Sixx:AM – The Heroin Diaries
Record Label: Eleven Seven Music
Release Date: August 21 2007
If there’s one thing that I love and hate at the same time about being a reviewer, it’s people suggesting songs or records to review. On one hand, I have no problem with it, because if someone suggests something to you, they want to know what you think. On the other hand, it can be a problem, because most people fail to realize that I review things on my own, so I review things that I’m personally excited about, more so than take suggestions. There’s also the fact that what someone might suggest may not be something that I enjoy, so I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings. Regardless, however, I do give things a chance, but even then, I don’t really let many people suggest things to me. There’s really one person that I allow to suggest things to me, and that person is my girlfriend Sarah. I’ve reviewed a few records that she loves, but this one came out of nowhere. I was talking to her when I got home from work one day, and she asked me to review Motley Crue bassist’s Nikki Sixx’s first record with side project, Sixx:AM, The Heroin Diaries. I’ve never been a fan of Motley Crue, or Sixx:AM, because it’s never appealed to me. However, this record means a lot to her, and as someone who loves her very much, checking it out really couldn’t hurt. She told me she didn’t want me to buy the record, just to end up not enjoying it, so I decided to listen to a song from it beforehand, to see if I’d go ahead and buy it. The song she recommended to me was first single “Life Is Beautiful.” For a record title like The Heroin Diaries (which is a record to coincide with his book of the same name, which chronicles Sixx’s addiction to heroin in the late 80s), that song title is quite contrasting, but the lyrics have a positive message. Granted, the lyrics are rather cliché, but they’re in the right place. Instrumentally, I wasn’t really floored, either. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the track, but I wasn’t terribly impressed. It’s an average hard-rock/alternative metal track, with a guitar solo thrown in the middle. It’s fun, and it switches things up unexpectedly. This song was a great first impression, either way. It’s enjoyable, so I figured I’d take a look at the whole rest of the record.
Before I dive into the record itself, I must say that I was quite surprised by the entire thing. The first song I listened to “Life is Beautiful” didn’t do much for me, but I was still curious. The record has a lot of variety, but what really steals the show is the overall message. It’s honestly right in the title – The Heroin Diaries. The music itself is nice, but it’s Sixx’s message of overcoming addiction, realizing that there’s more to life than drugs/alcohol, everyone makes mistakes, and life is best enjoyed with people who love you, that really steals the show. Even if you can’t relate to Sixx’s addiction, like myself, there are a few overall themes that everyone can relate to. This is one of those albums that there’s a lot to take from, and the prime example is the song I mentioned earlier “Life Is Beautiful.” The lyrics in this song are what anyone can relate to, along with songs like fifth and sixth tracks “Tomorrow” and “Accidents Can Happen.” This also brings up another point that I’ve been waiting to make – Sixx doesn’t actually sing lead vocals on this record, which isn’t surprising, but I’m pretty sure he wrote the lyrics. So lead vocalist James Michael is the one to represent Sixx’s lyrics. How does he do? Quite well. He’s not great, but he’s enjoyable. However, if there was one thing that I had to say that I didn’t like, it would be his Michael’s vocals a majority of the time. It’s conflicting, because Sixx’s lyrics are very powerful and inspirational, so while I like the lyrics a lot, Michael’s voice is sub-par here. It gets better on the band’s sophomore record, This Is Gonna Hurt, but here it’s a bit rough around the edges.
Opening track “X-Mas In Hell” is honestly one of the strangest songs I’ve ever heard, let alone introductory tracks. It starts off with Michael, although using Sixx’s lyrics, talking about an experience that Sixx had during a random Christmas. Suddenly, the song builds, and a guitar riff from the old Christmas song “Carol of the Bells” shows up, and it turns this little intro into a sweeping track. Keep in mind, it’s only two minutes, and a lot is already going on. I was not sure what to make of this song, because it seems really odd, but it’s really cool. Following track, “Van Nuys,” is a stripped down song, but it has a rather haunting atmosphere to it, which makes it a nice segway track. I mentioned the one-two punch of “Tomorrow” and “Accidents Can Happen,” but both of these songs are great. The latter track is my favorite track on the record, actually; the song is easily the most powerful song on here. It’s sung with such emotion, and Michael’s vocals are actually quite nice here. This song honestly reminds me of an 80s metal ballad, and you don’t hear those much anymore. Following that, there’s an interlude song simply titled “Intermission.” The song is about two minutes, like the intro, and this song also features Michael or Sixx speaking about experiences that Sixx has had. It begins as a piano-driven song, but suddenly, a guitar solo appears out of nowhere, yet it works perfectly. It builds the tension in the track, and it’s great.
The last half of the record, however, is where things do start to slip ever so slightly. Eighth track, “Dead Man’s Ballet,” is actually one of my favorites. It’s brooding, haunting, chilling, but very enjoyable. As a matter of fact, I would say that the mood this record gives off is just that. It’s not creepy or weird, it’s just really dark. If you can handle heavy subject matter, which is what this record is filled of, this is definitely a record for you. Don’t let the 80s hair metal look of this band fool you, either. That’s what really put me off, because Motley Crue is not exactly the most intelligent band out there, and their lyrics aren’t exactly anything memorable. But Sixx really surprised me at how intelligent and emotionally moving it truly is. As the record goes on, as there are five more tracks, it slips slightly, but doesn’t trip and fall, so to speak. Eleventh track “Courtesy Call” is one of those tracks I’m not crazy about. The background of the song has a phone that’s “hung up,” and it’s kind of distracting, because it goes throughout the entire song. I don’t know if it’s adding tension, or what, but it’s just distracting to me. It’s an enjoyable track, but the fact the phone line in the background won’t go away, it’s distracting a little bit. The last two songs, however, are two more highlights. Last track, “Life After Death,” was what I originally thought was a metaphor for being “born again,” but my girlfriend told me that he’s been legally dead four times, so maybe this song is quite literal. But it’s a short little closing track, which ends the way the record started – haunting, menacing, but it closes out nicely.
All in all, this record really surprised me. I listened to the song “Life Is Beautiful” as I mentioned in the beginning, and it didn’t do much for me. I was hoping the record wasn’t going to be full of generic hard-rock songs with solid but cliché lyrics, and you know what? It’s not. It’s anything but that, really. It’s a great record. There are some cliché lyrics, here and there, such as “Pray for Me,” and “Life Is Beautiful,” but that can be overlooked, because these lyrics are relatable. Despite that, a lot of the record is great. Throughout it, there are some spoken word parts in a few songs, like the intro track, the interlude, and a few others throughout the album. It helps to make the record more personal to him, and while that can be a bad thing most of the time (because you want people to relate to your music and connect with it), what he has gone through is something real that many people have dealt with, so the lyrics do connect with people. The “clichéd” songs are the ones with lyrics that everyone can relate to, which is a good thing, especially for someone like myself, who has never gone through that kind of thing. The lyrics are the main focal point of the record, in all honesty. The music itself is really interesting, too, because there’re a lot of pianos, choirs, violins, and keys throughout the record. There is a lot to take from this record, whether it’s theatrical sound that the band combines with hard-rock, or the very personal and moving lyrics from Sixx about his struggles. There’s something here for everyone, even if you can’t relate to a lot of the lyrics. Regardless, I have to thank my girlfriend for suggesting this to me, because I ended up loving this record, so this review is basically for her.