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Before founding Animal Ion, Anthony Nuccio had a leading role in a production of Rock of Ages. This jukebox musical of 80's pop metal took as its foundational tenet that "Don't Stop Believing" can bring world peace, provided the singer brings his fists to his chest in the time-honored "invisible pull-up" pose. It was an all-out pean to an era of all-out peans, as gloriously unsubtle and macho as the music it was celebrating. Small wonder that Regression, his first album with Animal Ion, is similarly pedal-to-the-metal. Expertly performed, expertly produced, and above all expertly sung by an unusually expressive tenor, Regression is one of the most welcome metal releases in some days. The music is fortunately updated well past the eighties homage of his previous gig - whatever else it is, it isn't corny. Nuccio's voice so clearly evokes the legendary Chris Cornell - and with it, the Zeppelin-esque thunder Cornell himself evoked - that at times the record fits right in with Badmotorfinger-era Soundgarden. This is especially true of opener "Free Yourself" a waltzy groover straight from the nineties that would also work as a modern car commercial. "Free Yourself" is the most accessible song here, but it's indicative of the record's "everybody go-for-it" approach. There's a guitar squeal here, there's a complex drum fill there, a vocal panned hard in the mix somewhere else, and by the end there's a Hammond organ solo from nowhere. Awesome. Cornell famously welded his seventies-era castrati to then-modern rock's grungier, sloppier esthetic to powerful effects. Nuccio applies the same lesson thirty years later. "The Call" welds a plea for reassurance to a 7/4 meter that balances itself between Tool esque riffing and Queensryche style acoustic fingerpicking. The harmonic "Rise" is an excellent blend of Judas Priest and modern metal. Closer "Insane" wields the best elements of Guns N Roses and arena-era Metallica together. Nuccio sings his ass off the entire time. Even the power ballad "Emerald Eyes" could only be made in this era, more emphasis on power than ballad even as it fondly recalls Def Leppard. It's Nuccio's show, but the album is also a valedictory for the excellent musicianship of guest drummers Chris Moore, Chris Dechiara and Kevin Sitaras and Guitarists Matt Roberts, CJ Tywoniak and Connor Engstrom (whomever lets rip the Angus Young pull-offs during the title song "Regression" deserves a drink). The production from Engstrom is especially fabulous. Every nook and cranny is stuffed with the detail of a growling bass, or the air in Nuccio's microphone. Regression is a welcome release for wearers of aqua-net, flannel, and black jeans alike.

-Christopher Alexander, Contributing Writer for 'cokemachineglow: Writing around Music 2005-2015'

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