Album review: MICHAEL GRANT & THE ASSASSINS – Always The Villain


Frontiers Records [Release date 10.07.20]

Few bands or artists appear from nowhere. And sure enough, Michael Grant has a history, one that goes beyond his recent stint with the LA Guns.

Wiki will reveal all so no point in going into it here.

Suffice to say a couple of songs from his past have followed him on to “Always The Villain”. The first of those, the high velocity ‘Barrel Of A Gun’, opens the album with Uzi like bursts of tightly packed riffs, preparing the ground for the seriously sinuous melodies of Grant’s street hardened rock’n'roll. At times, arguably, it’s hard rock with hip hop cadences. Music for today. And perhaps tomorrow too.

The other one of the pair is the cold, pounding, ‘Break Me With U’, a sinister mix of electronica and shadowy sensuality, with a brooding, Goth rock spirituality.

You can see why Grant has carried the songs in his backpack down the years.

The new stuff : He catches a groove with ‘Killing Me Slowly’, arguably the album’s magnum opus, a slinky, sub funk rock song, pushed along by a backdrop of rushing guitars and a razoring, heavily melodic axe solo.

‘Nightmare’, a distillation of chart aimed, alt rock melancholy is pretty good too, showing off Grant’s edgy baritone and his high calibre songwriting to best effect.

All that said, you could argue the album pivots around two equally interesting tracks. The album’s first single, ‘Red Light Run’ is a peach. A broken down, then reassembled and buffed up melodic rock song for today’s AOR audiences. The other, ‘Anthem Of Us’, is a lot like the work of Alt rock giants, Our Lady Peace, allowing a luminous melody to glide through a wall of noise unscathed. Nothing is done for show and everything is done for effect. Genius.

Grant’s problem (and by definition, Frontiers too) is the fact his music cannot be pinned down. It’s impossible to pigeonhole. We should be thankful for that. But history tells us that just makes an artist’s breakthrough all the harder. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

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