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A Rock And Roll Introduction
Posted October 08, 2015
By JJFrancesco_NRT, Staff Reviewer


The Pitch: XXI is a new band from Tooth & Nail Records, and this is their hard rock debut.

What Works: With the dearth of new hard rock talent as of late, the field of competition isn't as crowded as it was even a few years ago. This gives XXI a good opening to make an impression. With powerful melodies, vocals that balance clean and gruff masterfully, and guitar work that pounds itself into your ears, Inside Out is a good start. 

Lead single "Say It Again" is a well-crafted entry designed to hook listeners. Most of the other songs follow suit, juggling guitar solos and crunchy hooks to create an engaging rock atmosphere. "Way You Love Me" is one of the album's catchiest numbers and will definitely be another radio option down the road.

What Needs Work: I've always found screaming in rock music to be like a strong seasoning: it can enhance a project and add distinct and needed flavor, but an over-abundance could have the opposite effect. I think the screaming in the majority of these songs lack meaning and purpose, especially in some of the tracks that are otherwise softer and more accessible (although I grant it is a stylistic quality that may draw many in). I think, used a bit more sparingly, heavy vocal elements could have had more of an impact emotionally. 

I think it also contributes to a bit of a variety issue. While each of the songs are strong individually, together, I found it a bit difficult to differentiate between them as the album progressed.

Closing Thoughts: 
XXI are a welcome presence in a music scene that seems to be abandoning rock. Hard rock fans finally have a new artist to delve into, and there's a lot of good potential to mine here that offers noteworthy promise and some good guitar-driven fun. While I'd like to see subsequent efforts to work on sonic variety, it's easy to forgive that in a debut. This is a strong introduction, and here's hoping the work that follows builds on this foundation and helps make their stance filling the rock and roll void a long-term proposition. 

Song to Download Now: 
"Way You Love Me" (Get it on iTunes here.)


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