Frontiers [Release date 07.08.20]
If you’re expecting the polished melodic rock sound of Hugo, Journey or The Storm, then look away now. The clue is in the title.
There’s not many sides of Josh Ramos on display here, and the focus is very emphatically on tough as teak blues rock. Joe (Heaven&Earth) Retta features on 4 of the 12 tracks (there are another 7 vocalists spread across the album). Only their pairing on ‘All Over Now’ survives the torqued up guitar turbulence that dominates ‘Today’s The Day’, ‘Same Old Fears’ and ‘Too Good To Be True’. Even Terry (XYZ) Ilous struggles – on ‘Unbroken’ – to swim against a rising tide of guitar flotsam and cluttered arrangements.
It’s only when Danny (Tyketto) Vaughn pops up on ‘Blameless Blue’, and Harry (Harem Scarem) Hess on ‘I’ve Been Waiting’, that the album begins to sound comfortable with itself. Both are framed in doomy guitar arpeggios and darkly atmospheric keyboard swells to begin with, but fairly quickly burst out into the brightness and lightness of brief, and very welcome melodic rock arias.
Tony (TNT) Harnell then picks up the baton with all the confidence of an experienced relay runner on the bluesy ballad ‘Immortal’, skillfully merging his voice with the song’s mix of psychedelic swirls and pugnacious axework.
Of the rest, only the haunting ‘Forefather’, an old time spiritual, really cuts against the album’s grain, with Eric (MrBig) Martin carrying the song’s epic emotional weight, helped along by a gospel choir.
Surprisingly perhaps, there’s only one instrumental, ‘Ceremony’. It’s a mix of the visceral and the expressive, with some moody introspection thrown in. It carries a dazzlingly simple tune, edgy and not obviously lyrical. It would have been good to see a few more like this sprinkled across the album’s heavy grooves and jagged riffs.
A signpost to the way ahead, perhaps. ***
Review by Brian McGowan
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Featured Albums w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 JEFF SCOTT SOTO Wide Awake (In My Dreamland) (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 LAZARUS DREAM Alive (Pride & Joy Music)
14:00-16:00 RONAN FURLONG The King Of Leaves (Thoroughbred Music)
Power Plays w/c 23 November (Mon-Fri)
L.A. GUNS All That You Are (Golden Robot Records)
THE DUST CODA Limbo Man (Earache)
EBBA BERGKVIST & THE FLAT TIRE BAND 68 Twin (indie)
IRON SAVIOR Souleater (AFM Records)
IVY GOLD This Is My Time (indie)
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