Hotly tipped to be one of 2013’s breakthrough bands, the oddly named Crown Jewel Defense is the brainchild of Californian multi-instrumentalist/singer Taylor Hood. On paper, the prospects look good. Describing themselves as ‘US power-pop glam-metallers’, CJD (the band, not the disease) promise to combine soaring all-American anthems à la Journey with the belligerent technical dexterity of modern-day heavy metal.
They’ve toured with the likes of The Darkness and Foxy Shazam, and Hood is prone to wear a sprinkle of glitter on his cheeks, so this, presumably, is where the glam factor comes in. Add into the mix producer Michael ‘Elvis’ Baskette, who’s worked with Ratt and Alter Bridge, and you’ve got plenty of boxes ticked.
Too many boxes, it turns out. Hood’s efforts to create an original sound must be applauded but all too often, the end results are more oil and water than tea and sugar. Plus, with the exception of Jobriath, America has never spawned a true glam icon. Fey eccentricity just isn’t a natural commodity on the other side of the Atlantic. All too often, Hood comes across like a half-baked Justin Hawkins – he hasn’t quite got the falsetto and he certainly hasn’t got the sense of humour.
Listening to Crown Jewel Defense is akin to owning a radio that switches randomly between Planet Rock and Kerrang! A chunk of chiming Brian May guitar is followed by a wallop of Avenged Sevenfold; a snippet of Thin Lizzy (check out the Fighting riff on Apoca Lovesick) is bolted on to a refrain worthy of Shinedown. Take Metal Rain as an example. Would you believe it starts off with some twinkling Jean Michel Jarre keyboards and ends up sounding like Coal Chamber? And then there’s Wasting Days, which can only be described as ‘Mika meets Dragonforce’.
Occasionally it works. I Guess, the album opener, has a fine Sweet Child O’Mine-style riff that melds perfectly with some pomp histrionics. Equally, So Lonely’s mix of detuned brutality and Queen-style vocal acrobatics doesn’t jar in the slightest. But these are rare successes.
Crown Jewel Defense is actually a term used in business for tactics employed by a firm threatened with a hostile takeover. It hives off its prized assets so it becomes a less attractive prospect. Hood’s music could do with some serious decluttering too.