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Ex-Quiet Riot Guitarist Carlos Cavazo Joins King Kobra on New Album
The ex-Quite Riot axe grinder joins forces with the mighty Carmine Appice on the band's first new record in a decade, "We Are Warriors."
Thanks for your continued support of Michael’s Record Collection. I finally had the chance to talk to someone who performed at the first big rock show I ever attended. That day back in 1984, four bands — all from different countries — played at Legend Valley in the middle of nowhere, Ohio. The third band on the bill that day helped lead heavy metal’s explosion of popularity in the 1980s on the strength of its Metal Health album. Quiet Riot that day was probably the band I was most eager to see, although I was also a big fan of the other three bands that played — Kick Axe, Fastway, and the headliners, the Scorpions.
Guitarist Carlos Cavazo had replaced the legendary Randy Rhoads, who had left Quiet Riot to join Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Randy has the more well-known name, but both guitarists have achieved legendary status.
Cavazo was in Quiet Riot from 1983’s Metal Health through 2001’s Guilty Pleasures. He’s gone on to do many great things since, including a brief stint with Ratt. He recently joined forces with Vanilla Fudge and Cactus drummer Carmine Appice in King Kobra. That band released its first album in a decade yesterday, We Are Warriors. I caught up with Carlos to discuss his career (more on that in the video below) and this great new album by King Kobra.
Let’s get to that story.
King Kobra is back! The 1980s metal band led by legendary Vanilla Fudge and Cactus drummer Carmine Appice just released its sixth studio album — the band’s first in a decade, dating back to 2013’s oddly named King Kobra II — on Cleopatra Records, and it’s a tour de force of heavenly heavy rock.
We Are Warriors sees the return of the band with a new lineup on the guitar side, with original drummer Appice and bassist Johnny Rod joined again by vocalist Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot, Badd Boyz, Shortino), who sings on his third King Kobra record. The new guitarists replacing originals Mick Sweda and David Michael-Philips, are Rowan Robertson (Bang Tango, DC4, ex-Dio), as well as legendary Quiet Riot guitar hero Carlos Cavazo.
Having enjoyed Cavazo’s work in Quiet Riot from 1983’s Metal Health through 2001’s Guilty Pleasures, I was delighted to learn he had joined King Kobra, a band that was also a part of the melodic heavy rock scene back in the mid-to-late 1980s.
“Paul Shortino called me up, and I’ve worked with him a lot in the last couple of years here and there, doing some sessions and things like that,” Cavazo said. “And he said, ‘We’re doing a new King Kobra album, would you be interested in maybe doing a couple of songs?’ I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’ you know, and it ended up they wanted me to do the whole record, so I did that.”
We Are Warriors features 10 new songs on the vinyl release and 12 on the CD and digital versions.
The album opens with “Music is a Piece of Art,” and as a listener you get a massive dose of Appice’s big drum sound right away. It’s a chunky, crunchy opener with loud riffs and it’s presided over by Shortino’s soulful voice. It’s an outstanding tone setter for We Are Warriors. The sound is a bit like a more reserved version of The Winery Dogs crossed with Led Zeppelin.
“Turn Up the Music” is a directive by the band, and this song induces that behavior. Shortino does a bit more self-harmonizing in this one and the guitar is a bit more prevalent than on the opening song. The guitar soloing at the end is top notch.
The tempo steps up a notch, with “Secrets and Lies” being a bit faster than the two songs before it. Low guitar riffs almost provide a third rhythm instrument to go along with Rod’s bass and Appice’s drums. The guitar solos are again a highlight and if you are familiar with Cavazo’s work with Quiet Riot, it’s easy to spot his contributions, of which he said there were many.
“I just put a bunch of solos everywhere and they would use them where they want. But with today’s technology, they can slide them around in different places,” he said. “It was an easy way to record, because this is the first record I ever did in my career where I just did all my recording at home. You know, today’s technology. It’s kind of cool, because you can record at your own pace and record when you want. Half the time I’m recording in my pajamas.”
“Drownin’” is one of the songs Cavazo said he contributed to the album, and it’s loaded with excellent teamwork between the band’s two guitarists.
“I brought in like four songs, and the rest were pretty much written before I joined up,” Cavazo said.
“One More Night” is a driving track that’s heavy on the low end. I’d like to hear the guitar parts a little more prominently in the mix, but that’s a small complaint.
