With the force of a Boston wrecking ball, EXTREME swing between unapologetic fits of fret-burning hard rock and intimately introspective balladry. This dynamic affirms the iconic multiplatinum Beantown quartet—Gary Cherone (vocals), Nuno Bettencourt (guitar), Pat Badger (bass), and Kevin Figueiredo (drums)—as one of rock’s most unpredictable, undeniable, and unbreakable groups whose songs course through the very fabric of popular culture. They’re the rare band whose music has appeared in an actual cult series a la Bill & Ted as well as the Netflix juggernaut “Stranger Things.” They’ve sold 10 million records, topped the Billboard Hot 100 at #1, packed major venues on multiple continents, memorably performed at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in London, and regularly average over 5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. However, their dynamic approach hits harder than ever on their 2023 full-length offering, Six.
“With Extreme, there’s always a lot of passion and a little piss and vinegar,” says Gary. “We’re not in competition with anybody else, but we strive to outdo ourselves. There are some moments on this album where we did. We’ve managed to stay together after all of these years. We feel like we have something to prove when we get on stage or in the studio. Because of that, I believe some of these songs are among the best we’ve written.”
“Whatever you think an Extreme album is after two or even three songs, it’s not,” states Nuno. “That goes for every record we’ve ever done. True Extreme fans know to ‘expect the unexpected.’ I feel like we need a good old school rock album. Six is definitely modern, but you can put on headphones and go on a journey from top-to-bottom. It’s like ‘Extreme 2.0’.”
Formed in 1985, the group’s quiet grind resulted in the release of the self-titled Extreme in 1989. Among many highlights, “Play With Me” not only graced the soundtrack of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but also the season 4 opener of “Stranger Things.” Meanwhile, Extreme II: Pornograffitti bowed in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 and eventually picked up a double-platinum certification. Of course, it notably spawned “Hole Hearted” (#4 on the Billboard “Hot 100”) and the generational smash “More Than Words.” The latter soared to #1 on the “Hot 100” and remains one of the most popular rock songs of all-time with over half-a-billion streams and 633 million YouTube views and counting. It appeared in the blockbuster comedy Forgetting Sarah Marshall, while Jimmy Fallon and Jack Black covered it (and reimagined the iconic video) on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” Other covers ranged from The Piano Guys To Frankie J. In its wake, the gold-certified III Sides To Every Story saw them return to the Top 10 on the Billboard 200. Following Waiting for the Punchline (1995) and Saudades de Rock (2008), the musicians enraptured the masses on tour. Along the way, everyone from Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine and Brian May of Queen to John Mayer publicly sung their praises. Plus, they played to a sold-out crowd at Fenway Park opening for Aerosmith. On top of that, Gary was lead singer for Van Halen (Van Halen III) and has recorded and performed with Joe Perry, while Nuno has recorded and performed with Steven Tyler and Rihanna.
For the recording of Six, the members buckled down at Nuno’s home studio in Los Angeles. Once again, they channeled the electrifying eclecticism that defined their seminal output with a 21st century twist.
“Extreme has been eclectic throughout the years,” Gary affirms. “As a whole, there’s cohesion to this record.”
“There were heavier songs, and there were lighter songs,” adds Nuno. “We’re the same band, but we’re always adventurous. You definitely grow and change from one record to the next. We never just do the same thing.”
As such, they come out swinging on the opener and first single “Rise.” From the jump, a primal palm-muted riff locks and loads the airtight groove. Stretching to the rafters, the chantable chorus gives way to an incendiary guitar solo punctuated by rapid picking and wah-wah accents.
“Musically, it’s aggressive,” notes Gary. “Lyrically, it’s a cautionary tale on the rise and fall of fame. You get seduced into it. Once you’re on top, they’ll rip you apart and tear you down. That’s the nature of the beast.”
“When Eddie Van Halen passed, it really hit me,” says Nuno. “I’m not going to be the one who will take the throne, but I felt some responsibility to keep guitar playing alive. So, you hear a lot of fire on the record.”
Speaking of that fire, “#Rebel” busts down the door with a head-nodding beat, searing dive bomb lead, and a scathing indictment of “keyboard revolutionaries hiding behind their posts.”
“We’re calling out those trolls who can’t back up their words,” explains Gary.
Then, there’s the iridescently catchy “Other Side of the Rainbow” where Gary’s soulful vocals echo through lithely strummed acoustic guitar.
“Every once in a while, we’ll harness some kind of magic, and I think we did on this one,” the frontman smiles. “It’s universal theme. It’s about restoring one’s faith in love.”
Whether it be the jackhammer intensity of “Thicker Than Blood” or the breezy melodies of “Small Town Beautiful,” the record captures the breadth of Extreme. Among many standouts, a delicately plucked melody underlines the call-and-response of “Hurricane.” The velvet-smooth harmony wraps around the chorus in gorgeous form, “It’s the storm before the calm.”
“That’s where Nuno shines, man,” Gary beams. “Everyone looks at him as a guitar hero, but he’s a songwriter first. This is a beautiful piece of music, and I knew we had to include it.”
“It’s about a close friend named John Martin who died in a motorcycle accident when we were on tour,” Nuno reveals. “We get crushed by losing someone. Time passes, and it calms down, but the pain never goes away.”
Six ends with a singalong on “Here’s To The Losers.” Gary goes on, “It’s as close to an anthem as we’ll get, but our tongue is planted firmly in cheek. It’s a fun one.”
In the end, Six is Extreme.
“We’re just as passionate as we were on day one,” Gary leaves off. “We’re giving our audience what Extreme has always been and will be.”
“For us, Extreme is the mothership,” Nuno concludes. “The band started everything in our careers. We’re all still fighting for it as brothers.”