On the surface, Finland’s Santa Cruz looks similar to countless late ’80s pop metal bands from the USA. And while the band’s overall style is an obvious homage to the era, the sound is different than what might be expected. More of a metallically tinged mutation of Skid Row, Pantera and Avenged Sevenfold, Santa Cruz is heavier and more modern sounding than its look might suggest.

The album kicks of with its most eighties-sounding number “Young Blood Rising,” complete with busy riffs, bad-boy staccato and a chain-gang chorus to tie it all together. While there’s a certain swagger that harkens back to the likes of Skid Row, the modern production and technical guitar solo are heavily Avenged.

Next up, “River Phoenix,” is a loud, driving melodic track that showcases guitarist Johnny Cruz’s deft solo abilities, while “Fire Running Through Our Veins,” is a mix of droning groove – à la Pantera – and big choruses. The power-ballad “Breathe” begins with a nod to Axl Rose with its whistling riff, and a tasteful melody that carries it out of the cliché, making it the album’s the strongest track.

While Bad Blood Rising doesn’t reinvent the wheel, its vast pool of influences makes for an interesting combo of old and new, and goes to show how similar much of this stuff really is – once you peel away the image.

Purchase the album here.

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