Extreme, ‘Six': Album Review
If "Rise" – the opening track of Extreme’s sixth album, Six – tells us anything about the Boston-based band, it's that they are ready to burst back into public consciousness after being penned in too long. With an explosive main riff and barely contained solo, the track reminds us guitarist Nuno Bettencourt is among the finest instrumental forces in rock, and time away from Extreme has not dampened his fire. Fifteen years removed from their last record – 2008’s Saudades de Rock – the band has urgency and propulsive power to spare, perhaps a sign they’re making up for the lost time.
The album is jam-packed with everything Extreme is known for – riffs, vocals, harmonies, thumping rockers, gorgeous ballads and even a couple of oddball left turns. The hard-rolling "#Rebel" is all momentum, and Bettencourt flattens anything in his path; singer Gary Cherone surfs the avalanche with a vocal that is both insistent and teasing – an instant earworm.
"Save Me" is another highlight, with Cherone funneling angry verses into a goose-bump-inducing chorus, while Bettencourt and drummer Kevin Figueiredo churn out a filthy groove. The band also incorporates synthesizers into the mix, most prominently on "Thicker than Blood" and "X Out," where they thicken the guitar riffing and act as a low-frequency pulse. It’s an exquisite mix.
Speaking of exquisite, "Other Side of the Rainbow," a midtempo track about taking chances on love after a fall, gives Cherone all the room he needs to soar, particularly on the chorus, which is a perfect pop confection. "Small Town Beautiful" finds him and Bettencourt performing a duet on a sweet, stomping acoustic ballad, taking turns on lines in the verses and spinning together in harmony on the choruses. Things turn dreamy on the meditative "Hurricane," as strings build the drama around a moment of high emotion ("Is this the storm before the calm?") as their two voices dance together again.
Six closes with a pair of head-scratchers, novelties that seem incongruent from the rest of the record. The ska-inflected "Beautiful Girls" covers the lyrical territory of the Van Halen song of the same name (even ending with a blown kiss); "Here’s to the Losers" is a soundtrack anthem looking for a movie, complete with key modulation and shouting kiddie choir. They end the record with a bit of fun, showing yet another side to the band. It’s good to have Extreme back with us, and their new music displays the chops and versatility we expect, right when we need it. Six is a record you’ll want to sink into.