Since the release of their,,Rise’’ video, Extreme and guitar player Nuno Bettencourt have gained intense momentum toward the release of `Six’. Especially Nuno, with his intense wizzardous playing, was subject in discussions of guitarists around the globe. Often addressed in instructional and review videos, his insane solo and riffs were nit-picked to the extreme.
Controversy ignited between the pro-guitar and Extreme camp vs those dismissing the band since their chartbusting 80s ballad. Fans and followers of funky hard rock, as well as those looking beyond the one-hit monster-ballad ,,More than Words” were never let down by the band’s releases. Gradually crafting towards uniqueness, they have survived the decades of absence busting balls with their resurgence `Saudades de Rock’ in 2008. Though announced, a hiatus due to touring commitments of Nuno, in 2015 Extreme reported back for action and in 2023 stunned the masses with the first single of the new record recently followed by ,,Banshee”. And now… here’s album `Six’!
BOLD AND LARGER THAN LIFE
Lovers and haters unite, because this 6th album of the Boston funk rockers mixes much more dynamic and lands on the top ranks of classic releases. `Six’ is bold with the band’s key ingredients, and mixes in more vocal harmonies than ever, making it gel even better than ever before. Larger than life ,,Rise” still ignites any fire and maintains its wonderous appeal as bombshell hard rock piece. Setting the tone for `Six’ they play highball making this stake raiser the opening tune. Its full of chugging chunky riffs and adventurous guitar playing, rich in tone and melody, and rocks out heavy. Spotlight on Nuno himself, who paralyzed well-known players with his intense guitar solo covering all modern players’ ground. The song’s heavy strut is Extreme’s answer to modern hard rock and metal today.
Followed by ,,#Rebel” it becomes inevitable the high-octane calibre of ,,Rise’’ serves as benchmark for the quality presented on `Six’. The song opens with a stunning riff and guitar-melody, propelled by Kevin Figueiredo’s thumpin’ kicked drums and fills under the dynamic bass-plows from Pat Badger who steers the low-end with dynamic growl. Soaring vocals power up with Gary Cherone delving deep belting loud from the chest. His range is still extraordinary and powerful, touching his 4 octaves over the course of the `Six’ exercise. He roars and soars, colouring the song vividly. The track packs intensity and bites down with shiny teeth grinding towards Nuno’s piercing solo.
Bettencourt amazes constantly, something he will maintain throughout the album. Subtle at times, colorful, or going in full shred ahead, unleashing his pentatonic licks, drilling hammer-ons and hyper-sonic arpeggios. Near the end of the track Extreme displays a snapping pun with their dismissive “nana na na na nah” belted out close harmony, dismissing the rebel’s pretentious self-indulged hashtag. I expect the song takes a piss at current tagging of people lacking self-reflection, or am I wrong?
A STELLAR INTERACTION
Either way, it pitches perfect into the recently released ,,Banshee” with its rolling riff and Nuno displaying a near-percussive pattern followed. Stagnant phrasing with Cherone ‘scatting’ vocals build into a harmonized vocal bridge eluding close harmony, then falls into its wailing chorus. Nuno morphs bluesy with raw energy and squalling stretched notes before dazzling the masses with low hammered arpeggios. The blues and funk fusion weld onto a Beatles-esque framework recurs frequently.
The subtle rocker ,,Other Side of the Rainbow” is a chartbuster per se. The song is crafted around a wonderful melody with strumming bass chords and dynamic jazzy-tinged drums. Rich in tone, Gary flexes his voice around the song’s tempting structure, radiating confidence. He injects the right amount of passion to lift the track. The chorus is nesting poppy, oozing melody with multi layered vocals and harmonies. King’s X comes to mind with Venice-slickness. Nuno lays down another wonderful dripping solo with lots of reverbing notes building into (notes) raining narration. It revives a 70s vibe but packs great groove, matching the song perfectly.
The song bridges for the acoustic build ,,Small Town Beautiful” revoking those Beatles harmonies, without lacking true Extreme uniqueness. Cherone atop, the song builds into a strong rock ballad with lamenting melodies and powerful bass – guitar interplay. The interaction is stellar, melting on the melodies.
