As the co-host of The Wildman & Steve Show, I get asked to write a lot of album reviews, so it was no surprise that I was asked to write a few words about a debut EP. What was surprising was that the request came from my co-host, Wildman himself. Had my good friend been sneaking out to the recording studio behind my back? Well, sort of. He and our mutual friend Jay Smith have put together a five-track EP, and Wildman knew that I would want to review it, not because we share space in the great podcasting universe, but because this is the kind of music I just love. Let's get into it.
"What Goes Up" opens with the sound of an iron horse, i.e. a motorcycle, being kickstarted into action, and a guitar riff that had me thinking I had clicked on the wrong artist and was listening to Mötley Crüe by mistake. As we have known since the days of Isaac Newton, what goes up must come down, and S&W use that scientific fact to talk about both resurrection and the return of Jesus. As any fan of The WM&S Show, Wildman is a guitar player, and he brings his gritty, bluesy chops to bear on this one.
"Drinking Alone" comes up next, which may seem like an odd title to some after an opening song with such a biblical theme. What is this, the sequel to George Thorogood's "I Drink Alone?" Smith gives us a story that you won't hear in most Sunday worship songs. It's about, well, the problem of drinking alone, and he pulls no punches with the solution he offers. "There ain't no answer at the bottom," he sings before telling us to "Jesus is the answer when your peace has gone. Run to Him, run to your Savior, run away from drinking alone." Wildman's haunting guitar, with strong '60s/'70s hints of Hendrix and The Exkursions, provides the perfect, bleak sonic landscape for this solid advice.
Ah, the classic rock ballad. It has become a staple on albums for fifty years, and the opening to this album's title track has Wildman exploring that moody landscape as he moves from clean and mournful to the hazy, fuzz of a lost memory. After listening to two openly Christian songs, you may be surprised that this one is not. No, it is not anti-Christian nor does it have anything to offend the most passionate of believers. It is simply a good, moody tune with a bluesy feel about riding a motorcycle, and sometimes that it just the thing to hit the spot.
Oooh...wait...is this an alternative sound that opens "Shadow Rider?" Or, wait, is that the '80s I'm hearing? Hair metal, perhaps? A minute and a half in, and I was still wondering, and then I realized this was a tour de force guitar instrumental. Now, I have to admit. I'm not the biggest fan of instrumentals and tend to skip them after hearing them once, yet this three-and-a-half minutes raced by, leaving me wanting more.
"Temptation" concludes the album with an opening that has me envisioning a bunch of motorcycle riders cruising through the western landscape, which is a fair enough image since the lyrics are taken directly from the temptation of Jesus in the desert.
The Bottom Line
Here's what I like about this. Wildman and Smith both love music. They love listening to music and are both involved in a podcast about Christian hard rock and metal. Yet they don't just leave it there. They have contributed their own efforts to the world of gritty, bluesy rock, and with an album cover that captures that essence, a logo more than faintly reminiscent of a popular fire arms manufacturer, and five tracks that explore the breadth of their talents, I am looking for that first, full-length LP. Until then, check them out on your favorite streaming platform.