It’s been almost ten years since Sixx:A.M. released their central Heroin Diaries album, a conceptual affair based on Nikki Sixx’s sketchy drug memoir; squatting naked in his closet cradling a gun, dying not once but twice.
It read like an attempt to keep the wave of interest in the Crüe’s bestselling Dirt book going, but the accompanying album – fractured, unflinchingly honest, cinematic in scope – was Sixx and his new band at their best.
Crüe hadn’t even attempted something so complete in years and it showed, even then, that there was life for Sixx after Motley Crüe should he ever need or want it. Cue Crüe’s last-ever show, complete with a malfunctioning drum riser, a helplessly inverted Tommy Lee and Vince Neil breaking down in tears; the fall of the final curtain felt like the best thing for everyone involved.
So where does that leave band founder and one-time firebrand? Never one to stand still once he got clean – photographer, radio host, fashion line, producer/song writer - Sixx kept his namesake band going with 2014’s so-so Modern Vintage record and now he’s cued up a double album, even if it’s one disc at a time, to keep the Sixx brand going.
An initial scan of the song titles and it appears that Sixx is ploughing a familiar furrow; I’m Sick, Everything Went To Hell, Better Man. Occasionally, too, the lyrics read like the self-affirmation vows muttered by men who’ve just left their AA or NA meetings, and well they might be.
Regrets, an attempt at understanding, broken vows to an uncaring god; the album’s themes are writ bewilderingly large (Prayers For The Damned sounds like the recitation of the 12-step recovery program), but Sixx and his band’s songwriting smarts usually keep them out of trouble. Though less so on the album’s opener, the histrionic Rise, which sounds like it’s been designed solely with American radio very much in mind.
Things pick up quickly from there though, You Have Come To The Right Place, puts things very much back on track, wilfully over-the-top, a grand façade covering the band’s broken veneer, imagine Jim Steinman in a parallel universe stepping out of rehab and getting back to doing his best work.
Everything Went To Hell is suitably full throttle and sounds like the work of a man revisiting his notes on one broken marriage after another, while The Last Time (My Heart Will Ever Hit The Ground) is as pompous as the title implies, but compellingly so, ditto When We Were Gods, it’s a high-sheen performance throughout; all bluster and colour. Not sure what Crüe fans might make of it, not that Nikki will care. He might write about it, but he doesn’t live in the past anymore.