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Since their formation in 1985, Extreme has more than earned the name–experiencing extreme success, extreme changes, and overcoming extreme challenges.  With Six, their first full-length album since 2008, the multi-platinum selling artists pay homage to their past but take some extreme risks also.

Often, the opening song sets the tone for an album, and Rise follows this formula.  Recognizable to any fan, this funk driven rocker could have been pulled from 1990’s Pornograffitti.  Guitarist Nuno Bettencourt’s solo is as unhinged as it is technically flawless.  The song is a fitting starting gate statement for Six.  With lyrics credited to the entire band, it is Extreme’s Have a Cigar (Pink Floyd) moment: a band raising a middle-finger to the promise and exploits of success and failure.  “Take a bow to the new king, Ever cool is the fool, never lasting, wanted dead or alive, every king must die,” Gary Cherone growls through the verses.  Extreme is taking a torch to their detractors and reestablishing themselves from the first track.

Both #Rebel and Banshee, sitting at slots 2 and 3, are the grooviest rage anthems ever put to Pro Tools.  Bettencourt and Cherone could have ripped through these songs, but these early singles show surprising restraint.  Extreme knows how to use space, the punch of musical pause.  Both tracks drop into grooves that allow Pat Badger’s bass and Kevin Figueiredo’s drums to deliver the uppercuts with guitars and vocals accentuating.  Not without melody, #Rebel and Banshee, however, are owned by the rhythm section of Badger and Figueiredo.

Extreme is known for their ability to tap into the emotional tug, the honest and universal pull that lyric and longing can produce.  What should have been streaming hits, Other Side of the Rainbow and Small Town Beautiful, unfortunately, are slightly weighed down by overproduction.  Both could have benefited from a lighter touch on the mixing board.  These meticulously structured songs should have been recorded in an empty room with a few good mics. Extreme is a rock band, but, when allowed to, they put together the most cathartic and romantic acoustic songs American music has to offer.  Take these two songs, put some rugs on the floor, light some candles, and we’ll meet you at the top of the charts.

Six, as a complete work, has a structure.  It goes deeper, both musically and thematically, as we make our way down the track list.  By mid-point, we get a lyrical and rhythmic monster: The Mask.  It isn’t just the best song on Six.  It might be the best rock song of 2023.  In all the right ways, Cherone’s vocals have a quiet brutality—a Louisville Slugger to the soul.  “We’re all living and we’re already dead, we’re everything that we need to pretend,” are the words and voice of the post-pandemic world–simply brilliant.  Combine The Mask with the electronic darkness of X Out, and you might think you’re listening to a different band.  You’re not.  You’re witnessing growth.  Maturity.  The tracks might confuse Extreme’s casual fans, but this is the sound of a band moving forward.

If you thought you weren’t going to get your acoustic heart strings yanked, you’d be wrong.  Why Hurricane wasn’t the first single off of Six is a mystery.  It is a song that could live for generations.  As powerful as anything Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles ever wrote, the song will likely be covered by lesser bands two decades from now.  Extreme can and does rock on Six; however, whether they like it or not, they have the emotional spirit of the best 1970s’ singer/songwriters—this stuff is transcendent.  Tear up the stage, yes, but songs like Hurricane are a moment, a rare moment, when music touches us intimately and universally.

Six is Extreme getting back to their roots but taking that reluctant step into the unknown.  It is raw stripped-down rock ‘n roll, but, as you dig deeper, the portrait of a historied band emerges.  You will find depth here.  Extreme has been to the edge.  They’ve risen to heights few of us will know.  On Six, the question is whether they’ve risen again.  And are they, after three decades, still willing to take risks?  The answer is, “yes.”   Extreme might fail, but I’m not sure they care.  With Six, they’ve created something that honors where they have been but arrives where they want to go.  Feet on the ground, safe at home, yet already looking towards that next risk and another perilous leap.

Extreme’s latest release, Six, will be available on June 9th.


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