Boston-based Extreme are back with Six, their first studio recording of new music since 2008 and the album is one pleasant surprise. The album was recorded at guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s home studio in Los Angeles and features 12 songs that are nothing less than spectacular.
So, let’s get that out of the way before I continue on with my opinion of the record. I love this album and I can honestly say it is exactly what I expected from Extreme. After being teased with four video releases prior to the album’s release, we got a fairly good representation of what to expect.
Formed in 1985, Extreme would release their self-titled debut album in 1989 with moderate success, the band would release their sophomore effort II: Pornograffitti in 1989. Most music fans would become familiar with the band after the release of the single “More Than Words” as the album would hit phenomenal sales. The third album III Sides To Every Story saw the band expanding on their sound and songwriting efforts with a more conceptual effort and incorporating orchestral tracks on some of the material. By this time, Extreme would garner international success even appearing at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in 1992 amongst a cast of multiple artists.
Sadly by 1996, Extreme would disband after the lack of success with their fourth album Waiting For The Punchline and the tour in support of the record. During this period lead guitarist Nuno Bettencourt would pursue a solo career while lead vocalist Gary Cherone would temporarily join Van Halen for an album and tour. It wouldn’t be until 2008 when Extreme would reunite and release another album called Saudades de Rock. It’s a fantastic album that somewhat slipped through the cracks because of the state of music.
For 2023, Extreme has come out with Six and the question a fan has to ponder is if Extreme would find comfort in reprising their sound from the 1980s or would they explore and delve into the 21st century? I’m happy to say that they have managed to do both. The album features that classic hard rocking sound with shredding guitar licks over pop melodies and fantastic vocal arrangements. Yet there are some songs that delve and experiment with more electronic and keyboard experimentation. Extreme have reunited once again with Cherone on vocals, Bettencourt on guitar and keyboards, Pat Badger on bass and backing vocals and Kevin Figueiredo on drums for their aptly titled sixth album.
The album opens with the blistering track “Rise.” The first video for the song became a YouTube sensation from Bettencourt’s amazing guitar work. YouTube viewers immediately began to analyze and give their opinions on just exactly what the hell he was doing on his over-the-top solo. Cherone has definitely maintained his strong voice and can still deliver an aggressive rock performance. This is a strong and powerful opening track for the record.
“Rebel” and “ Banshee” have that classic Extreme sound with a great guitar riff and some catchy pop-oriented melodies. “Other Side Of The Rainbow” features Bettencourt on acoustic guitar. It’s a nice song with a catchy chorus and a great vocal performance from Cherone. “Small Town Beautiful” is a pleasant surprise. The slow-paced track has an early Aerosmith feel to it. It reminded me of those songs Steven Tyler would compose to close out great albums like Toys In The Attic and Rocks. Bettencourt’s guitar also has a very Joe Perry influence on the song.
Extreme never shy away from songs with political messages as well. Tracks like “The Mask” and “X Out” may blatantly describe a message or deliver it with subtle innuendo. I have never understood why art would try to silence freedom of expression? If the message makes you uncomfortable it should then definitely make an impact. The latter track features the band exploring with more contemporary electronic sounds. Again, it’s all about growth and experimentation.
“Hurricane” finds the duo of Cherone and Bettencourt dabbling with an acoustic guitar and delivering some fine vocals. The two have the uncanny ability to sing a two-part harmony much like John Lennon and Paul McCartney or Phil and Don Everly. A more up-tempo song than “More Than Words,” it has a feeling that the duo composed the track sitting on their front porch watching people stroll down the sidewalk.
“Beautiful Girls” I have to say is the one song that caught me by surprise. A fun little acoustic-based number with an almost calypso-ska feel. Judging from the song’s title, one might expect the lyrics to be about the band’s sexual conquests throughout their journey as members of Extreme, but the song simply speaks of the beauty of women around the world.
Closing out the record is “Here’s To The Losers.” It’s a slower paced song with a great message of hope to those who feel disenfranchised in life .Cherone delivers some insightful lyrics: “A winner knows what it’s like to lose, a loser what it takes to win. Here’s to the losers, here’s to the ones who fall and get up.” The song features a very Queen-like chorus and even pays a subtle tribute to the classic Queen II album at the closing moments. Both Cherone and Bettencourt have cited Queen II as a major influence.
Six is definitely the album I expected to hear from Extreme after more than a 15-year wait. They have always been a band that never settled on a particular sound or style. Hit or miss, they have always attempted to do something different with each of their albums. This effort is proof that if you leave an artist alone, free from any corporate pressure or outside influence, they will definitely deliver the goods. That alone is the most “rock and roll” thing about rock and roll.
~ JoJo Anthony