Santa Cruz – The Return Of The Kings

Santa Cruz
The Return Of The Kings
Sleaze Rock, Hard Rock, Glam Rock
Released: 26th August 2022
via M-Theory Audio

Oh wow! Santa Cruz is back with a brand new lineup and attitude. This band has definitely had its highs and lows. However, throughout the turmoil, they managed to keep a fairly consistent output over the year. This new record, The Return Of The Kings, is the follow-up to the 2019 album Katharsis which in itself was a rebranding of the band. So, let’s call this Santa Cruz version three. For this record front-man, Archie Cruz put together a new lineup that consisted of Jerry Jade on guitar, Tommy Bradley on bass and Randy McDemian on drums. Say what you will about the new lineup, but the new songs are relatively enjoyable. 

The album opens on the lead single “Here Comes The Revolution” and this sets the album up pretty well. From the first riff, you know exactly what you’re in store for, it’s a hard rock record with elements of sleaze and glam rock. It hits quite hard and from the first few moments of the album, I was enjoying myself and it kept escalating from there. One thing I know about Archie Cruz is that he knows how to write a hook. On every single track here there’s an insidious little ear-worm that keeps you locked into the song. In particular, on the closing track “Stay”, which got stuck in my head long after my listening sessions with this record. I feel like everything is so tightly written here. Every song has that little punch that keeps the momentum going. Be it the anthemic qualities of “1000 Cigarettes” and “Disarm” to the hard-hitting and tight-sounding “Take Me To America” from a writing perspective the music is great. It’s definitely something that I can listen to on repeat without getting bored. 

The production is fine however not spectacular. It’s pretty much the standard for hard rock. A lot of guitar and drums in the foreground with the bass in the mix but not really punching through. Not a bad thing but it feels pretty plain. Archie’s vocals are a mixed bag. I could perfectly understand someone not liking his voice. If you’re not into a lot of sleaze rock or modern glam rock this vocal style could get pretty grating. I’ll admit at times I wasn’t into it as he can be a little grating. However, the songs are so well-written that it almost saves it. In terms of the production, everything is clear. I mean, it’s not like the production was muddy or too heavy, it just didn’t land as effectively as I think they wanted it to. 

Yeah, this one is fine. Santa Cruz will always be a jack of all trades in rock music. They’re proficient at most things but never really excel at anything. They’re somewhere in the middle. The new lineup is mostly doing the same as the previous ones. It’s very clear Archie is at the wheel of the helm as so many different lineups shouldn’t sound this much alike. However, it’s fairly consistent with the rest of their material. I like the album, there are enough catchy songs and the production is good enough that it doesn’t make me turn it off. Like I said, I was never bored or had any super negative reaction to the music. It’s fine but I don’t think I can go much higher than fine. Out of 10, this album is between a 6 and 7 but closer to a 7. Though, that could change on re-listens in the future for me.

7/10

Mick Birchall

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