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Album Review: MICK MARS The Other Side Of Mars

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Mick Mars chose a dead solid perfect title for his first solo record. The Other Side of Mars is very much indeed the side of Mick that we've never really experienced before. It is so far removed from his work with Mötley Crüe that it's almost hard to believe that it's the same Mick Mars who co-founded Crüe some forty plus years ago. His first solo endeavor, which is just now being released in his 72nd year on earth(!), ironically seems to open a second book on Mars' already long and illustrious career.

I first heard Mötley Crüe back in the early 80's when I tuned in to MTV (long before it became the ridiculousness it now is) and experienced the "Looks that Kill" video. Yes, that video has not aged well at all but it completely blew my mind and my still developing nine year old brain couldn't quite believe what I was watching. It was so heavy, so glam and so undeniably different from the usual new wave that was in heavy rotation at the time. I, like many, grew to love Mötley Crüe's music throughout their glory days. But similarly, however, my 49 year old jaw dropped when I first got my hands on this newest record. It is so distinctive, and in a magical manner.

This distinctiveness is apparent right from the essential instrumentation on the LP as Mars incorporates a wealth of instruments and sounds on this record. Yeah, you're going to hear Mick's chunky, hefty guitars, no doubt, but you're also going to get sounds coming from violas, violins, and keyboards. In conjunction with the instrument selection, the song arrangements are rather removed from both the Crue material as well as anything any of the other members of the band put together on their own solo records. This is rather different from anything like Sixx A.M., and it's in an entirely different universe, thankfully, from Methods Of Mayhem.

Paul Taylor (Winger, ex-Alice Cooper), who resides near Mars in Nashville, co-wrote many of the songs with Mars and also performed on the record. Michael Wagener, famed producer and engineer of Mötley Crüe's debut Too Fast for Love record, also played a key role in the studio. Chris Collier, who has previously worked with bands such as Prong, Winds Of Plague, Metal Church, Fear Factory and an all-star list of others, played bass and mixed and mastered the record. He did a helluva job on the sound here, unsurprisingly. Ray Luzier, who you know from Korn, handles the drums.

The record actually features two vocalists. Jacob Bunton (Lynam, ex-Steve Riley's L.A. Guns) handles lead vocals on most of the songs and Brion Gamboa is featured on two as well. Mick clearly knew what he was doing here in selecting the musicians to round out his band.

You've likely already heard "Loyal to the Lie," and it importantly signals the fact that Mars can get heavy. This particular cut has much more heft and feel to it than anything Crüe has done in a very long time. "Loyal to the Lie" is really a signature track, with a deeply solid guitar tone that sends a clear message to fans about his desire to embrace the heavier side of metal.

“Broken On the Inside" is very much a modern metal track with a contemporary sound that will resonate with newer fans of the genre. Riff heavy, upbeat and angry, this song will please many.

I absolutely adore the melancholy sonics of the soulful "Killing Breed" which might feature one of my all-time favorite Mars' solos of all time. So much passion… so much feeling is this particular composition that took me completely by surprise. The incorporation of the keyboards is also a key part of the track, giving the song a tinge of a Cradle of Filth or My Dying Bride vibe to it. Not a lot… just a noticeable touch. Speaking of keyboards, Mars actually gives us an 80's style ballad here with "Memories" that's almost entirely composed on the piano.

There's traditional, deep, deep blues with the instrumental "L.A. Noir" that gives listeners a more-than-appropriate album close out where we hear Mick get back to his very early roots. Mars tell us that the track was inspired by "old ‘30s and ‘40s B-movies about sleuth detectives, flatfoots, private eyes, that kind of stuff. I came up with the main lick maybe 30 years ago, and never really had a chance to do anything with it until now. I love that big-band sound and era, so we tried to capture that, but with a real sleazy, noir-ish vibe.”

I must say that while I enjoy all the songs on this debut LP, the one that really hits me the hardest is the "Right Side of Wrong." Absolutely perfect songwriting with a hefty dose of affect. Melodic, with a singer who can more than aptly carry the melody. To be frank, this is the type of song that Mick simply couldn't do with Vince Neil, it wouldn't have worked vocally.

At the end of it all, I can say without any hesitation whatsoever that The Other Side of Mars is the strongest play in any of the Crüe solo projects. In fact, I might say it would have been appropriate to call the record The Other SIDES of Mars given the variety of different songs, approaches, tones and sonic scapes that we experience in this particular LP. Would I have loved more heavy rockers on this record? Yes. But I always loved Mick Mars and, like many, I often wondered what Mick was capable of if he was in situation surrounded by sharper musicians. Now we know and now we can't wait for his next record, which apparently already on tap.

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