Album review: A RISING FORCE – Undertow


HighVolMusic [Release Date 07.05.21]

A Rising Force brings together several seasoned Minnesota musicians in a new band. They include guitarist Leni DiMancari, who was an original member of Hericane Alice but is better known, at least to me, as the man who assembles the supporting line up of local and national bands for the legendary Moondance Jam festival and plays in more than one himself.

The majority of those are covers acts but A Rising Force play almost entirely new material. The title track makes a striking opening, albeit a slightly misleading one- with a dark and sinister riff and  drumbeat and chant of ‘hey hey’,  briefly it threatens to be something Marilyn Manson might have performed, but it develops into a reassuringly old school heavy rocker with guitar solos and singer  Mark Westlund proving he can carry a tune and sounding a little like Mr Big’s Eric Martin.

On ‘Love and War’, which is a little more restrained, the vocal comparison that sprung to mind was Tesla’s Jeff Keith and indeed the sound on the latter’s more contemporary mid-2000s comeback ‘Into the Now‘ is as good a reference point as any for the band.

‘Crushed’ though is more AC/DC ish both in its riffery and its ‘Dog Eat Dog’ and ‘Walk All Over You’ lyrics. But on ‘Black Eyed Suzy’ Leni’s guitar sound even has a George Lynch vice, albeit the drier sound of Lynch Mob rather than the sheen of Dokken.

‘Yesterdaze Hell’,  with excerpts from various presidents including Nixon and Reagan (his infamous ‘we begin bombing Russia in five minutes’ gaffe) boasts a fine, intricate guitar solo alongside its lyrical message.

The tough rhythm section of Brian Lorenson and Lane Allen can be easily picked out through the production. If there is a criticism, it would be that most of the songs, though heavy, are a little dry and mid-paced, though ‘War Machine’  is a welcome faster change of pace, Mark’s vocals soaring and a gang-like chant of ‘Rise’.

There is a solitary cover of Warrant’s ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ which is faithfully executed, though it would have been nice to hear more original material especially given a relatively short running time.

The chunky,almost NWOBHM-esque chord progressions of ‘Retribution’ that close the album are the last in a series of killer riffs that punctuate the album.

I sense- at least judging by looking at the festival line-ups stuck in an endless cycle of repeat- that it is harder for a new act in America to break through into a moribund scene dominated by the same established interests. However this accomplished slice of honest to goodness,  traditional American hard rock with the odd modern twist has a good a chance as any.  ****

Review by Andy Nathan

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 12 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at for that week.

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