How good was ‘Bite!’, the debut album from Croatian newcomers Animal Drive? One of the strongest debut albums in recent years, it certainly made its mark amongst fans of high quality heavy rock. It also thrust vocalist Dino Jelusic into the limelight. This golden-throated youngster had hacks and fans alike queuing up to make comparisons with giants like Dio and Coverdale, and for once the comparisons were entirely justified. His profile was lifted even higher when Trans-Siberian Orchestra came calling. Now he returns as part of Dirty Shirley, alongside none other than guitar legend George Lynch, and the self-titled collaboration is pure magic.
Dio and Coverdale are good starting points if you are looking for somewhere to start, but perhaps a better comparison to make where Jelusic is concerned would be a harder edged Eric Martin. And if you need a starting point regarding what Dirty Shirley sounds like, think Jake E. Lee and Ray Gillen in the legendary Badlands.
Class American heavy rock is very much what’s on the Dirty Shirley agenda, and what better way to announce your arrival than with the seven minute opener ‘Here Comes The King’. A short drum fill from Will Hunt, some cowbell, George Lynch comes in with a herculean sized riff, then Jelusic opens his mouth to sing. Man, this is good shit. It’s as simple as that. Nothing fancy or complicated, just drums, guitars and vocals, the way that the rock gods intended. Lynch sounds incredible (as always) and further cements his reputation as one of the most criminally underrated guitarists of the genre.
‘Dirty Blues’ has a fantastic underlying Aerosmith-like shuffle, coupled with ‘Life In The Fast Lane’-esque guitar licks, and Jelusic again impresses from the off. ‘I Disappear’ is slightly different in tone, more grungier with some luscious solos from Lynch. At times the song strays into the epic side of power metal, and the bass licks from Trevor Roxx are all killer. The pace slows down a notch or two with ‘The Dying’, where Lynch mixes it up between crunching riffage and dreamy
Spanish guitar. One of those moments where you find yourself googling Jelusic to check that he really is only 27.
The album doesn’t suffer a dip in quality mid-way, instead it continues mixing it up with ‘Last Man Standing’, the catchy-as-hell ‘Siren Song’ (complete with lush keyboards and Blackmore-esque playing from Lynch) and the Coverdale-like heavy breathing on ‘The Voice Of A Soul’ – a track that erupts into a stunning jam complete with jaw-dropping solo from Lynch.
‘Cold’ kicks off the latter part of the album with more killer riffage from Lynch and another example of some groovy bass licks from Roxx. ‘Escalator’ has a nasty, dirty guitar tone that flits between Godzilla-sized and light and airy, but the MVPs on this one are the engine room team of Hunt and Roxx who totally own the track. ‘Higher’ belongs to Lynch though. Ending on the mystical acoustic-driven strains of ‘Grand Master’, this is an incredible album that simply gets better with each listen. Something all the more outstanding since both main players were more than likely on different continents when it was recorded.
“…..this record is simply going to take you by storm. Yes, it is THAT good!”
You usually take the PR blurb that accompanies each release with a pinch of salt, but on this occasion the strapline is true. The self-titled album by Dirty Shirley is very strong, and if you are partial to a touch of ’80s/’90s inspired American heavy rock then this album WILL take you by storm.
Available now on Frontiers Music SRL