The band then switches things up with a classic power ballad, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “Love Hurts” — which reached widespread success when it was covered by Nazareth in 1975. Interestingly, the band leans on acoustic guitars in the verses. It’s an excellent showcase for Shortino’s voice.
“(Covering the song) was Carmine and Paul’s idea, probably because Paul has the perfect voice for that kind of a song. They had it recorded before I added all my stuff,” Cavazo said. “The middle solo was Rowan and the ending solo was me. Most of the guitar parts — the clean parts were Rowan, the distorted parts were me. I think Rowan might have done some distorted parts, but it was a pretty neat recording. It came out good.”
He’s not wrong. It’s an outstanding cover. It may never replace an iconic version like Nazareth’s, but it’s an enjoyable listen and an interesting interpretation of the song.
“Dance” is another of the songs Cavazo wrote and it’s a heavy monster. Growling, distorted guitar drenches the thick bass line Rod’s laying down, while Appice channels his inner John Bonham, bashing his drum kit like he’s angry with it.
“Darkness” is a bit more bluesy and is a little slower than many of the album’s tracks, settling into a mid-tempo groove. It’s one that will have listeners involuntarily bobbing their heads in time with the rhythm, and it features some searing soloing at the end.
The title track was selected as the album’s first single and serves as an ode to the days when metal and heavy rock bands played up and down the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles (and all of the excesses that went along with that). It was one of Cavazo’s songs that Shortino wrote the lyrics for, and it continues a long line of title tracks the former Quiet Riot guitarist has penned. It also references some of Cavazo’s previous band’s most famous songs.
Come on feel the noise and bang your head
Raise some hell to wake the dead
“One of the songs I brought in for Quiet Riot, ‘Metal Health,’ became a title track. One of the songs I brought in for Ratt became the title track, and one of the songs I wrote for King Kobra became a title track. I guess I'm doing something right,” Cavazo said. And he also co-wrote the title track to Quiet Riot’s Condition Critical, the follow-up to Metal Health.
“We Are Warriors” also has some of the album’s best guitar solo work. The rhythm guitar is sludgy and sounds a bit like something Motley Crue might have recorded back in the day. It adds to the 80s feel of the song, but the production isn’t rooted in that decade.
The last song on the vinyl version is “Drive Like Lightning,” a (no pun intended) driving rock number that would be a fantastic addition to a rock-based road trip playlist. It’s a great closer for the vinyl version because it makes you want to flip it over and start again, which is the sign of a great record.
“Trouble” and “Side by Side” round out the CD and digital versions of the album and both are more than afterthoughts or bonus tracks, fitting in well alongside the 10 songs that came before them. They provide a bit of variety to close out the record, being less straightforward rockers. “Side by Side” is almost (but not quite) a ballad and it’s emerging as one of my favorites.
The songs on We Are Warriors have the 1980s hair metal / melodic rock spirit, while including some heavy blues rock influence a la Led Zeppelin, accentuated by Shortino’s vocals, which are comparable to Richie Kotzen’s. The album should appeal to fans of any melodic heavy rock or metal and possibly to blues rock aficionados.
“I hope that they maybe get the feel that we had an 80s,” Cavazo said. “A lot of the songs have that 80s kind of feel and that’s what we’re about. We’re an 80s band. A lot of the lyrics, especially ‘We Are Warriors’ is (about) how we partied in the 80s, and going to the Rainbow at night and hanging out with all the bands, and getting in trouble.”
While there weren’t any set plans for King Kobra to do live shows at the time I spoke with Cavazo, it is a subject that is being discussed.
“We’re talking about it. Hopefully it’ll happen,” Cavazo said. “I don’t think we would go out there and do some long, drawn-out (tour). We would like to do maybe some festivals, like maybe Rocklahoma, and big festivals — stuff like that. That’d be fun.”
That would, indeed, be fun.
1. Music Is A Piece Of Art
2. Turn Up The Music
3. Secrets And Lies
5. One More Night
6. Love Hurts (Everley Brothers cover)
9. We Are Warriors
10. Drive Like Lightning
11. Trouble [CD only]
12. Side By Side [CD only]
For my full interview with Carlos Cavazo, watch the video below or download/stream Episode 116 of the Michael’s Record Collection podcast. In addition to discussing the new King Kobra record, Carlos talked about his musical beginnings, playing on the Sunset Strip in his pre-Quiet Riot days, joining Quiet Riot (and, later, Ratt), and much more.
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