Red Dragon Cartel, ‘Red Dragon Cartel’ – Album Review
Jake E. Lee is one of the great metal guitarists, but has been absent from the scene for a while. Back in the early ‘80s he was in the band Mickey Ratt, which became Ratt. He was also in Rough Cutt and played briefly with Dio, but he is best known for his time with Ozzy Osbourne, joining his band after the tragic death of Randy Rhoads. Lee appeared on the albums ‘Bark at the Moon’ and ‘The Ultimate Sin.’
After his departure from Ozzy’s band, he formed Badlands, who released three albums. After that band ended, Lee did some solo work, but has mostly flown under the radar for two decades. Now he is back with the new band Red Dragon Cartel, who are unleashing their self-titled debut album.
Four of the 9 songs with vocals on ‘Red Dragon Cartel’ use guest singers, with the vocals on the rest of the album handled by D.J. Smith. The British born Smith has a beefy sounding voice and does a good job, though he doesn’t have pipes of a Ray Gillen or the character of Ozzy.
Smith’s best performance is on the power ballad 'Fall From The Sky,' which gives him a chance to showcase a more delicate delivery and a wider emotional palette. The doomy ‘War Machine’ is ripped right from the Osbourne/Sabbath playbook, and Smith’s delivery is very Ozzy-esque on that track.
The best song on the album is 'Feeder,' which features Cheap Trick’s Robin Zander. It’s a lot darker and menacing than a typical Cheap Trick song, and Zander pulls it off really well. Former Iron Maiden vocalist Paul DiAnno lends his talents to the industrial-tinged 'Wasted,' a simple and straightforward track.
Other guests include In This Moment’s Maria Brink on 'Big Mouth' and Sass Jordan on 'Redeem Me.' Kevin Churko, who produced In This Moment’s latest album ‘Blood,’ manned the boards for ‘Red Dragon Cartel.’
In addition to the guest vocalists, there are a bunch of other guest musicians on ‘Red Dragon Cartel’ including Rex Brown (Pantera), Scott Reeder (Kyuss), Todd Kerns (Slash), Brent Fitz (Slash) and Jeremy Spencer (Five Finger Death Punch).
Some tracks have a heavy dose of Lee’s guitar wizardry, while on others he takes a backseat. There are plenty of great solos and excellent riffs throughout, but the album would have benefitted from putting him even more front and center.
Since Lee has been away for so long, and the other members of the band are relative unknowns, it’s understandable why he brought aboard so many high-profile guests. They help bring attention to the album, but the one drawback is that it results in a less cohesive effort. Even so, there are plenty of excellent songs on ‘Red Dragon Cartel,’ and it is great to have Jake E. Lee back in the spotlight.