Originally Published: 28 October 2014
Review: Neal Smith – Kill$mith & The Greenfire Empire (2014 Kachina Records)
By: Gary “Uncle G” Brown
I’ve been familiar with Neal Smith since the 1970’s, ever since I got turned on to Alice Cooper. I’m guessing around 1972 when their song ‘School’s Out’ was first released. Stayed a fan until the dismissal of the group. With Alice deciding to keep his solo career afloat after the huge success of his first solo record, Welcome To My Nightmare (1975), the rest of the guys in the Cooper band saw themselves no longer with a lead singer. It was the end of Alice Cooper, the band. Ends up I lost interest in Alice’s solo career pretty much after his follow up to ‘Welcome To My Nightmare’, with 1977’s Alice Cooper – Go To Hell album. As time marched on I’d play the original Alice Cooper band music every once in a while. Anything new with Alice and without the original guys, I just wasn’t interested. Stayed that way for over a decade. In the 1990’s and aided with something called the Internet, I renewed my interest in the runaway vocalist. In doing so, I started getting a new appreciation for Alice’s solo studio offerings. Fact is he’s worked with a shit load of brilliant musicians since 1975. The coolest thing here was that I could also find out and keep up on the other original band members doings as well. Since then I have managed to somewhat keep up.
Glen Buxton passed away back in ’97. His legend has/will live on.
Michael Bruce just weeks ago played a charity show coming out of retirement benefiting foster kids.
Bassist Dennis Dunaway is going strong currently playing with a can’t be missed rock band called Blue Coupe.
With nineteen studio solo albums under his belt, the year 2014 sees Vince / Alice co-headlining Motley Crue’s BIG farewell Tour. Alice’s last new studio effort was a sequel to 1975’s Nightmare and cleverly titled ‘Welcome 2 My Nightmare’. To this writer’s delight, Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith perform on three songs. This makes the first time the Billion Dollar Babies appeared on an Alice Cooper studio album together since 1973’s Muscle Of Love. Nightmare 2 did well, charting all over the world.
Last, but not least is Neal Smith, who has been musically kicking ass and taking names lately. The RnRHoF member (Alice Cooper) just released the third installment to his KillSmith series. On this outing, all songs are written by Neal, and besides pounding away on the drums, Mr. Smith can be heard on keyboards, guitar, and sharing the vocal duties. Titled, Neal Smith – KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire. Now that the intro and history lesson is over, let’s focus on that.
For starters, ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ has very cool cover art, with the front of the CD showing an evil glow-in-the-dark green human skull. Would make for a cool poster. I ordered this new CD from Neal’s own personal website. Doing so, he autographed it, which is a super cool added bonus. He does so on every CD ordered, free of charge! A legible signature too, so it compliments the cover, instead of scribble which would take away from it. Cover / Booklet opens up to reveal more cool artwork as well. Important is the two images provided because they are what sets sail your imagination. For like original Alice Cooper music anyway, it’s all theater for your mind’s eye. KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire is a concept album. Nothing I’d share with a seven year old. Neal’s lyrics can be very adult at times, which can lead to questions like; “Mommy, what are junkies, thieves, and whores?”
In a nutshell, ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ is a modern day tale about a special ops military hero nicknamed KillSmith, who takes on the most ruthless, ferocious, and just downright evil drug lord named Diablo the Emerald King. A story that happens around the holidays. Emotionally, a roller coaster ride filled with action and suspense, that besides being capable of ripping your head off, simply rocks out.
Uncle G’s Favorite KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire Tracks:
All of them really. An enlightening story told in various styles of rock music including industrial, heavy metal, and power ballads. Frankly, I can’t say enough good things about ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’. Don’t know where to begin, for I’m afraid I’ll miss something. Here I go.
Every musician on KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire project did an excellent job (see accompanying image for credits). Am sure it wasn’t easy for any of them because it’s a pretty ambitious project. Neal’s work on here is just outstanding, so only capable musicians need to apply. Back to Neal, I love the cool guitar work he does, as well as his keyboard contributions. Plus behind the drum kit, Neal’s drumming is second to none. Either providing a good foundation or having moments that are absolutely bat-shit crazy, such as found on the song ‘Pandemonium’. A real killer drum performance here. Overall, the album is more upbeat than mellow. Together, all eleven songs combine for a stunning example of musicianship and storytelling.
I broke this CD in while heading into Houston from Katy, driving down super Hwy I-10 East doing an average 70 MPH and being able to hear the first six songs usually without slowing down. Sunrise Saturday morning. Driving down the city streets trying to miss red lights is where I got to know tracks seven to the end of the disc. I did this on three other days as well. The rest of the time I’d been playing it almost non-stop on my home stereo. Between the lyrics and the superior accompanying music, I’m able to fully understand and enjoy Neal’s return to theatrical rock.
Rating: Honestly this was way more than I was expecting. More than one song sticks in my head, when not actually playing ‘KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire’ aloud. Impossible to say what songs I like best, but the one that caught my attention first was ‘I Want Money’. KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire is solid in both production and presentation. Using the one to five star rating system, where one star sucks through a long straw, and five stars kick total ass; Neal Smith – KillSmith & The Greenfire Empire get 5 stars easily. Every song a gem. Different musical styles presented so to keep one’s interest. Feet planted firmly in the rock world. Even with such excellent flamenco guitar work as heard on track four, ‘The Killsmith Overture’. Lady Elizabeth Dellinger could sure hit those notes. Blends in very nicely. This song, I would love to see done live, as well as the rest of this new concept album. Perhaps a KillSmith DVD shot in concert over 2 or three nights someplace that could accommodate? I could only imagine the KILLER encores.
Well done Mr. Smith!