Style: melodic metal, hard rock
Members: Gary Schutt – vocals/all instruments
I'll confess that I haven't heard multi-instrumentalist Gary Schutt's work, though Packing Heat is his 15th solo album, depending how you count, & he has countless albums with different bands & outings. Yet, I do recognize his name, as he's played with vocalist Jeff Scott Soto. I don't know JSS's music too well, but he's routinely surrounds himself with phenomenal talent. Its for this association I decided to give Packing Heat a listen. So, before I continue with this review I've laid out my ignorance. I have no knowledge of his music, or how this album relates to his other solo albums. So, my apologies if I'm off on the review or review him unfairly. I'm listening to this on its own merits, via multiple spins as I do for every review, thus to my ears it stands or falls with no help. The only thing I know about the album is Gary's own words on his website explaining how the album was completed from start to finish over a few weeks in 2021." One day on a week with no work & no gigs & no projects due, I decided to start another "write an album in two weeks" challenge, like I did during the initial lockdown of 2020. However Packing Heat will take longer due to weekend gigs & various weekday handyman work." So how does an album sound under a self-imposed deadline? As someone who wrote a poetry book under a self-imposed deadline I hesitate to be too critical, as great art doesn't always require lots of time nor is it related to time, so don't let that be a distraction. Hit up the second track "Love & Obstacles". If you don't enjoy it, please put in the comments why ... because on my initial listen of this album I had that one track spinning for 30 minutes before moving on to the rest of the songs. This is an absolutely addicting song & I can't see how one can't enjoy it. Note the fun guitar solo at the end, but fun not in terms of typical predictable flash but with creative little overdubs of various guitar sounds over an infectious rhythm. It made me laugh when I first heard it. When you're stuck on one song that's either a sign that there's one great song on album of sad filler, or this is going to be a great album. This is firmly in the later camp. On numerous listens of all songs, I highly recommend this album. Packing Heat might fly under a lot of people's radar, but it shouldn't. This is actually a highlight of albums I've heard come out of 2021, including both indie & mainstream artists. What I really like is the variety. Check out the thumping bass & chugging guitars of the title track, which sounded like a cross between Motley Crue & early Soundgarden, while my fave "Love & Obstacles" reminds me of the melodic rock of Matthew Sweet. Yet, "Nobody's Listening" & "Something More" reminded me of so much of the '90's alt rock I listened to when I was young. Feel good pop, yet with a twist of angst. "Calibration" reminded me of the Gary Cherone era of Van Halen. Then there's the crazily titled "Particle Noise Generator" with Frank Zappa approved guitars & Weird Al-esque lyrics. While many will enjoy the comedic "Lack Of Motivation" about getting up on Mondays. This is an album full of surprises. I love albums like this. They are more a rarity than not, particularly albums that pull it off successfully as Gary has done. Underneath the diversity is just a foundation of great hard rock with wicked good & ultra creative guitar playing. As I wrote, I don't know what his other albums sound like, but I'm going to drop some money to pick a few up after publishing this review. I'll confess a lot of albums on this blog I hear to write the review & then never think about them again. This is not one of those albums. I'll be returning to it & look forward to hearing more. I'm glad I took a chance on someone I didn't know musically. I think you absolutely need to check it out if you like some great melodic rock with a nostalgic flavor.