Mark Morton – Anesthetic

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Mark Morton – Anesthetic
Reviewed: March 2019
Released: 2019, WPP Records/Spinefarm Records]
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson

After making his, umm, mark over the past 20 years as lead guitarist with Virginia thrash masters Lamb of God, Mark Morton has decided to spread his creative wings a bit with his debut solo album. At times – indeed often – very familiar, yet occasionally a radical departure, the album boasts a veritable all-star team of guests who help Morton out and lend their unique slants to each of his compositions, even if the compositions aren’t entirely unique themselves.

Anesthetic takes an approach similar to Dave Grohl’s more straight up metal Probot project in 2004. Only here, instead of just rounding up the usual suspects to contribute – among them Testament’s Chuck Billy, Arch Enemy’s Alissa White-Gluz, Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson – Morton reached well outside of thrash circles to recruit the likes of Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees/Queens of the Stone Age), Buckcherry’s Josh Todd, Steve Gorman and Marc Ford of the Black Crowes and Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge/Slash), among others.

There’s also the much-ballyhooed contribution of Linkin Park frontman Chester Bennington on the album’s opening track “Cross Off” in what was likely one of the last recordings before his suicide in 2017. The pairing has been getting much of the attention leading up to the album’s release – for somewhat obvious reasons. Yet, despite the fuss, it sounds pretty much like a typical Lamb rager that, while tempered by Bennington’s occasional resonant clean vocals and rapping cadence, is built around Morton’s beefy riffs and the crunching rhythms of Trivium bassist Paulo Gregoletto and drummer Alex Bent.

“Sworn Apart” with Papa Roach frontman Jacoby Shaddix behind the mic charts must the same course. Indeed a good half of Anesthetic – notably the “Redneck”-like “The Never” with Billy and Jake Oni sharing vocals, and “Back From The Dead” sung by Todd, seem taken from the Lamb songbook, which offers some indication of just how central Morton’s writing and playing have been to the band’s sound over the years.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t give Anesthetic much of its own personality, which is generally the modus operandi for a solo album. Nor does having bandmate Randy Blythe guest on the closing track “The Truth Is Dead” with its distinct Lamb-like chug – even if he and White-Gluz also bust out some uncharacteristic clean vocals in a sort of Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Hyde duet.

But betwixt and between, when Morton throws caution to the wind and steps away from his thrash metal comfort zone, the album shows some genuine character. The haunting acoustic/electric blues crossover “Axis” is graced by the stark, smoky and always awesome voice of Lanegan and offers loads of soul. Ditto “Reveal” with its sparse, Royal Thunder-like psychedelic rock vibe buoyed by the pained vocals of Naeemah Maddox.

The anthemic “Save Defiance” with Kennedy singing and the grungy, Alice In Chains meets Led Zeppelin-esque “Blur” with the husky near baritone of Mark Morales (Sons Of Texas) are rousing hard rock winners, even if “Imaginary Days” – the only song to feature Morton on vocals, here sharing duties with Morales – is rather bland. They might not be as big a stretch, but still.

Morton certainly proves he can write outside of the thrash confines and still offer inspired, compelling work. It’s just too bad he keeps falling back into Lamb mode and doesn’t provide more distance here between his day job and his side hustle. Less of that could have made this solo album feel more, well, “solo.”


Videos


Mark Morton

Track List/Lineup
1. Cross Off
Vocals – Chester Bennington
Guitars – Mark Morton
Bass – Paolo Gregoletto
Drums – Alex Bent

2. Sworn Apart
Vocals – Jacoby Shaddix
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – Mark Morton
Drums – Alex Bent

3. Axis
Vocals – Mark Lanegan / Myles Kennedy
Guitar – Mark Morton / Marc Ford
Bass – Mike Inez
Drums – Steve Gorman

4. The Never
Vocals – Chuck Billy / Jake Oni
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – David Ellefson
Drums – Roy Mayorga

5. Save Defiance
Vocals – Myles Kennedy
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – Mike Inez
Drums – Ray Luzier

6. Blur
Vocals – Mark Morales
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – Mike Inez
Drums – Steve Gorman

7. Back From The Dead
Vocals – Josh Todd
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – Mike Inez
Drums – Roy Mayorga

8. Reveal
Vocals – Naeemah Maddox
Guitar – Mark Morton
Keys – Chris Brooks
Bass – Yanni Papadopoulos
Drums – Jean-Paul Gaster

9. Imaginary Days
Vocals – Mark Morton / Mark Morales
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – Mike Inez
Drums – Ray Luzier

10. The Truth Is Dead
Vocals – Randy Blythe / Alissa White-Gluz
Guitar – Mark Morton
Bass – David Ellefson
Drums – Roy Mayorga

Website
www.facebook.com/markmortonmusic/

 

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