RICHIE KOTZEN – Into The Black

RICHIE KOTZEN - Into The Black
  • 7/10
    RICHIE KOTZEN - Into The Black - 7/10


Frontiers Records
Release date: December 8, 2006

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Guitar virtuoso Richie Kotzen is perhaps best known for his Shred guitar instrumental releases he produced through the mighty Shrapnel Records label in the late eighties and early nineties. His classic self-titled debut instrumental album was phenomenal and was released when he was a mere seventeen years old! Since then, Richie went on short, in musician years, stints with Poison and then Mr. Big. All the “band hopping” ended nearly six years ago. After that, Kotzen has become a multi-talented solo artist who quite literally has shed his “shredder” skin and has subsequently fanned out into new directions by creating more Rock and Bluesy releases. With that being said, if you’re looking for Into The Black to be a return to his shredding roots, then you’ll most likely be disappointed. On the other hand, given the chance, you’ll find that Into the Black is filled with some surprisingly strong, mature music, that treads close to Modern Rock with a Blues tinge, accompanied by splashes of impressive guitar work.

This is definitely a solo release in the truest sense, as Kotzen handles everything from writing, arranging, producing, and performing all instruments. The distinguishable cover comes with, surprisingly, one of those ugly parental warning stickers about lyrical content … upon the start up of the disc, the reasoning behind that stamp becomes evident. The opening track, “You Can’t Save Me,” is a song full of angst that is casual in dropping the “F-bomb” several times. The song itself has a very Modern Rock feel to it, and Kotzen puts in a very powerful vocal performance, which is perhaps the single musical attribute that Kotzen has seen the most growth in over the years … vocal delivery.

“Misunderstood” is more upbeat and has that certain commercial appeal that would allow it to do quite well on USA FM radio, as do most of the songs on this ten-track release. This track also includes a small dose of compressed lead guitar, just enough to get a guitar aficionado’s attention … nothing more. On tracks like “Fear” and “Till You Put Me Down,” Kotzen unleashes a bit more on lead and these temporary outbursts should bring a smile to Kotzen fans of old. Otherwise, there’s not a terrible song on the release — it’s just that the formula is consistent throughout: simple rhythms with a Modern Bluesy feel and pinnacles that include short bursts of outstanding lead guitar.

Bottom line, this might not be the heaviest or even the hardest album released this year, and Kotzen might have bid ado to his shredding days years ago, but one thing is certain … Kotzen has grown! As a writer, producer, and perhaps spiritually, Kotzen has matured immensely over the years, and Into The Black is a commendable testament to that growth and maturity!


Written, Arranged, Produced, and Performed – Richie Kotzen


  • Scott Jeslis

    Scott is one of the partners at Metal Express Radio. He handles a lot of Metal Express Radio's public relations, screening of new music and radio scheduling. On occasion, he also does reviews and interviews. He has been a proud member of the Metal Express Radio crew since 2004.

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