Gathering of the Faithful (Manifest Music)
By Martin Popoff
Shark Island, like Van Halen and the Crüe, was the house band at L.A. hair metal haven, Gazarri’s, albeit only crafting one major label record in Law of the Order, making them a historical footnote along with a good 20 or 30 similar acts wielding one or two very expensive records on eager majors looking for the next Cinderella. Now called back to action at the insistence of Manifest label head Robert Marshall, vocalist Richard Black and guitarist Spencer Sercombe (the band is rounded out by classic era bassist Christian Heilmann and new drummer Glen Sobel) have made a surprising record of rootsy, light-footed rock anthems, hair in vibe but bluesy and soft of arrangement like some sort of concepted Great White album or strange Helix construct, It’s A Business Doing Pleasure. Firehouse and Bon Jovi in the ’90s might also be a touchstone, but these are way better songs, performed brightly, each with deep hooks, a number of styles tried, but all of them hair at the root and bravely not all that heavy. The derived Zeppelin of Kingdom Come, Lillian Axe, and Bonham/Jason Bonham Band also comes to mind, and that’s a good thing when so few dare make music like this. One shortcoming is the bit of a botch of the recording, the treble being a bit hot and red-lined, but the recordings actually vary, so this isn’t a constant. Top with an embossed and foil stamped digipak design, along with a cardboard slipcase and big lyric booklet, and you’ve got a band out of time that has turned in a mature, non-obvious, try-harder package that still manages to stay true to churlish stadium rock aspirations from two decades back.