November 16, 2018 Nita Strauss – Controlled Chaos (Album Review)
Renown for her masterful slaying of the strings in the Iron Maidens, guitar goddess Nita Strauss made a name for herself very early in her career. She followed up this acclaim by joining the motley crew of Alice Cooper’s band, delivering an exceptional attention to detail and impressive agility. When she wasn’t laying waste to audiences worldwide with Alice, Strauss found time to forge a new path in the form of a new side project titled We Start Wars who released their debut single “The Animal Inside” in April of 2017. Now, the infamous ax grinder, who has been aptly named “Hurricane Nita” for her furious and frenzied destruction on the strings, is blazing a new trail for herself as an artist with her debut solo album, Controlled Chaos, released Friday, November 16th through Sumerian Records.
One of the most formidable things about Nita Strauss is her ability to develop complex sounds with the bare minimum. Like other players before her, she works with her God-given talents and capabilities to craft sounds that are layered, unique, and engaging. This craftsmanship is evident in the intro “Prepare For War” which rips and rolls right into the first track on the album “Algeria.” The rolling scale Strauss tackles are a fascinating trickle up and down the neck of her weapon of choice. Showcasing the depths of her skills, the femme fatale (who’s played with the band Femme Fatale) creates a shroud of sound on the track “Our Most Desperate Hour” that encircles the listener and cocoons them in its easy familiarity.
“Mariana Trench” chugs at its core and demonstrates that Strauss knows strings. Having performed all the guitar and bass parts on the album, as well as engineering it, Strauss’s commitment to her craft is both impressive and exhausting. Her dedication to Controlled Chaos meant plucking every note herself and then fine-tuning every beat in the mix. While there are several DIY artists in the world struggling to make their way in the music industry, Strauss choosing to go back to basics and getting her hands dirty in spite of her status and the assets available to her is impressive on a workload basis. Making the choice to be a full-time musician is hard, choosing to be a perfectionist is harder.
As the album progresses, we hear more of the dynamics she is capable of creating in her work with the sliding scales and licks that are expertly placed and metered throughout songs like “The Quest.” This song feels like something ripped from a video game. It is as though you are in an RPG playing the lead character on a heroic quest to battle evil villains and rescue a fair maiden. There are trials and tribulations, tests of strength and skills, but nonetheless, the hero persists, and in this exciting and jolting romp of a tune you experience all of it. So, if you’re a gamer looking for something new to jam while you’re tearing through dungeons or laying waste to evildoers, this song may be for you.
After all the excitement of “The Quest,” the next track “Hope Grows” is a considerable step several rungs down, energy-wise. This slow and more somber hymn strikes the necessary plucky notes of aspiration that inspire the “hope” aspect of the song. Overall, it is a dramatic change in pace that slows things down a bit and establishes an almost reflective solemness. It is not sad, but it is introspective and inspirational.
“Lion AMong Wolves” feels like danger. Its gritty crunch at the beginning and the hefty percussion contributions help establish it as a challenging energy not to be toyed with by any means. There is an air of uncertainty in this song that lends itself to the dark and uneasy ambiance of being hunted. Like a lion stalking its prey, the feel of danger all around is palatable in this track. There’s the slight prickle on the back of your neck. The bristling of the hair on your arms as they stand at attention from unease. The creep factor is high and the ability of Strauss to pounce from anywhere is not to be underrated here as she is full of surprises on this album.
Closing out the album is “Pandemonium 2.0” and “The Show Must Go On.” Approaching the end of the record, “Pandemonium 2.0” lives up to its name with the unpredictability of Strauss’s approach carrying over from the previous tracks. There is something to be said about keeping an audience or a listener on their toes and that is exactly what she does here. The orchestration and mix of elements to create this consortium of sound that swirls and dips and spikes are wily and yet infatuating. You can’t help but fall in love with the ride and strap yourself in for wherever she takes you.
In “The Show Must Go On” it’s the last curtain call before the final bow. She is taking the stage one last time to say goodnight, but not goodbye. This song winds and rails like a Dear John letter, full of desire and longing and remorse for the end of things as you knew them. This; however, is not a “goodbye,” but merely “see you later.” Strauss is not laying down her fiery sword, but rather sheathing it for now. We have gone on a journey together with this stringed siren and made more interesting because of it. So, for impressive and awe-inspiring dexterity, complexity, and commitment to craft, Cryptic Rock gives Nita Strauss’s Controlled Chaos 4.5 out of 5 stars.