The band name is a bit of a giveaway, but it’s not a bad claim to fame is it? Ari Lehman was indeed the guy who played Jason in the first chapter of the classic Friday The 13th cult horror movies. And after the relative success of his debut dip into the (Crystal Lake) waters of Hard Rock/Metal back in 2013, He’s Back (the man behind the mask…) with another horror themed offering “To Be A Monster”.

Actually, that thinly veiled nod towards the theme from Friday 13th Part VI, links nicely to the fact that there are some comparisons to be drawn with Alice Cooper in the approach Lehmen has to First Jason (you’d almost think I knew what I was doing wouldn’t you?). The songs are a little more simplistic and with more of a 90’s groove element to them than your average Cooper track, but the approach and attitude are apparent. The overall sound reminds me of U.S. Metallers Nevada Beach with the whole sound capped off with vocals that plant themselves admirably between a clean hard rock guise and a Southern-styled Joe Cocker, depending on the style required in that track. There’s a bit of Black Label Society here and there, also some ‘Biker Rock’ elements, plus Ari’s use of keytar gives the whole thing a different air in places. Lehman is actually a classically trained pianist, so the addition of the TSO-esque grand-piano-with-vocals type ballads of ‘Dream Within A Dream’ and ‘Power From The Pain’ is another unexpected twist.

The drums have a strange flat sound and at times and seem a bit too different a style at times to the music on top – there’s a lot of hi-hat and intricate snare work used, when probably the songs would more benefit from a late 80’s minded skin-pounder to drive the tracks forward. I’m not keen on the funk/reggae of ‘Witch Camp’ personally, but this and the Broadway musical edged ‘Better Crazy Than Lazy’ do show a desire to mix things up a tad rather than deliver a straight ahead hard rock album. On that note the album also contains a dance-orientated remix of earlier hard rock track ‘Melodrama’…for some reason (I’m not sure it adds anything, but is a bit of fun I guess) and a dub mix of ‘Witch Camp’ (see previous comment).

But Lehman hasn’t set out to emulate or copy anyone, he’s crafting his own style and the whole thing is much the better for it. It’s not really a style of music I’m particularly keen on – I’d prefer a bit more of a Metal influence to be honest – but that’s just my preference and “To Be A Monster” certainly holds it’s own among anything with a similar musical leanings.

(6/10 Andy Barker)