Back in 1991 a single from a little-known Boston rock band was all over the radio in the UK, and there is no doubt that even today “More Than Words” is a bona fide classic in all senses of the word. When “Hole Hearted” was released as a follow-up I went out and bought ‘Extreme II: Pornograffitti’ and was blown away by the sheer scale and drama contained within. It became a constant companion for many years and is still one I return to today. Their appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in April 1992 was, for me, the highlight of the first part of the show and I still often play the footage which I have on my phone. When they returned with their third album, ‘III Sides to Every Story’, I was surprised it did not receive more attention as it was the perfect follow-on to ‘Pornograffiti’. I heard a few tracks from the next album but had not got around to buying it when I heard that Hagar had left Van Halen only to be replaced by Gary Cherone. At that point I gave up following the band and promptly forgot all about them, although I still returned to the albums I had.
I was aware that Cherone left Van Halen after three years, and that there was even a comeback album, ‘Saudades de Rock’ in 2008, but paid little attention and did not realise the band still contained the core of Cherone (vocals), Nuno Bettencourt (guitar, vocals) and Pat Badger (bass, vocals) (drummer Paul Geary moved into management), and that since their reformation in 2007 they had the same drummer in Kevin Figueiredo. Then earlier this year there were the teasers, and more than 15 years after their last release the band are back with a new album, ‘Six’. Is it as good as the albums I remember from so long ago? I am not sure to be honest, possibly not, but those are classics I played to death, and I have not had the opportunity to drive this album into the ground as I did with them. Does it sound like Extreme? Oh yes, the classic sound is still there as if they have never been away, and we are back into the Nineties. When they were introduced at Wembley by Brian May he said, “possibly more than any other group on this planet, the people that understand exactly what band have been about all these years, and what Freddie was about all these years” and that is still true today. They have the polish, the harmony vocals, the togetherness and it has inspired me to go off to YouTube and watch some of their many live performances and understand that this is truly a worthy follow-up to what they have done before.
That this has been a chart success worldwide is no surprise as many people will always think of them as the band that did that song, but here we find Extreme not just going through the motions but presenting us with a varied album which is a delight from beginning to end. Yes, I would have preferred more metal influences, more crunch from Nuno (surely one of the most under-rated guitarists around), but this album is sheer joy. Let us just hope that its success means we do not have to wait so long for the next one. Also guys, perhaps you might like to come to the bottom of the world and play some gigs? Please? Superb.