people know Malden native Gary Cherone of Extreme fame (and Van Halen
infamy). What they may not know is that Cherone has been working on
a new musical project since the fall of his tenure with Van Halen.
The idea for the project came about almost by mistake, when Cherone was
experimenting with electronic samples of instruments from a diverse
selection of musical genres, including industrial, jazz and Indian.
He knew he wanted to start another band, and he knew he wanted a greater
challenge than the already proven three-piece band formula. He had a
vision for a group that could combine each of these influences into a
single cohesive album. What he was missing were musicians capable of
bridging the gap between this vision and reality. That reality would
Tribe of Judah.
In an attempt to help bring his songwriting to the next level, Cherone
approached Steve Ferlazzo, an accomplished keyboardist Cherone believed
had the ability to make his ideas a reality. Guitarist Leo Mellace
was then added to the group, bringing his intimate knowledge of music
production. His skills are evident in the quality of recordings that
have come out of his studio, SanctumSound. Once the trio of
songwriters were in place, Cherone turned to some old friends, each known
to be among the most talented in their respective instruments: Pat Badger
on bass and Mike Mangini on drums. Tribe of Judah next set forth on
a several-month project to record some tracks and to see how the music
would translate live. What resulted is an album that would come to
stand out from the pack, pushing the boundaries in a manner rarely seen
from mainstream artists.
The opening track, "Left
for Dead," embodies many of the traits of the entire album.
Driving rhythms carry the listener through a crafted mix of distorted
guitar and electronic sampling. Some tracks are heavy and hip,
others sophisticated and funky. The production is full and layered.
Listeners will notice that there is a lot to hear in these songs.
Tribe of Judah manages to achieve a certain subtlety in an otherwise very
Several tracks deserve special attention, only the first of which in
is a well-placed but otherwise unfortunate forty-two second poem recited
by a small child. While it was a good idea to give listeners' ear a
break before the final three songs, the execution of the idea was flawed.
The poem is not one that most listeners could stand to hear more than of
few times, and as a result it becomes the weakest part of the album.
The album's first single, "Thanks
for Nothing," is heavy and hammering, intermixed with brief
dreamy phrasings before the guitar kicks in. Cherone is bluesy and
reflective, then pleading and angry. Fans of guitar greats like
Eddie Van Halen and Joe Satriani should pay close attention to Mellace's
articulation in the solo. "Ambiguous
Headdress" demonstrates the diversity of influences that
went into the making of this album. Borrowing instrumentation and
vocal stylings from Indian tradition, the track has a world music feel
reminiscent of Sting's 1999 release "Desert Rose." The final and
title track, "Exit
Elvis," is perhaps the most ambitious work on the album.
The track combines jazz, flamenco, world music, and heavy rock. The
introduction to the song is a midnight sultry café-jazz commentary that
showcases Cherone's well-aged voice. "Art is dead," he offers,
"mourn the masterpiece rendering in irrelevance." As the opening
words to the title track and the first words heard when visiting TOJ's
website, evidence suggests that this is the album's main message.
Exit Elvis is both different and thought provoking. Gary Cherone,
Steve Ferlazzo, Leo Mellace, Pat Badger and Mike Mangini have combined to
make one of the best CDs to come out in a long time. Ambitious and
ecumenical, this album is perfect for those looking for a change from
music that fits easily into one genre. Fans of Cherone's previous
work will see real development here. As for those who have either
disliked Cherone's work or are unaware of it, the message is this same:
consider adding Exit Elvis to your CD collection.
To learn more
about Tribe of Judah, visit their website at
*Pictures courtesy of