red dragon cartel
By Jay Oakley
Four years have gone by since Red Dragon Cartel, featuring guitar legend Jake E. Lee, unleashed their debut record. November 9th marks the release of the follow-up record, Patina, on Frontiers Records. Jake is joined by returning vocalist Darren James Smith, Anthony Esposito on bass and Phil Varone on drums.
“Speedbag” opens the record with a deep guitar riff backed by the drums. Darren’s vocals come through strong with a stand-alone delivery that sets the tone for the record. Jake’s guitar playing is put on showcase immediately in this track with a well delivered solo. “Havana” is the first single off the record. A strong, lone guitar opening followed again by the drums. It gives a real heavy feel and lays the groundwork for what you can expect from the record. Darren’s vocals continue to be solid but Esposito’s bass playing has that unique groove to them and weave seamlessly through the track. While Jake’s playing is the dominant animal in this track everyone held down their parts. It’s obvious why this was chosen as the first single. “Crooked Man” has a much more southern groove and a 70s feel to it. This track is a touch slower but that’s what delivers that southern almost psychedelic design. The vocals are the standout part and are delivered with some grit to them. “The Luxury Of Breathing” opens with a deep, almost dark vibrato solo that builds to the riff. The track pairs brilliantly with “Crooked Man” as it continues that groovy feel. The track is dominantly guitar forward and filled with soul. “Bitter” brings back that that traditional rock and roll edge. An old school rock feel that doesn’t skimp on its heaviness. Phil’s drumming comes through very powerful as he crushes on the cymbals. The “Chasing Ghosts” intro is all Anthony, all the time. Tough bass playing which sets up a strong Jake guitar riff. The song continues to build the record back up to that rock edge but still highlights the diversity of the record. “A Painted Heart” is the closest thing to a ballad on the record. It has a gentler feel to the vocal delivery but is still a pretty heavy track; I think a quality comparison would be Alice In Chains’ “Rooster.” “Punchclown” returns that that vibrato intro but then hits a really sleazy riff that I think is one of the highlights of the record. Darren’s vocals still have a gentle feel in this track but again don’t lose their edge. “A Beautiful Mess” I believe really show the dynamics of the rhythm section. While the average, casual listener is going to focus on Darren and Jake respectfully, it’s the chemistry between Anthony and Phil that is really showcased. Especially, halfway through when it’s just Phil and Anthony playing until Jake joins in with another riff. “Ink & Water” is a strong closer to the record. It bring the songs full circle as it is stylistically more like “Speedbag” and “Havana” so it delivers a clear end to the record. It had touches of other songs so no part of the record is lost and every member of the band is featured throughout the track.
Again, Patina is released on November 9th via Frontiers Records and keep your eyes peeled for their upcoming tour dates to push the record and see this great band live.