Steamhammer/SPV [release date: 10.08.18]
‘35’ denotes the number of years that Mad Max have been together. Top marks for endurance. The melodic hard rockers formed in Munster, Germany have waited five years to follow-up 2013’s studio platter, ‘Interceptor’.
Despite the odd moment of early-career prominence, the band have never really sustained a strong presence in the UK. Whilst ‘35’ is a perfectly fine album in its own right, it would be hard to see anything in the collection alone boosting their profile.
Like many euro-melodic/hard rock albums of the genre, the sound is beautifully constructed and the playing and performing (though the vocals can be a bit nasal) is technically top notch. The let down is around the paucity of quality songwriting or stand out tunes to elevate the album from the, well, humdrum, if that’s not too harsh.
The feel of 35 is overtly contemporary. Nothing here to suggest a band harking back to former glories. In fact the production is so tight that it is in danger of squeezing any real freedom out of the music. Decent tunes from their back catalogue like ‘Night of Passion’ and ‘Lonely is the Hunter’ fare well in comparison .
The tracks are a mixture of commercial hooks and anthems with a few moments of finely honed guitar power. There’s an attempt here to make everything hook-laden and hummable. It works to an extent, but fans of the genre might feel that the overall impact is a fraction lightweight.
Best on show is probably the mid-paced, autobiographical ‘Thirty 5’ and ‘Beat Of The Heart’, where guitarist Jürgen Breforth shows off his wares to fine effect. His lead work is exemplary throughout the album and lifts many tracks out of the mundane. Take the blistering, distorted breaks on ‘D.A.M.N.’, where lead singer Michael Voss also lets rip with a few top end histrionics.
Elsewhere, ‘Snowdance’ shows a harder edge, powered by ferocious drumming, and a brief willingness to step outside the formula. Lyrically there’s the usual tales of life in a rock band (‘Rocky Road’) and love on the rocks (’Already Gone’), though ‘False Freedom’ is noteworthy for its critical social commentary. ‘Goodbye to You’ is a pleasant romp and the bonus track, a cover of Dokken’s ‘Paris Is Burning’, is definitely worth a listen.
A decent enough album, solid on technique and style, though without ever approaching the spectacular. ***1/2
Review by Dave Atkinson
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