In a world where music is often treated as a commodity that's outsourced to behind-the-scenes hit makers, Sixx:A.M. are a proverbial breath of fresh air in the form of a kick to the teeth--and that impact is even more stinging on Vol. 2, Prayers For The Blessed. In fact, this collection of songs, which were written and recorded at the same time as Vol. 1, Prayers For The Damned which came out in April, acts as companion piece to the first chapter while simultaneously elevating the band's sound in every area. From the songwriting and musicianship to James Michael's production and mixing and Dj Ashba's captivating artwork, Sixx:A.M. have crafted an album that's as much of a mission statement for the band as it is an impassioned call to arms.
"I've always been a huge fan of double records but I would find that I would never listen to the second half of the second album because either I got too much of that artist in one shot or there would be a lot of fillers. It was important for us to not have either of those things happen," Nikki Sixx responds when asked why these two volumes were released six months apart. "We think there's a lot to absorb on this album and we wanted to make sure that it wasn't overshadowed by one that came before it." Despite having three U.S. Billboard Top 20 albums and a dozen hit singles to their name, this is their most ambitious album to date and conceptually Prayers For The Blessed picks up where its precursor left off as that album's final song "Rise Of The Melancholy Empire" leads into the new album's apocalyptic opener "Barbarians."
"One of the proudest things we’ve done in this band to date is 'Barbarians' because in my mind it's as close to what I would consider to be a perfect heavy song," Ashba explains. "It's full of energy and fun to play and it's also super aggressive and has a message that really sets the tone for the album. It never gives you a chance to catch your breath." According to the band members, that description is apt for all of the songs on Prayers For The Blessed, an album that sees Sixx:A.M. continuing to innovate and evolve their sound. "I think this is the best record we've ever made,” James adds. “It really marks a point where we have discovered who we are as a band, and as musicians we have pushed ourselves so hard over the past ten years to where we are today.”
From the outsider anthem "We Will Not Go Quietly" to the operatic show stopper "Maybe It's Time" and groove-driven, radio-ready rocker "That's Gonna Leave A Scar," Prayers For The Blessed displays the many sides of Sixx:A.M.'s sound, something that the band was able to develop by ramping up the amount of time they spent out on the road. "We really found ourselves onstage and it's influencing the way we write," Sixx admits. "We started focusing on our music not only as songwriters and lyricists but also stayed conscious of what would transfer over live to the audience. It's a very important thing for me personally for the lyrics to be transparent," the author of the The New York Times Bestseller The Heroin Diaries continues. "The problem with being transparent is that everyone can see you...but I think that being vulnerable is the key to connection."
Correspondingly nothing was off limits when it came to Prayers For The Damned and Prayers For The Blessed, whether that meant musical ideas, lyrical confessions or conceptual callbacks. That duality between good and evil has always laid at the core of Sixx:A.M's sound and it's even more evident on this collection of songs. "This band has always found the light within the darkness and I think that's especially evident on this album," Ashba explains. "Collectively we like to pull off the Band-Aid and show somebody's scars and go, 'Hey, we have scars of our own and we're all in this together and there is hope.'" That hopefulness is inherent throughout the album from Ashba's solo performance on "Catacombs" to the group's dynamic cover of Harry Nilsson's "Without You."
Additionally, Prayers For The Blessed wouldn't sound like Sixx:A.M. without Michael's production work which is something that he stepped up on this album so successfully that he managed to inspire his bandmates in the process. "I think from a sound and production perspective, this album marks some very unique and special turning points for me as a producer and mixer," Michael admits, adding that having a larger sonic canvas this time around allowed for more experimentation. "I'm especially excited about the way this album sounds because I accomplished some things on this album that I've been trying to pull off for my entire career." This new level of sonic exploration is especially evident in songs like the expressive "Riot In My Head" which seamlessly fluctuates between orchestrally driven tenderness and explosive choruses in a way that evokes the grandiosity of classic rock acts like Queen.
However more than anything Sixx:A.M. have always been a live act and for that reason they can't wait to get back on the road to finally perform the songs from Prayers For The Damnedand Prayers For The Blessed in front of a frenzied audience. "That's when it all comes together and you start getting goosebumps," James says with excitement in his voice. "For so long we were in a dark studio in Los Angeles making up songs and then here we are a few months later performing them in front of lots of fans. There's no way to describe the emotions involved in that moment and that really is what inspires us to do this," he summarizes. "When you can stand in front of those fans and see them singing these songs back to you, it's indescribable--and that's what motivates us to keep on doing this and continuing to push our sound forward.”