Album review: GRACE SOLERO – Hundred Years Apart

Wohone Records [Release Date: 30.09.13]

Startling Italian vocalist Grace Solero lends her name to an international band whose second album ‘Hundred Years Apart’ is full of full of passionate vocals, poetic lyrics, crashing chords and steely riffs. It’s a thinly drawn concept album based on what the preface notes calls: ‘the eternal dance of life, love loss, death and rebirth’.

It’s an album that strives for emotional depth without quite having the songs to achieve that goal. The album is a step up for the song writing team of Solero and London based, Californian guitarist Dan Beaulaurier, but it ultimately falls just short of its lofty ambitions because it’s musically too derivative.

There’s a feeling of deja vu on some of the liberally applied quiet/loud dynamics, and while the enveloping sonic textures and layered guitar parts impressively colour several tracks, you can never quite get away from the recycled Edge style riffs and booming hooks that belong to the mid 90’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with bombastic post grunge rock, but it’s probably not the starting point from which to crack the contemporary rock market.

‘Hundred Years Apart’ has interesting songs , different guitar tones that range from the distorted to the ethereal and ripping solo’s, all anchored by the bristling rhythm section of drummer Maurizio Liberato and bassist Bjorn Zetterlund. Grace’s unique vocals – her range stretches from husky rock phrasing to a Bjork style wail and cod operatic highs – could bring feel and emotion to any song, but a combination of lyrical eclecticism and a far too much use of the quiet to loud dynamic compromises the best moments.

She has great range and knows when to hold back for effect, while on other occasions she uses her voice as an additional musical layer. She can be brash and expansive as on the big production,  stop-time chorus of  ‘St Ives’, or contrastingly introspective and vulnerable as on ‘We Don’t Wanna’, though the latter does resolve itself with an anthemic chorus over extravagant cymbal splashes.  ‘The Woman By The River’ distils her oeuvre in a surprising acoustic ballad that gives the album welcome light and shade.

Grace is at her best on bluster of ‘Electro’. The lead single is full of layered guitars, an imposing grungy wall of sound and a booming ascending chorus from a bygone era, but it’s catchy as hell. There’s also deep seated emotion on the epic ‘Unless’, on which her wailing vocal is perfectly framed by Dan’s searing guitar work. There’s contrast too on the tic-toc snare led ‘Circles’, but the chorus is simply overwrought and can’t avoid a dirgy feel in spite of Dan’s best twang guitar efforts.

Grace tries hard to uncover a powerful musical context for some deeply personal songs. The band certainly delivers musically, but the pregnant pauses, stop-time choruses and explosive crashing chords give the album a mid 90’s feel.

Their bombastic cover of ‘Yard Of Blonde Girls’ is snappy, coherent and everything the preceding track isn’t. Grace really gets inside the song and pushes her range to the limit to nail the lyrical sentiment.

The climatic ‘Far Away’ provides the closing couplet that gives the album its title: ‘The Street where you were walking will bring you back to life, A stellar combination a hundred years apart’.  It builds to a suitably climactic finish on the back of Dan’s coruscating guitar line and another impassioned vocal from Grace.

She soars on the emotive ‘Eternal Love’ and finds a suitable resolution to an emotion packed album full of clever guitar triggers, vocal gymnastics and a consistent pounding rhythm section. ‘Hundred Years Apart’ is a big sounding album worthy of Grace’s considerable vocal talents and her band estimable musical ability. It’s an impact album that rocks out belligerently if not always very originally. ***½ 

Review by Pete Feenstra

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