Johnny O’Neil’s single, “Snake In The Grass,” taken from his Truth or Dare album, begins with a chugging electric guitar riff and a “Hey, hey, hey” chant. O’Neil then puts the song’s title into use by warning us to be beware of snakes in the grass. Consider this song a warning, with teeth.
O’Neil’s song doesn’t explicitly tell us what or who these snakes represent. Obviously, he’s not warning us about literal snakes in the grass, even though one should always take precautionary measures and beware whenever walking in tall grass known to contain snakes. Rather, it’s a popular saying that underlines the hidden dangers in life. These ‘snakes’ could be politicians, or they might be TV evangelists. Whatever they are or whomever they are, these are sneaky little devils. They’re not big and brave enough to strike at us in broad view. Instead, they’ve camouflaged themselves deep within the environment, and are waiting patiently for just the right moment to strike. Sneaky, and dangerous.
Truth or Dare, from O’Neil, is the work of a familiar Minnesota hard rocker, best known for his music with Dare Force. This track also includes an instrumental contribution from Danny Peyronel, the original UFO keyboardist. Sonically, the track has a resemblance to early Guns N’ Roses recordings. It has a menacing vibe too it, much like the feeling one might get whenever walking through areas where snakes are known to hide.
This track, of course has guitar solos. It’s one, though, that brings Slash to mind. Like Slash, O’Neil is a soloist that’s more about creating a memorable feeling, rather than being overly concentrated on showing off fretboard skills. In contrast to many others on the Sunset Strip at the time, that were far more about thrill with speed and dexterity, Slash stood out for his soulful playing. O’Neil reveals an inventiveness in his playing that is so appealing – especially to those that aren’t exactly diehard metalheads. Many listeners don’t want to be awed by fast fingers, the way NASCAR fans are thrilled over fast cars going round and round. Rather, it’s far more gratifying to hear a song where a properly placed instrumental section propels the overall song to a higher level. This is what O’Neil does here.
Yes, “Snake In The Grass” is a bit of a throwback, but it’s a throwback in the best sense of that term. It has a natural warmth that’s missing from too much of today’s metal music. It’s an honest to goodness great rock song. As said before, this kind of music will be appreciated by fans of rock in general, and not just to those that doggedly follow the metal genre. If you love good, hard rock music, and you’re not tied to any particular rock style, this is likely the right song for you.
There are so many snakes in the grass these days, O’Neil’s song is relevant and applicable to multiple situations. Therefore, it’s a song lyric that will apply differently to every listener. Then again, you might just want something that sounds best cranked up loud. It works that way, too.