Duff McKagan was the Gunner with the punk background. He sung The Misfit’s explosive “Attitude” on GnR’s underrated cover’s compilation The Spaghetti Incident and was leading the charge of debaucherous behavior that brought the band to the absolute peak of rock stardom. While McKagan has always appeared far more open to a reunion than the iconoclastic and downright ridiculous Axl Rose, he has soldiered on since their mid 90’s breakup. The modern world of metal has been more than welcoming with his platinum selling work in Velvet Revolver as well as his longtime band, Loaded. Having always played a supporting role in his two other bands, since 1999, Loaded has afforded McKagan the opportunity to step to the fore, showcasing his song writing, guitar playing and singing.
The release of The Taking marks Loaded’s third full length. Anchored in a gritty, heavy sound the band blasts out of the gate with “Lords of Abbadon”, drummer Isaac Carpenter leading a rhythmic charge with full throttle power and commanding attention. Slamming into” Executioner’s Song”, the band digs deep into the heavy rock structures a la Voivod or Avenge Sevenfold. Guitarist Mike Squires stands out as he lays down a combination darkly foreboding and chunky power chords along with rousingly sculpted solos that burn underneath the band’s rugged foundation.
Expanding, the band delves into arena ready hooks with “Dead Skin”, “We Win” and “Indian Summer”. These melodies float atop a thick harmonic bed of multi tracked power chords keeping the band secured in their metal muscle. “We Win” is a fist thruster carrying a Foo Fighters quality with its hoarsely pained yet pleasant chorus. You can almost here the song churn toward radio play and summer nights with an amphitheater sized Coors Light. “Indian Summer” is another arena winner, chugging along with glossy power chords and an anthemic quality. McKagan talks about searching for the “perfect song” and his penchant for writing big choruses strengthens the band’s ability to juggle multiple dimensions.
Unfortunately, there are a few too many moments when the band simply drags. The bland hard rock of “She’s An Anchor” is one example until Squires resurrects the song with a blistering solo in an intriguing tone. “King of the World” slogs along as well as the band misses the mark in this particular combination of metal power and melody.
Props go out to McKagan for his devotion to making hard rock both for the underground and the mainstream. The Taking is able to walk this line delicately yet successfully combining the tenacity and fire for small clubs but the sonic squall and big hooks for larger venues. These days, McKagan continues to grow in other realms, partnering with a friend to start a financial consulting firm, Meridian Rock. Aiming to help young, successful musicians manage their earnings; this lifer in the industry is as qualified as anyone.