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ESCAPE THE HIVE This Is Gonna Sting

By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Monday, November 27, 2023 @ 9:37 AM

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This Is Gonna Sting

Vanity Music Group - 2023

Having been a huge fan of the 2019 KINGS OF DUST album, when I heard that singer Michael Thomas Beck had a new project coming out, I was immediately interested.

With the advance promotional hype talking about how the band's sound was geared towards the 1970s arena/classic rock style combined with modern production, my personal anticipation grew a little more. Hell, when I noticed that the album has only 8 songs on it, my first thought was, "just like some of those albums from the '70s".

Beck is teamed up in ESCAPE THE HIVE with guitarist Conrad Varela, keyboardist Mike Vars, bassist Paul Williams (Beck and Williams writing together was the impetus behind the band's formation) and former DIRTY LOOKS drummer A.D. Adams.

Of course all this introductory build up has to lead to the music right, so what did I think of the album?

Well, let's start with the opening track "I Can See It". The song has a pretty brief lead in build up before the music comes in rocketing you back with a furious and hard hitting stomp. The drums keep kicking you in the gut and the rest of the song coalesces around that. While I do love Beck's vocals, at first listen I thought his vocal was a bit low in the mix. But it was my ears playing tricks on me because it soon balanced itself out for me and I was then pretty much enraptured with his performance here. And the guitar playing...magnificent. Great throughout the song, but the solo and outro playing was particularly killer.

According to the promo copy, the song "Separate Lives" deals with lost love after a relationship ends. The opening lyrical stanza is pretty much a slow growing piece that focuses mainly on Beck's vocals. But soon the song just explodes in a musical cacophony for the song's chorus. That back and forth tempo switch continues throughout the majority of the song and I like the mix of styles. Conrad Varela's playing during the more uptempo portions of the song is just freaking slamming. But to not credit all the members of ESCAPE THE HIVE for how well this song turned out would be doing all of them a disservice.

On "I've Seen the Future", the lyrical content deals with (as put forth in the promo copy) how history is always repeating itself. Given how I've always loved that quote about "those who don't learn from the past are condemned to repeat it", this song struck a particularly strong chord with me. Musically, the song rocks out pretty much from start to finish. Beck's vocals have a little more of a shaded tone to them compared to the first couple of tracks.

It's kind of ironic (at least to me) that the song "In Between" talks about divisions created by social media in this day and age when you consider the fact that I learned about the album itself coming out via social media in the first place. As for the song, it's a pretty decent track. Started out a bit more measured in tone and delivery but grew into a much harder hitting musical score over the course of the song's running time.

On "It's Not Alright", Beck sings about how you never know what's going on in someone else's head. The music is at first kind of moody and contemplative, slowly delivered. But then you get a more in-your-face delivery before the song explodes into a stunningly involving (and fiery) guitar solo. That more moody tone returns to close out the song and it actually makes for a track that leaves you feeling a bit haunted by the idea where the song or should I say the "story" of the song lyrics might go if they had continued onward.

For fans of THE BEATLES, this might be where you decide to discount any further opinions of mine. I say that because I've never really considered myself much of a fan of the band. Blasphemy, I know. I acknowledge how popular and influential the band is and while there have been songs I've liked from their catalog, I've never been a Beatlemaniac. So ESCAPE THE HIVE's cover of THE BEATLES song "Something" just didn't hold much of a draw for me. Musically, the song is pretty different. The music is "rocked up" by a lot. But, and here's where it gets weird for me, I thought it kind of stepped all over what made the original version so popular. Maybe it lost a sense of subtlety or something going from the "classic" version to this more modern cover, I don't know. But for me, there was something just off with this one for me. But that's soon forgotten for me because the next track, "Watchin' You, Watchin' Me" has a great vibe going for itself. It's got a bold and brassy intro (again, I love how the drum work forms the foundation that everything else builds around for this song). At first, there's a midtempo drive to the music but it still has a lively quick step and it builds up to a far more intense rocker as the song goes on.

The album closing "Roll The Dice" has a rollicking kind of swing to the music. Love the way it combines with the harder delivery from the band at the same time. There's a rhythmic sound here that actually got my feet to tapping along with the music as Beck's vocals soar over the top of the soundtrack. An absolute monster of a track. It's a powerful statement to finish on and it is definitely a song I will find myself playing a lot! "Let it Ride", indeed!

I don't mind saying I was a bit miffed (to say the least) when the KINGS OF DUST project turned out to be a one and done thing. It was such a monstrously good album and singer Michael Thomas Beck was definitely a huge part of what made that album rank in my Top 10 for the year it came out.

But things happen and time marches ever onward...one must adjust. And that's why I am so glad that Beck is back with ESCAPE THE HIVE.

Setting aside my overall lack of interest in that BEATLES cover, the This Is Gonna Sting album lives up to the promise of taking you back to those huge arena shows of the 1970s without sounding dated in the least. Superbly engaging vocals and song lyrics combined with nimble and electrifying music makes for one hell of an entertaining album. ESCAPE THE HIVE has just about everything you could want from a hard rocking band that takes you back to those halcyon days we now refer to as Classic Rock!

4.5 Out Of 5.0

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