EXTREME AND THE BALLADS
Another great track later on the album, following the band’s impeccable hit single path is the acoustic ,,Hurricane”.Strumming guitar melodies are nesting. Lush moods utilized and Cherone brings his most melodic register to the front while the layered harmonies make for magic. This is the modern touched up version of an 80s classic ballad, with wonderful vocal trade-offs between Nuno and Gary. Yes indeed: one for the haters! To please those critics, Extreme recorded ,,Beautiful Girls”, I’m convinced. A light-footed fresh poppy feelgood packed song that makes David Lee Roth’s rendition of ,,California Girls” a cringing homage. There’s a reggae vibe, complete with steel drums, with Nuno adding a different guitar vibe in line with this fusion track. A turn-off at first glance, the song grips with its vibrant mood. Yes, it is packed sunny, but I miss the song suddenly unleashing a heavy metal strut. Still, one for the books!
Pulsating bass sets ,,The Mask” in motion with Cherone opening in growling ‘preachy’ tone. It is ominous and daunting, like The Cult on acid, with a funky drive underneath in its chorus shooting into gear. Extremely funky with metallic accolades the song pulsates, creating a window for the opening of ,,Thicker than Blood”. Same throbbing bass, reverbing the funk and parading swagger, but it packs a lot more raw sharp edges and tedious growl. “Rapping” the verses and with modern sound effects add to the dynamics, vocal interaction in a Q&A pitched make it an experience. The raw riff and hook enhance the insane sound scape over which Nuno pitches his melodic notes high. Fusing it to the bass melody in a short twin section, it is unique in approach and appeal. Scatting choirs and Cherone answering make it go out in typical Extreme-fashion.
Sugar-sweet opens the next track. Close harmony chorus in the intro, the opening morphs polyrhythmic and jagged on ,,Save Me” with guitar and drum reverbing of one another, and slick vocal harmonies deepen the sound that is dominantly raw and dark. The tempo increases with instrumentation intensifying. The riff is sheer metal atop of slick vocal interaction returning to the fold. Again, the pulse is present, amidst some disturbing turmoil, enhancing the outcall for grace. Impressive song.
`Six’ certainly leans on life’s pulse heavily, with the modern ,,X Out” meandering onwards in ravishing techno-clinical. Synthesized mechanic effects cast a marching-like cadence with colorful sound effects taking the helm for the bridge. Low rolling bass licks and sustained chordal guitar-playing add a menacing presence to the track. Gradually building tension it starts to deplore great vocal interplay and another ripping solo that spreads magic. Opening all registers, Nuno takes the song as clear reference to make insanity sound industrial. The song’s modern noises and meandering melody with subtle toned playing certainly enrich the bands sonic scope without losing the Extreme trademark. Gary belts out a versatile vocal job with impressive feeling for drama.
QUEEN AND THE BEATLES
Following ,,Beautiful Girls” the album is closed by another subtle rock ballad. Acoustic guitars propelling it with Cherone touching a dramatic Queen-like vibe, ,,Here’s to the Losers” displays genuine praise to those days. The song crosses boxes of Queen’s drama as well as The Beatles’ rich structured later songs. A large choir for the chorus, it packs drama and Gary holds up well. Close harmony vocal-sections, slick melodies and nesting memorable hooks make it instantly cling to ya. The homage to losers, is an offset to ,,#Rebel” likely. Powering up with funky bass loops and its slick Brian May reminiscent wailing guitar solo, the song dies abruptly in a Grand finale.
The roaring silence at the end is broken by free hand chorus chanting, much like in an arena celebrating game day in the extreme. Celebrating life of the loser, celebrating this remarkable sixth album.
EXTREME – THE CONCLUSION
In fine Extreme tradition `Six’ is an album that brings a lot of variety to the plate. Full of swagger and (little less) funk, the album packs a lifeline pulse binding the diversity of stages in life. I’m not sure whether or not this is the message, but to me it conveys a lot of life sentiment, even on a feelgood vibed ,,Beautiful Girls”. Cherone, Nuno, Pat, and Kevin do inject a lot of musical crisp -and freshness to the stirring potion Extreme offers and that orbits during those stellar tracks like ,,Rise” and ,,X Out”. Branching out welding the classic ingredients on a more modern styled vehicle, they invigorate the classic groove and funky tone, but inject a dynamic appealing spin.
Memorable are their melodies and harmonies that find accolades on their (so often hated) rock ballads and semi ballads. But by all means, this is what they do best… and none better than Extreme. With the band keenly inserting the dominant heartbeat and pulse they divert slightly from their classic format. `Six’ is one of those gems growing on you, and likely an album that will be on many lists of favorite albums of 2023. This album is a certified monster with the gorilla on the front cover making `Six’ as primal as it can get!