Red Dragon Cartel – Patina (Album Review)

A guitar hero, Jake E. Lee is without a doubt among the best of the best Hard Rock/Heavy Metal shredders ever to emerge out of the infamous 1980’s music scene. Much like the recent return of former KISS Guitarist Vinnie Vincent, Jake E. Lee’s long anticipated comeback garnered the ax-man well deserved hysteria upon his homecoming back in 2014.

Learning from the masters, it was a sibling who first introduced Lee to the guitar and the likes of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Jimi Hendrix as a mere teenager. From early on, Lee was impressive as a young guitarist and the instrument naturally took over Lee’s world. As the 1980’s arrived, Lee enjoyed a brief stint playing in Ratt but his wildest dreams came true when he became the exclusive guitarist for the godfather of Metal, Ozzy Osbourne.

From 1983-1987, it was a match made in heaven and hell, as Lee assisted in skyrocketing Osbourne’s sound during the most conspicuous period of the Ozzman’s solo career. That said, Rock fans immediately took notice of Lee’s impressive skill set as he melted faces on burning riffs and solos on Osbourne classics 1983’s Bark at the Moon and 1986’s The Ultimate Sin. Come 1989, by no fault of his own, Lee found himself no longer in Osbourne’s camp so he formed the Blues based Hard Rock band Badlands. After recording two albums with Badlands, Lee faded into the background of the 1990’s and 2000’s, mostly playing in smaller projects. Then, in 2013, Lee fully resurfaced from the shadows, announcing he was back with a brand new band called Red Dragon Cartel.

Upon the release of the eponymous 2014 debut album, Red Dragon Cartel, Lee was back in the spotlight full-time, touring, and thrilling fans who had not forgotten him. Now, following a critically praised debut, Red Dragon Cartel returns to release their sophomore effort, Patina, on November 9, 2018 via Frontiers Music SRL.

Mixed by Producer/Engineer Max Norman, a colleague from Lee’s days with Ozzy Osbourne, Patina was produced by both Lee and Red Dragon Cartel Bassist Anthony Esposito (ex-Lynch Mob, ex-Ace Frehley). A united front, Lee and Esposito are joined in Red Dragon Cartel by Drummer Phil Varone (ex-Skid Row) and Vocalist Darren James Smith (Harem Scarem).

This in mind, Patina arrives a step above the aforementioned Red Dragon Cartel which had featured appearances by a number of guest singers in addition to Smith. On Patina, Red Dragon Cartel goes all in on Smith, who sounds better than ever, performing all vocals throughout 10 new tracks. Not only this, but Patina also sees Red Dragon Cartel taking a more grungier, alternative, and at times bluesier route than the band did on their debut. This is evident on the chugging opening riffs of track one, “Speedbag,” and the melodious blues toned single “Havana.” Next, “Crooked Man” provides an affecting musical concept. Ear-piercing, sludgy riffs from “The Luxury of Breathing” combine with mystical melody as the best of both worlds leave listeners banging their heads and entranced in trippy harmonies.

Halfway through, “Bitter” hits the musical taste buds with an early 1970s Rock inspired tone as “Chasing Ghosts” takes a walk down a long and winding road of consuming sound. A slower jam, “A Painted Heart” displays Lee’s bluesiest of soloing. Among a wall of feedback, Patina refuses to shutdown the musical diversity as “Punchclown,” “My Beautiful Mess,” and “Ink & Water” bring this album to a head.

Well, there you have it. As the newest effort by Red Dragon Cartel, Patina is another fine example of the musical talent that is Jake E. Lee. Just when you think a song is at its peak, Lee’s outstanding guitar solos take things to the highest level. Not to be forgotten, Esposito and Varone hold it all together while Smith’s vocals are exquisite and will pleasingly remind fans of Saigon Kick Frontman Matt Kramer (“All I Want”). Overall, Patina is unlike anything Lee has ever done and will surely brighten the senses of Red Dragon Cartel followers worldwide. Kick-back and enjoy the groove, CrypticRock gives Patina 4 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Patina:

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