Despite the fact that there always seems to be a market for music that taps into adolescent rage and adult urges to rock, it must be difficult to be an up-and-coming hard rock or nü-metal band. Every rock club in every city seems to be able to fill a nightly bill with a band that knows how to pick up a guitar and mic and start wailing. Even with all the hack flotsam and jetsam, plenty are talented, and unless you have an "in" to Korn or Fred Durst or the like, odds are you won't make it.
It certainly helps to have a hook, something that marketers can pick up on and use to make you stand out. For California band Luxt, that hook is having a female lead vocalist, and you'd think that might work. Despite being reminded of fringe bands like Kidneythieves, aside from Evanescence, there really aren't any female-led rock bands in the big leagues at the moment, and unlike Evanescence's Amy Lee, Luxt's Anna Christine would rather kick your teeth in than hit operatic notes. Whereas Lee seems like a pristine goth angel laid over standard rock formulas, Anna Christine matches the swagger and fury of her supporting band as if it were truly her own. That kind of attitude should definitely be an asset on the scene, particularly with teen boys.
More than a gimmick, Christine may or may not have something to prove as a woman, but she sure manages to keep up with the boys. With sultry low end vocals, sweet mid-range singing, and even a throat-shredding scream or two, Christine can sing the angry rock thing as well as any guy out there. Never seeming like a token female or an outsider brought in for effect, she rocks hard with the boys and totally sells it as genuine. When she sings, "How lovely it would be to smash your head against the pavement", you believe it.
Fortunately for Luxt, the band has more up its sleeve than just being a nü-metal band with a ferocious chick at the helm. This self-described "cyber voodoo rock" band is more closely aligned with the likes of Godsmack (for whom Luxt has opened on the road) than the Linkin Parks and Limp Bizkits. The combination of rock chords and metal aggression is tempered by the band's somewhat industrial techno-rock and somewhat goth leanings.
Songs like "American Beast", "How Lovely", "Mary Megaladon", and "Life Is Pain" all have a fairly typical, "meets expectations" sound for a contemporary metal band. Not bad if that's your thing, but not entirely exceptional, other than, of course, the presence of Anna Christine's tough-girl rage. Obviously "Mary Megaladon"'s call-out to Christine as a "Lilith on speed" wouldn't make any sense coming from a cock-rocker, but it wouldn't be out of the ballpark to hear Korn do something like "Life Is Pain"'s celebration of tattoos and body piercing as a life affirmation (especially with the gratuitous chorus of "Yes it hurts, fucker / Yes it hurts, fucker / Yes it hurts / And I love it like it was my mother").
But other tracks on this disc have a somewhat surprising diversity. This is certainly in no small part due to Erie Loch, co-writer of Luxt's material (with Christine), as well as the other lead vocalist. Loch's call-and-response growls, his shouting fills, and even his harmonizing (can guttural shouting truly harmonize? hmmm.) add the vocal depth to these songs, providing a second, deeper range for the lyrics. But Loch also adds to the musical variation as the keyboard player and programmer for the band, adding techno and goth elements with a deft touch. He gives songs like "Infinite", "Nerve", and most especially "Death" a layer of calmer, richer textures, keeping Luxt from being a one-trick pony, like so many other new rock and metal bands out there.
There's no doubt that Luxt is talented. American Beast sounds as good as any major label rock/metal/techno-goth band out there, particularly since this disc was self-produced. In fact, it sounds better than a good many. And there's no doubt that Anna Christine's presence gives Luxt a unique edge (and a marketing angle). The question is, will they be able to cut a path through the competition to get people to listen? Only time will tell, but as they prove with this, their third album, Luxt has the right ingredients to make it happen.