You can’t ignore the elephant in the room, so you might as well get it said first off. Ace Mafia were a band formed by Richie Faulkner in the middle of the last decade.
He was, at the time, busy enough as the guitarist in Lauren Harris’ band. Then he landed the gig in an up and coming group called Judas Priest.
As such, the history of this outfit isn’t conventional, featuring line-up changes, members emigrating and their guitarist touring the world. Ace Mafia did though release one album back in 2009, and this four tracker amounts to the follow-up. Faulkner plays on the collection – although the band is now listed as a four-piece with only Ben Lundy on lead guitar.
All that out of the way? Good. Because what matters, clearly is only if the record is any good.
It is, but it is interesting that probably because of Faulkner I was expecting approaching heavy metal (stupid really because I’d seen him in Lauren Harris’ band and know he’s too talented to be a one-trick pony) instead what you get is something that – had it emerged in 1994 – would have had Kerrang! Proclaiming them the hot new thing in grunge.
Indeed, if I’d wanted to I could have started this review with what quickly becomes the “other” elephant in the room, as it were. The record sounds pretty much exactly like it could be an Alice In Chains EP.
It is expertly done, but maybe it’s the Cantrell-esque guitar sound, maybe it’s the vocals of K Ghibli (think Layne Stayley, you won’t be able to think anything else for the most part) but it’s there throughout.
The hooks too, are primed and ready for the big stages “Snakes And Ladders” announces itself in a most strident way, while “Face To Face” veers slightly away from the opener, and has the vibe, say, of Alter Bridge.
“Stop Loss” chugs along in a mid-90s type way, and there is little doubt that Ace Mafia are, well, ace at what they do, and “Breathless” will sound superb in a live setting – and you can dress it up in whatever way you like – but it would have sounded great on “Rainier Fog” too.
A British band they may be, but Ace Mafia, have ideas from further afield – and the skill to pull them off as well. Whether this heralds an increase in their activity time will tell, but this EP certainly sounds like a statement of intent.