We all do battles in our daily lives. You win some, you lose some. Armed With their third album BATTLES, Baltimore's own Charm City Devils are battle tested and ready to have their bluesy, Southern-tinged hard rock anthems heard by the masses. It is one fight they are prepared to win.
BATTLES scorches and crackles, cementing Charm City Devils, who've been making a rock 'n' roll racket since 2008 and whose original lineup remains in tact to this day, as an in-your-face, modern rock band. But it's not all crashing cymbals and thermonuclear riffs. The album is comprised of equal parts hooks and heart. Onstage is where the band comes to life. They sharpened their live chops by touring with Motley Crue and Godsmack as part of CrueFest 2 and are supremely confident in their abilities and growth as a band. Essentially, they are ready for their next Battles.
Singer John Allen, a Baltimore native, admits that he is fueled by the idea of winning battles both big and small. "There are many battles you face in life," he said. "The battle to survive, to get out of your own way, to do the right thing, of good against evil." His favorite battle? Converting a musical sceptic, when the stage is effectively the battlefield. "I love it when someone comes up to us after a show and says, 'I thought you were going to suck, but you guys are awesome!' It's like, 'Go ahead. Underestimate me. Discount me. Count me out!,'" he said about the attitude which motivates him to succeed. "I love to prove people wrong and turn them around and win them over, and that's what we do, night after night. Plus, meeting the fans, and introducing that human element, makes it all worth it!"
The human element factors into Charm City Devils' music beyond their sizzling live show. Allen, an only child, lost both of his parents in between the recording of Battles and its predecessor SINS. That loss lead to a change in perspective and caused him to get reflective and to evaluate what's important, which manifests in the music. Luckily for him, his bandmates are like brothers and their bond is rock solid. There is no better way to engage in Battles than with your family as your armor!
Battles, which was recorded in Nashville with Skidd Mills, is rife with the anthemic, fist-pumping songs, ones that take up residence in your brain for days. "Shots" is intensely personal and cathartic song and it goes so deep that it reaches marrow. "It's a letter to an old friend battling his addictions, but hasn't wanted to admit or realize that he needs help," Allen explains. The lyrics basically implore this friend to seek the help he needs, since Allen admits. "I tried speaking one-on-one, but I didn't get through to him, so I wrote this song in hopes he will get the message before it's too late. It might seem like a party song, but it's not. It's about worrying and waiting to get that call that your friend is gone."
It's powerful stuff, encased in an unforgettable package, like most of the songs that populate Battles. There's also the provocative "Tear It Apart," which looks at the unraveling of the American dream and the nuclear family. "Crucify," which is erected on a dirty and crunchy groove and sounds so Southern that it could have been written while barefoot on the back porch, beer in hand, anywhere below the Mason-Dixon line, is a change of pace for Charm City Devils. "It is a bit different, with the blues harp solo in there, and we're exploring the roots of the band there," Allen says. "The subject matter is about holding celebrity up and tearing them down." So while rooted in a classic sound, the lyrics remain contemporary.
Even so, Allen and Charm City Devils aren't afraid to embrace their Southern rock and blues influence. For years he has been fascinated with Robert Johnson and the Delta Blues. "So much great music is from the South. Hell, even The Rolling Stones recorded at the famed Mussel Shoals studio in Alabama trying to capture that vibe."
At this point in their career, Charm City Devils have gained plenty of experience. With three albums in their arsenal, they have narrowed their focus to a singular goal and that's to rock. Their music and their live prowess are the connective tissues between the band and the fans and are the outlets to ease frustration we all face.