When Mazz-XT main man Scott Ginn told me that this new record was the best thing he’d ever done, I was a little sceptical. After all, Ginn’s body of work extends back to the late 70s (Class, The Breakers, Montreaux, Richard Wilde Band etc.) and then with Boss, including their 1984 Oz hard-rock classic ‘Step On It’. He also released a highly regarded solo album in 86 called ‘One Man Army’, and in recent years has at long last released the material he recorded in the late 80s with the Van Halen-esque outfit ‘Rags N Riches’. Not to mention the material he has released in the past couple of years with ‘Mazz-XT’, super melodic hard rock brimming with originality. But I gotta tell you, he was right. As soon as I hit play on the CD player I am hit by a WALL of crunching guitars and heavy duty riffs.
This is one hell of a hard rock record, or is the term ‘classic’ rock nowadays? However you slice it, it is beyond any shadow of doubt the most comprehensive album Ginn has recorded in his long career. From top to bottom, all 12 tunes are rock solid and hard hitting. The opener, ‘Look Don’t Touch’ is a frantic rocker with a splintering guitar solo and a truckload of melody. The title tune, ‘Only The Quick And The Dead’ is underpinned by a Joe Perry-like riff that grooves with a capital G, and an infectious sing-a-long chorus. This is hard rock supreme with an old-west theme, what’s not to like?
The AC/DC-like ‘Twisted’ is a bloozy 70’s hard rocker that would no doubt get a nod of approval from Vanda & Young. This is a rippin’ tune that is totally irresistible, and again, with a catchy chorus. Ginn’s penchant for melody and understanding that without a hook, a song ain’t worth dime is never more evident. Killer tune. As is ‘Long Hard Look At Yourself’ which invokes Powerage-era AC/DC, vintage Krokus or even 82-era Heaven. Reference points aside, this is full on Oz-rock in its truest sense – blood, sweat and beers with a ballsy riff and pounding bass. A monster tune that is the album’s piece de resistance for mine, yet having said that, there are so many great tunes on this record it’s a challenge to split them as they are all top shelf.
It’s hooks galore on the anthemic musical attack that is ‘Weighed Down’, a song that conjures up images of early 80’s era Def Leppard. With its big sounding stadium ready chorus, guitar interplay (equal parts Angus Young and Steve Clark) and denim ‘n’ leather riffage, this, again is a superbly crafted hard rock song that emphasizes strong indelible hooks and melodies. This is an immensely melodic rocker with pop overtones and has hit single written all over it. The Leppard-like chorus gives it that radio readiness and polish, yet there’s enough UFO-like grunt on the riff and vocal to appeal to the rock purists.
‘Weight of The World’ is another high quality and potent song which would fit any classic eighties rock album. Its highlighted by multi layered vocals and guitars that entwine with verses that ebb and flow, before culminating in a hard hitting, riff heavy chorus. Ginn shows his compositional diversity when he retreats to the slower, darker, and more measured ‘Save My Life’, a tune that begins as a quasi-acoustic ballad before migrating to a heavy arrangement. Thematically, its a message of hope for those who are in a dark place. It goes deeper than a love-conquers-all dispatch, yet it’s in no way histrionic. If anything there’s an uplifting vibe, both musically and lyrically that underscores the whole thing.
The great hard rock keeps on coming – one song after the other. Check out ‘Can’t Take My Rock n Roll’, another ballsy out-and-out rocker which would no doubt bring a smile to the late, great Malcolm Young’s face, yet there’s also plenty to like about the riff heavy, uncompromising ‘Source Of My Disease’ highlighted by a venomous guitar solo courtesy of Phil Bowley. Clocking in at almost 7 minutes, ‘When Your Heart is Broken’ is an epic rocker reminiscent of vintage Bad Company. Superb tune with a tasteful pre-chorus and Mick Ralphs-like riff, and then a multi harmony chorus. This is a GRAND classic rock song in every way, and I sure as hell hope people get to hear it. If that ain’t enough for you, the album closes with a reworked take of Boss’ ‘Hard ‘n’ Fast’ to remind the youngsters that 1984 was a stellar year for hard rock (and indeed it was). Staying pretty true to the original that appeared on Boss’ 1984 ‘Step On It’ LP, this is a kick-ass heavy rocker that sounds as good now as it did back then.
Consider for a moment that Ginn plays ALL the instruments on this record, (except for a couple of guitar solos by Phil Bowley). He wrote all the songs, recorded, engineered and produced the album. A one man army in every sense of the word. His vocal also sounds amazing, with his rock voice as strong as ever.
Ginn combines the riffage of AC/DC with the harmonies of classic Def Leppard to deliver THE album of his career. Yet there’s nothing carbon copied about these reference points. He layers the songs with his own melodic arrangements and pop sensibilities to create 12 melodic hard/heavy rock songs of the highest order.
2019 is only two months done, but with ‘Only The Quick And The Dead’, we already have the Australian Hard Rock album of the year. Ginn has released a superb collection of unabashed, yet original, melodic and memorable hard rock that the rock world needs to hear. Unlike the countless other albums I have reviewed over the past 30 years, I have found it challenging to elevate certain songs on this album over others – as they are all five-star hard rock/heavy rock (or 5 K’s for those with longer memories). I cannot praise this record enough, other than to say it is one of the best melodic hard rock albums to come out of Australia in recent years and is an essential purchase. Thoroughly recommended. 9.5 out of 10.
Release date: 22 March 2019. For more information see the below links.
Music & Merch: https://mazz-xt.bandcamp.com/
Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSkvjigiH0ELdrOETPhGEpw