October 13, 2019 Santa Cruz – Katharsis (Album Review)
Rising from the ashes, Finnish Hard Rockers Santa Cruz are back delivering the new album, Katharsis, on Friday, October 18, 2019 via M-Theory Audio. Produced by studio vet Kane Churko (Five Finger Death Punch, Ozzy Osbourne, Papa Roach), Katharsis sees Santa Cruz drop their fourth overall studio LP and the follow-up to 2017’s killer album, Bad Blood Rising.
Much of a back story, Katharsis is certainly more than a new studio album for the band known as Santa Cruz. Formed in 2007, Santa Cruz became a fun and nostalgic throw-back to classic 1980’s Hard Rock. In sound and image, Santa Cruz brought back everything there ever was to love about great, old school Hard Rock. Listening in, Santa Cruz quickly began to emerge from the underground thanks to hits like “Wasted & Wounded” and “Nothing Compares To You.” Visually, if you watched a Santa Cruz music video your eyes were elated by long hair, make-up, ripped t-shirts, and a bad ass attitude, the likes of which made YouTube feel like MTV did in 1988.
With albums like 2013’s Screaming for Adrenaline and 2015’s Santa Cruz, the boys from Finland really built a fun persona, turning Cruz into a stage name going by Archie Cruz (vocals), Johnny Cruz (guitar), Middy Cruz (bass), and Taz Cruz (drums). Come the release of album number three in 2017, the aforementioned Bad Blood Rising, Santa Cruz were really hitting their stride. Their best effort yet, Bad Blood Rising was an incredible album, full of energy, big gang choruses, lots of emotion, and aura that made you never want to stop it from spinning.
Then in 2018, Santa Cruz hit a bump in the road. On the heels of earning a prime spot opening up for Fozzy on the North American leg of their Judas Rising Tour, the rock-and-roll lifestyle had taken a toll on Santa Cruz. Sadly, Archie’s addiction to alcohol had caused enough issues that Johnny, Middy, and Taz decided it would be best to leave Santa Cruz. With every thing crashing down around him, Archie decided it was time to face his demons. In short, Archie cleaned up, continued creating, and hired new band members, Ero Cruz, Toxy Cruz, and Joe Perez to begin the next chapter of Santa Cruz. In his own words, Archie commented on this trying time by stating: “The whole year was very spiritual for me. I had to reevaluate myself, my goals, what I wanted to do.When the whole fallout happened, I saw this as a great opportunity for me to finally put myself out there creatively, the way I wanted to do it for the longest time. It was a blessing in disguise, really.”
All of this in mind, Katharsis ushers in the new era of Santa Cruz via “Changing Of Seasons.” Not just in life, but in sound, the album begins to show a slightly toned down Santa Cruz with less of an emphasis on big guitar solos and more of a laid back, slow yet deep sound. Letting the music do the talking, “Bang Bang” holds a near electronica vibe with a very polished Rock climate. Next, “Into The War” lyrically tells of battling obstacles and ultimately getting your life back. Moving along, the title “I Want You To Mean It” says it all, “True Believer” knows a phony when it sees one, and all “Tell Me Why” asks for is a little clarity. Good highs and lows, “Testify” is proclaiming something, whether it be love or pure emotion. Thereafter, “Smoke Signals” knows what it is like to feel someone’s energy even when they are not present. Nearing full Katharsis, “It Was You” tells of bad decisions, “Salvation It” gifts a catchy “Sweet Child O’Mine” reminiscent hook, and then we close with a nice cover of Cindy Lauper’s “Time After Time.”
If you Google the definition, the internet explains Catharsis as the release of strong or repressed emotion. Overall, it is evident this new album is indeed the Katharsis of Archie Cruz. Behind the incredibly polished arraignments and bouncy rhythms, Archie is clearly releasing everything he went through over the last year and a half. For fans of Santa Cruz, some may find many of the over the top Rock riffs for which Santa Cruz have been known, may be missing to an extent.
However, there is something to be said, something beyond the music, about what is really taking center stage. Think about it. How many times have we seen rock stars tragically die from their addictions? Or for many, they fall into the black hole while continuing their attempt at making music and nothing gets better. For Archie Cruz, the talented front man deserves much credit for surviving his addiction and living to tell about it. In the end, these are all things fans should consider when sitting down to listen to the new Santa Cruz album, Katharsis. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives Katharsis 3.5 out of 5 stars.