Mascot Records [Release Date 29.05.20]
Best known for a long if chequered stint in Whitesnake, before that guitarist Adrian Vandenberg led his own band through three albums in the eighties. Now he has revived the name and iconic logo, though this is a new project with none of the other bandmates involved, hardly surprising as they attempted to sue him for use of the name!
It also means that his comeback band Vandenberg’s Moonkings has been put on ice for a while to assemble a new line up with prolific Chilean singer Ronnie Romero, best known for being recruited by Ritchie Blackmore for his return to heavy rock. The differences in sound between the two are not actually that great though this is a little more in your face and less retro sounding.
The irony is opener ‘Shadows Of The Night’ begins with a classic riff which is pure Blackmore and indeed throughout Adrian’s solos seem influenced by the Man in Black, which is not something I’d previously associated with his playing style. Moreover my other comparison was with Gotthard, whose spin off project Coreleoni boasts yes you guessed it, Ronnie Romero.
‘Freight Train’ trots along at a fair pace with a harder, clinical riff though ‘Hell Or High Water’ has a rather predictable riff that could have come off a Whitesnake, Rainbow or Dio (or Inglorious!) album even though the man his old bandleader referred to as the ‘flying Dutchman’ goes off on another Blackmore-esque solo with loads of twists and turns.
As for Ronnie, he has a powerful set of pipes but with a husky rasp that personally I found a little off putting. To add further irony he sounds like David Coverdale on his latter day recorded works. It is almost as if Adrian finally got to make the balls out rock album that circumstances denied him with Whitesnake.
‘Let It Rain’ takes the pace down a little with Ronnie’s chorus reminding me of the likes of European hard rockers like Bonfire and Fair Warning, while on ‘Shitstorm’ Adrian lets rip with solos more of the rapid fire style I associate with him. However ‘Ride Like The Wind’, ‘Shout’, and ‘Light Up The Sky’, while all perfectly adequate, suffer from over familiar riffs, clichéd lyrics and a general saminess.
Finally some variety comes in the acoustic intro (albeit reminiscent of Bad Company’s ‘Ready For Love’) to a remake of ‘Burning Heart’, which somehow gave them a US top 40 hit back in the early eighties. The band certainly do it justice with a truly superb solo from Adrian full of feeling, but its inclusion does rather highlight the average songwriting elsewhere.
Luckily the best is saved to last with ‘Skyfall’, with more light and shade than hitherto on the album and the chorus carried by a commanding vocal performance from Ronnie.
Despite my initial reservations that it’s rather predictable and unoriginal, the Vandenberg ‘comeback’ is nevertheless an enjoyable album and firmly in the classic tradition of breast beating hard rock. ***3/4
Review by Andy Nathan
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