination of acoustic guitars, good bass presence, and lulling piano work, but it’s two minutes too long. The other two are simpler, with the first dropping some of the cheesiest lyrics and key work on the record and the second track marrying acoustic guitars to an old-school ’80s lick. Then, to make matters worse, the closer “L.E.A.”5 is yet another sap-happy song that weaves acoustic guitars with Syrakos’ pained voice. It’s all too much at one time and the pace kills what the first half of the record established.

The only song on the album’s B-side that doesn’t share the moody mellowness of its back-half counterparts is “Still Unbroken.” This ’80s riffmaster is a builder that gets stronger with each rendition of the chorus. Like opener “Never Surrender,” Syrakos’ vocals are the strongest and most convincing of the record. The chorus is powerful and memorable and the guitar work is well done. “Break Free” and “Still Our Man” are two other pieces that use gigantic, melodic choruses and dueling guitar solos to craft mountains whose climax comes at the bitter end. Yet, with all the desire for big and bombastic, On Fire isn’t without its simple ditties. In this case, the Dio-inspired “Devil in You” and “Light in the Dark.” Though the former is a better track than the latter, “Devil in You” suffers from having one of the more obnoxious choruses.

All in all, On Fire isn’t a badd debut. Unfortunately, even with the strong vox, the impressive guitar work, and the keys—which do everything from soloing on “Rise of Fall” to providing orchestration to “Land of the Free”—it’s all been done before. And it was better the first time. That said, the skill here is top-notch.6 The riffs and solos are impressive, even if they become predictable from track to track. And that’s the biggest issue I have with On Fire. There’s not enough variation for an album of this length. And splitting the album in half, with cruisers being first and sappers coming second, the disc doesn’t flow. That said, if you can look past these nitpicks and want something that combines Dio and Malmsteen with Eclipse, On Fire is for you.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Rock of Angels Records
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

Show 6 footnotes

  1. Puts gun to head.
  2. Wasseva the fvkk that is.
  3. Rant? Rand? 5Rand?
  4. Not counting the two bonus tracks.
  5. Love ever after, if you were curious.
  6. It’s the main reason I didn’t slate this as “disappointing.”
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