The first time I heard of the Hollywood Vampires, I was on a trip from Montreal to Vancouver. The idea of a supergroup fronted by Alice Cooper, Joe Perry and Johnny Depp was enough to send me hunting for a record store in Victoria. With some luck, I was able to find a hard copy and it became the soundtrack to the rest of my trip.
The original album was a tribute to Alice Cooper’s fallen drinking buddies, and featured many guest artists such as Paul McCartney, Slash, Brian Johnson and Dave Grohl, just to name a few. It was difficult to know who was playing a particular lick or solo, but it was a fun album nonetheless. Then they started touring and their line up became clearer. But more importantly, along the way they also became a real band.
I had the chance to see them live in 2018, and I was surprised to discover that their setlist was almost entirely made of unreleased songs. These new songs would become the basis of the Hollywood Vampires’ second album, ‘Rise’.
‘Rise’ was written and recorded in hotel rooms and various studios while the band toured, and you can hear the impact on the album. The songs all feel a bit different: ‘I Want my Now’ has a classic Aerosmith vibe and you can hear Joe Perry’s strong influence on it. ‘Mr. Spider’ is 100% Cooper, and it could have easily been on ‘Along Came a Spider’. Johnny Depp’s guitar work is also a lot stronger here than it was on their first outing. He blends in perfectly with Perry and his solos are just as good. He also sings and provides vocals on multiple tracks and a standout is their cover of David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’.
Depp’s work also extends to lyrics which are mostly based on his last few difficult years. Joe Perry provides vocal on a cover of Johnny Thunders’ ‘You Can’t Put Your Arm Around a Memory’. Knowing that this is one of Perry’s favourite songs, you can hear just how much fun he is having. The production on the track is stellar, and even though it doesn’t reach the quality of Guns N’ Roses’ cover sung by Duff McKagan, it’s a fun tribute to Johnny Thunders.
Alice Cooper is once again perfect on this record. His trademark voice is still strong, and you can hear his passion on every song. At 71 years old he is still a prime example of a rock and roll front man. But to me the true revelation on this album is Tommy Henriksen. He is the executive producer and he plays multiple instruments on every tracks. He is mostly known for playing in Cooper’s solo band but on this record, you can feel his influence and presence everywhere. He seems to be the glue holding everything together.
I don’t have a lot of negative things to say about this record: the fact that it simply exists makes me happy. I never imagined my two favourite bands (Alice Cooper and Aerosmith) would merge to create such awesome songs. My only gripe would be that some songs do sound better in concert. ‘Watch My Now’ is a lot more fun when it’s not restrained and ‘The Boogieman Surprise’ sound a bit less repetitive when Cooper’s live theatrics bring it to the next level. I would still recommend ‘Rise’ to every rock fan. And anyone who thinks rock is dead needs to pay attention, because you can’t kill a vampire.
Follow the Hollywood Vampires at their official website.