Album review: NEONFLY – Strangers In Paradise plus interview with Frederick Thunder

NEONFLY – Strangers In Paradise

Inner Wound Recordings [Release date 01.12.14]

Neonfly I discovered thanks to a tip-off from Charlie Farrell, a man who knows his way around the metal scene and recommended I got along early to see them supporting the mighty Power Quest. I was suitable impressed and have since seen them live a couple of times since, including supporting Magnum earlier this year and they are just off on a UK jaunt supporting Dragonforce.

This is the band’s second album which they have been creating these past few years and they have upped their game big time.  For a start they have enlisted Dennis Ward to handle production and mixing and they have really opened up their sound, going as far as to include a grandiose instrumental ‘Aztec Gold’ and allows the guitarists Frederick Thunder and Patrick Harrington to trade solos.

Opener ‘Whispered Dreams’ is a masterclass in how to pen catchy melodic metal, with a big chorus and the soaring vocals of Willy Norton. They have a great asset in his vocals as one minute he’s melodic like on this song, then he dons a Rob Halford like menace to his vocals on the excellent ‘Highways To Nowhere’.

‘Better Angels’ is a fast and furious beast, yet never loses sight of the melody and is one of the lead songs off the album. You know sometimes you mishear lyrics in a song? Well on the AOR sounding ‘Rose In Bloom’, the line ‘ooh pictures on a wall’ sounds to me like ‘ooh bitches on a wall’. Possibly my hearing though…

The use of keyboards and orchestral touches really help lift the quality of the songs further, like on ‘Sons Of Liberty’ (love the strings driving the melody along and massed harmonies) and the orchestrations on ‘Aztec Gold’.

Neonfly have produced one of the albums of the year having come on leaps and bounds since their debut album, which was a decent album in itself. The good thing about this album is the music is heavy enough to please power metal fans but not so fast and furious to put off those gentler souls who like melodic rock.  *****

Review by Jason Ritchie

Heart of the Sun

We catch-up with guitarist Frederick Thunder for a few questions…

What have you got planned for the next few months?

Definitely no recording at the moment, we’ll focus primarily on promoting this release for now. The album is coming out on December 1st and on November 20th we will play a special release party headline show in London at the O2 Islington Academy 2. It’ll be full of surprises, and we don’t do headline shows in the UK that often, so you won’t want to miss this one!

We’re hoping to do a full European tour next year to promote this album but nothing is confirmed at the moment, we’ll see what we can come up with. Other than that we have a show in Czech Republic this summer on the Main Stage at Masters of Rock festival, which is a great festival, so that should be really fun!

Could you take us through the excellent new album ‘Strangers In Paradise’ e.g. ideas behind the songs, song writing process

Well, I do most of the writing. I write all the music on my own, and I spent a long time locked up in my room writing this one! Willy writes some of the lyrics, and sometimes I also ask him to come up with a vocal melody. When the song is finished we take it to the rehearsal room, and the guys usually make some suggestions, which I obviously never agree with because, come on… how dare they question me??? But eventually I have to agree to their demands, and possibly realise later, and maybe even admit that they were right after all… and the song is indeed better after said changes.

Lyrically the album isn’t really a concept album, and we talk about different things, but I think behind some of the lyrics there is an idea of struggle, internal or external, which ties in a bit with the title “Strangers In Paradise”. Behind this title there’s the idea of being an outsider to a certain pre-established order and making your way in, having to face resistance from the people who are already on the other side and don’t want to accept any form of change.

This album is a real step up in terms of sound and production with string arrangements, keyboards and so on. Was this a conscious decision by the band to make the sound more grandiose or did the songs naturally progress this way once recording had started?

It was definitely a conscious decision. I’ve always loved huge arrangements and fat sounds and when I was writing this album I definitely wanted to make it sound huge. I also wanted it to be heavier, and this album features both our heaviest and fastest songs to date. But in contrast to that, we also have some really melodic songs and a couple of ballads. So it’s quite varied in fact.

How did you hook-up with Inner Wound and how did Denis Ward become involved in helping produce the album?

Every record label turned us down twice, but Inner Wound only turned us down once so that made them the obvious choice. But jokes aside, Emil the guy behind Inner Wound is a great person to work with and I’m really pleased with our deal. As for Dennis, I’d always been a fan of his productions, particularly the work he did on Angra albums. We met him backstage at Masters of Rock Festival 2012, had a good chat with him and after a few beers he agreed to check out our first album, which he enjoyed, so he got in touch shortly after to tell us he’d love to work on our second album. It was a very easy choice to make for us, we knew he was the right man for the job.

What were the highlights touring with DragonForce and Magnum? Did you ever recover the stolen equipment that went during the Magnum tour?

Getting robbed was definitely not one of the highlights! Unfortunately we didn’t recover any of that equipment, and it wasn’t insured either. We lost a lot on that tour, but we just had to move on. Aside from that, both tours were great, Magnum and Dragonforce band and crew are all great people, both fun to tour with and very supportive. We made a lot of new fans and friends on those 2 tours and it was really exciting to play to crowds that for the most part hadn’t heard of us before, and by the end of our set were head banging to our songs and having a great time. We feed of that energy and send it back to them.

Following lots of touring the UK this year have you seen more interest in the band and is the live scene for rock/metal doing okay at the moment for bands like yourselves?

This year’s definitely been a turning point for us thanks to those 2 tours. We did 33 shows in the UK in total between both tours in the space of 7 months, which by today’s standards is a lot of shows to play in any given country. The reaction by the fans has been really great, we always come out after the show to hang out with the crowd and sign stuff, and we always get a very positive response. Then there’s also a lot of positive feedback on social media.

It’s hard to comment on the live scene though, it may seem easy when you see a band like us getting so many good tours, but the reality is that we work really hard to get those opportunities and as soon as we get back home, we get back to work straight away on getting more tours, festivals, shows, etc. There’s so much competition out there that if you snooze for just one day you could lose an entire season of touring.

Are the band planning to make a video for YouTube (I know there is a lyric only one currently on YT)? Do you see new fans coming discovering the band’s music from watching videos on YouTube?

We will indeed shoot a video very soon, and although I cannot reveal all the details about it yet, I can say that we will be shooting in Cyprus and that there’s going to be a really big and cool surprise in it.

In an ideal world who would the band like to tour with and any festivals you’d love to appear at?

Well I think any band in our genre of music would be lying if they said they wouldn’t want to tour with Iron Maiden. They’re just the greatest metal band, and who wouldn’t dream of playing to the crowds that they play every night on a tour?

As for festivals, the bigger the better! I love to see a sea of people in front of me when I’m playing. That’s what gets me high.

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