The cover of Against The Grain's new LP, Road Warriors, is a bit of a departure for the Detroit quartet. It's got vibrant original artwork and features a new, modern or even futuristic band logo. It's ironic considering that this album really embraces the past, specifically the '70s. It's as if these guys, all in their 20s, have been spending a lot of time exploring a cool uncle's record collection. When describing Against The Grain's sound, you have to start with Motorhead. On Road Warriors, they also add a healthy dose of Black Sabbath style blues and doom. There's also the twin guitar attack of Judas Priest, and even a little of the rock and roll bombast of KISS. The drums are also big and loud in the mix, like vintage Van Halen. All of these elements are present on opening track "Here to Stay."
Second song "Till We Die" should reassure longtime listeners that ATG has not entirely abandoned their speed rock roots. "Afraid of Nothing" and "Run For Your Life" are also fast as hell. This record definitely has more singing than barking. The Lemmy type yelling has been replaced by something closer to a young Ozzy Osbourne or Paul Stanley. "Night Time" has that Motorhead swagger and even manages to incorporate some blues harmonica. If 2013's Surrounded By Snakes was ATG's album of 1,000 riffs, then Road Warriors is their album of 1,000 leads. The band really turns up their guitar playing a notch. Their punk influences get buried a bit as their fretboard heroics are in full display. The impressive shredding could appeal to a whole new audience.
Against The Grain has always walked a fine line between punk and metal, and has toured extensively with both kinds of bands. This record mostly falls on the metal side. It's almost certain that the band's constant touring has influenced their songwriting. They've had plenty of opportunities to test this new material in front of a live audience. ATG is at their best when they combine their excellent musicianship with strong melodies and understated harmonies. "Sirens" and closer "Nothing Left to Lose" are two of the album's stand-out tracks. While the '70s influence is undeniable, they manage to make it their own. They're not rehashing a style as much as they're taking it by force.
The front cover of Road Warriors has a picture of an outlaw biker from outer space. On the back, that same biker is looking toward the earth. He has obvious intentions of conquering it, much like Against The Grain. ATG has a legitimate shot at planetary domination, but it won't come by a violent overthrow. One by one, the band will replace unsuspecting citizens with ATG fans. It's a long slow process, but they will never be accused of being overnight sensations. Like the great Detroit bands before them, their success will come from hard work and perseverance. Road Warriors is another important step in Against The Grain's march toward world conquest.