Writing about heroin is always tricky. The very fact you have something to say risks shrouding substance abuse in glamour and illusion. So anyone who emerges from the ashes of addiction and decides to tell his story is shouldered with a great responsibility: Will it be seen as a cautionary tale, or instead serve as a dark invitation? To Nikki Sixx's credit, he has created an intense album that comes gut-wrenchingly close to the true ugliness of addiction, ripping aside the veil to reveal gory close-ups of needles, paranoia and perverse love not with a woman, but a substance that kills.
The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack is a companion to Sixx's memoir, due out in September, but the music and the book each stands on its own. The memoir contains Sixx's diary entries from 1987, the year that culminated in his near-fatal OD. You'll find the occasional excerpt from the book, spoken by Sixx himself, throughout his musical endeavor. But the main attraction here are the 13 songs, which work together as a whole, 51-minute piece in itself a refreshing change from the singles-driven era in which we live. By turns theatrical, manic, heavy and even hooky, tunes such as "Life Is Beautiful" and "Pray for Me" are heavy rock with both balls and gloss, while the balladry of "Accidents Can Happen" and "Girl with Golden Eyes" examine open wounds instead of romance. Sixx's bandmates vocalist James Michael and guitarist DJ Ashba add their own depth to the songs.
Powerful as it is, The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack probably won't stop many from experimenting with drugs. When someone is filled with enough curiosity and pain to reach for a needle, a song is not going to stop them. But it may give pause to those who have emerged from a habit and find themselves teetering on the edge once again. It's a chilling reminder of what waits at the bottom of the cliff.
Janiss Garza writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.