by Tom Spanks.

Headstrong Ė Headstrong 
Label: RCA

All of the above
Inside joke
Swing harder
Do what you feel like
Get in
Boodies & hoods
Open Season
Listen to samples and Purchase this CD online

Visit the official website

When Zach departed from Rage Against The Machine it left a big void in the rap-rock world. Sure Rage teamed up with Chris Cornell but that didnít last very long and the musicís political focus was lost without the ďactivistĒ de la Rocha raging against everything. 

RCA is hoping to help fill that void with Headstrong a new hardhitting rap rock outfit out of Ontario. Donít get me wrong Headstrong isnít another Rage rip off but they are similar in the fact that they convey some strong political messages by using heavy rap-rock as their vehicle to get their voices heard. 

On most of the songs Headstrong is heavy on the rap, so if you arenít a hip-hop fan, this wonít do anything for you but if you like the mix of rap with heavy rock then you have a killer new CD to add to your collection.  Some of the other more experimental songs may appeal to heavy rock fans even if they arenít into rap-rock since the raps come across more hard-core punk then street rap. Unlike most rap-rock groups that stick to a pretty consistent style that grows old real quick, Headstrong mix things up pretty well. In other words, itís not all downtuned guitars and screaming raps! 

Like a lot of rap-rock bands, these guys also mix the heavy raps with melodic vocals which sometimes works and sometimes doesnít, fortunately for Headstrong they do it well. The rap-rock genre has gotten a little stale with a ton of less than excellent bands being brought out by major labels but Headstrong stand above the pack with their mix of incendiary guitar leads, emotionally charged vocals and dynamic rhythm section. 

The music is melodic but still pretty raw, so it doesnít suffer the overproduced fate of groups like Linkin Park who loose any street credentials they may have with their ďtoo slick and mainstreamĒ delivery. Headstrong is everything that Linkin Park should be but doesnít have the balls to try to be. In a lot of ways the music itself comes across as a heavier take on Finger Eleven with rapping vocals, especially with a song like ďAdrianaĒ which relies far more on the melodic side of the vocal treatment, the song is positively addictive and really shows all of Headstrongís musical strengths. Hopefully, RCA will be smart and pick that song as a future single. 

Donít expect a lot of drop-tuned guitars; the band explores classic rock riffing, modern rock style and even some punk. A song like ďDo What You Feel LikeĒ is a perfect example, they take the classic rock guitar riffs mix it with an alternating punk and modern rock vocal treatment and the result is an amazing mishmash of sonic delight that is nice and heavy but still catchy. 

Lyrically they alternate their strong political views with more contemporary messages so the politics isnít as in your face and over the top as Rage sometimes got. You might wholeheartedly disagree with Headstrongís views but unlike Rage you can listen to the politically charged songs and not feel like youíre being inundated with propaganda. 

I know weíre had a lot of less than great new bands released from major record labels over the past couple of years, but Headstrong go a long way towards making amends for that. I love rap but donít care for many rap-rock bands, they all seem too limited and come across as trying to rip off Rage.  Headstrong is one of the few rap-rock bands that I can listen to, they have a powerful sound, a great mix of music and their style comes across as anything but stale and contrived. 

The release of this CD is a definite highpoint of the year, and may help to give the rap-rock movement some much-needed standards to measure itself by. Itís about time, someone got it right and Headstrong succeed where so many have tried and failed. 


antiGUY contributed to this review. 

Tom Spanks is a freelance music critic (under his real name) and contributing writer for the iconoFAN Network . 

Photos courtesy RCA and Headstrong
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