Album review: KHYMERA- The Grand Design

Frontiers Records (Release Date 04.12.15)

Khymera have now released four albums under a variety of line ups. I must admit the only one I bought was their 2003 debut which had the ‘production line’  trademarks of too many melodic rock releases- a studio project with star guest vocals phoned in (in that case Kansas’ Steve Walsh) and a series of outside writers’ cast-off songs.

There are now no original members of that line up but seven years after their last album, ‘The Greatest Wonder’,  they are now very much the baby of one of the scene’s go-to songwriters and producers, Pink Cream 69’s Dennis Ward, and this is far more the real deal.

With Dennis taking to the lead singer’s role like a duck to water, in a nutshell it combines the melodic bliss of Journey and the European styled melodic hard rock with strong choruses of the likes of Bonfire, Fair Warning, Brother Firetribe and Dennis’ own band.

After an up-tempo opener in ‘Never Give Up on You’, ‘Tell Me Something’ begins with a piano melody but the sugary AOR chorus is offset by some heavier riffing later in the song, while ‘Say What You Want’ is a powerful semi ballad it is easy to imagine being sung in arenas in the hands of a better known band.

‘I Believe’ resonates with Journey-esque emotion, and the comparisons are, intentionally or otherwise, stoked again with the ‘Ask the Lonely’ keyboard intro to the very Euro sounding ‘A Night to Remember’, and again with the album’s closing ballad ‘Where is the Love’.

There is sufficient variety too with the straight ahead choruses of ‘She’s Got the Love’ followed by ‘Land of Golden Dreams’ with a grandiose feel and Dennis singing in a deeper, bluesier voice, while ‘Streetlight’ after a rather dull intro explodes into life as a powerful ballad .

One of melodic rock’s most prolific contributors Erik Ragno supplies the keyboards, which are in the right balance, with the odd flourish such as the very pompy synth intro to the title track. Moreover Dennis’ own skills as a producer brings the material to life unlike some of the more sterile studio productions in the genre.

Inevitably with such mainstream fare, comparisons sneak in and the closing part of ‘Who’s Foolin Who’ owes much to Queen’s ‘Under Pressure’ while I spent ages trying to place the familiar sounds of the verses of ‘Finally’, alighting on Billy Squier’s ‘In the Dark’.

This is a top class showcase of all that I love about melodic rock which had it been released slightly earlier would surely have found its way into my top five of the year. It’s just a shame this is a studio project which will never be taken on the road.

**** ½

Review by Andy Nathan

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