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Maps to the Hollywood Scars:
Volume 1 and acoustic performance
Count’s Vamp’d LV 02/22/17

EP review – 10 out of 10

This time I got a double shot of Durbin with an ear full of electric insanity, and then a mellow roast of acoustic intensity hosted by Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas.

James Durbin’s debut on the 8th season of American Idol punched America in the throat when he brought Heavy Metal to the bubblegum-pop infested talent show. When the viewers had enough of his anti-pop, they eliminated the best, balls-out, and eclectic voice the panel ever judged.

Fast forward to now where (through the hands of fate) he and Alex Grossi, axe grinder from Quiet Riot, happen upon each other and start a musical bond that brings to life a new collaboration, Maps to the Hollywood Scars. Their new 5 song EP, Volume One, is for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and the teaser is available on Hollywood Scars YouTube channel. Dizzy Reed from Guns N’ Roses joins the band on keys for Volume One which is programmed and engineered by A.J. St. James of MTV’s The Big 4.

As stated above, the electricity of the E.P. shines with thick tones of extreme hard rock with metal overtones. Volume One opens with a heavy blues ditty called “Roads” that has an anthem feel with fast rhythm, suspended chord progressions, and an 80’s drum beat we all know and love. “Till Death” is the ballad and first radio single. It’s fairly mellow in a dark way, and as ballads go it’s a fresh take on the whole, “Oh, baby I love your way” thing.

“Lost Boys” brings us back up to speed after a bit of melodic whistling (like Klaus Meine in “Winds of Change”) then breaks out in hard rock fashion. Durbin lets loose on the highs in this one, and it reminded me of when he sang with Rob Halford on Idol. “Abomination” carries the same effect with its loudness and head bang ability.

Last up is “Never Ending Ride” which has an anthem feel and big sound. It’s excellent melodies and lyrics and the title, to me, indicates how the music can go on forever and not get boring. Like a good David Gilmore solo, you wish it could last forever.

After hearing the EP, I headed out to Count’s Vamp’d in Las Vegas to check out James and Alex do their acoustic arrangements of the songs, and I must say that the tunes translated beautifully from plugged to unplugged. In the intimate setting of the venue both guitars were clear, and Durbin’s voice was flawless.

In the middle of the set they broke into a cover of Motley Crue’s “Home Sweet Home” for kicks and grins. As far as songs from Volume One, the ballad translated best; however, the heavier songs like “Abomination” and “Roads” were warm and toasty. The highlights of the night were “Lost Boys” and “Never Ending Ride”. Durbin has a way of hitting the highs just right and not getting louder than the instruments.

Over all, there is no downside to the EP. Good songwriting, great collaboration between Grossi and Durbin, and the band gets the job done. The acoustic setting was perfect for the release. It gears you up to wanting to see the whole band throw down live. The whole sha-bang gets a 10.

Tim Duran, HMS

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