Frontiers [Release date 14.02.20]
Few bands are less famous than their producer. Walter Ino, 6 years with Survivor, touring keyboard player with The Babys, and currently holding down lead guitarist spot with The Eagles of Death Metal, produced this self titled debut from Waiting For Monday. And those are mere selections from Ino’s CV. The man is a living, breathing, multi instrumentalist/producer arranger.
The core of the band is vocalist and American Idol finalist, Rudy Cardenas, along with Alaskan guitar man August Zadra, currently lead guitarist in Denis DeYoung’s band. They were recommended to the Frontiers label by Jeff Scott Soto, who perhaps heard something of his own rough hewn melodic rock vocals echo in the voice of Cardenas, (and maybe too, a hint of Kevin Chalfant).
The intensity is almost palpable on most tracks, and the fact that few musical spaces go unfilled can be overpowering at times. It’s most evident on album openers, the very Perry ‘Until The Dawn’ and the resounding ‘End Of A Dream’, where the textures are broad and bold, and thick cut guitar motifs circle perpetually, as if waiting to land.
It probably works best on expansive ballad ‘Shattered lives’, which in true AOR tradition sits in the track 3 position. Ino, Cardenas and August trace the fault lines in human relationships, painting a dramatic, theatrical picture of love lost and hearts broken. August’s rugged axe soloing never gets bogged down in detail. On this track and others, like ‘Inside Her Head’ and (the rather good) ‘One More Round’, he works his way up to the front, flexes his musical muscles, fires off a few volleys, then leaves the stage again to Cardenas. It’s a pattern we come to recognise as we work through the album, even on the simpler, pared back tracks like ‘Right In Front Of You’ and ‘Must Have Been’.
The modernist awakes with ‘Found You Now’. The track cleaves close to piano soul, taking a look over the shoulder at the work of female divas, USA’s Alicia Keys and the UK’s Emilie Sandi, right down to the faux strings in the middle Eight. Ino trowels on layer upon layer of keys, drums and guitars, and it works, but you just wish Cardenas would dial it down a little sometimes.
As a whole the album is maybe just a little too predictable in its familiarity, and finds itself occasionally stranded in a melodic rock cul de sac. That said, it knows how to shake off its genre limitations, and when it does, it is disarmingly impressive. ***1/2
Review by Brian McGowan
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