Frontiers [Release date 12.06.20]
Finland’s Smackbound paid their dues playing clubs as a covers’ band. Their debut album, “20/20” is a distillation of all the styles and stuff they performed on stage…with added songwriting. And the songwriting shines brightly. It never quite dazzles, but we hear what made Frontiers sign the band.
The sound is a shrewd, calculated mix of Prog, Melodic Hard Rock and Symphonic Metal, calibrated by a continuous current of electrifying musicianship. The band members are drawn from Wintersun, Stratovarius and Tracedawn.
These guys are real craftsmen, taking their lead from what’s best in metal, combined with cinematic classicism. Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi is a band favourite. It’s the perfect backdrop for classically trained singer (and actress) Netta Laurenne. Her voice, tough and determined – like Doro’s been employing Brian Johnson as a voice coach – cuts to the heart of the music every time.
The songs are powerful and catchy, brimful of melodious workouts and rushing rock crescendos. The first 3 tracks, ‘Wall Of Silence’, ‘Drive It Like You Stole It’ and ‘Run’ have been successfully released as trailer singles over the last few months, scoring several hundred thousand hits on Youtube.
The album’s pivotal track, the slower paced ‘Close To Sober’ reveals a much more dramatic side to the band. It’s a hard rock hymn about dreams capturing the content of our lives. Producer/bassman, Tuomas Ily-Jaskari shows a spine tingling command of orchestral pace and colour, skillfuly marshalling keyboards and white light choirs to create a slightly off kilter, psychological soundscape. And when Laurenne damps down the ferocity of her vocals a little, as she does here, she can sound deliciously soulful.
It’s a terrain that’s well mapped. But underwritten, overcooked material like ‘Those Who Burn’ and ‘Troublemaker’ discover that a hectic, frenzied pace makes it easy to lose your footing. ‘Hey Motherfuckers’ and ‘Date With The Devil’ guide the music safely back onto solid ground. Both tracks, exciting urban rock armed with barbed hooks, stray very fortuitously into Lucia Cifarelli/ KMFDM lite territory. And while the influnces are there, they never truly feel like they’re trying to capture the sounds of other bands, just searching for their own.
Smackbound is one to watch. Of that we are sure. ***
Review by Brian McGowan
The latest Josh Taerk live session was streamed on Sunday 21 November. Next session 12 December. The video above was a Halloween Special, streamed 31 October.
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 GMT, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 31 October 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.
UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020 and 2021 Finalist) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 GMT as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 2 November 2021.
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From 1 December the Featured Albums and Power Play segments will reflect those artists and tracks featured during 2021.
Featured Albums w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 MEMORIA AVENUE Memoria Avenue (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 FANS OF THE DARK Fans Of The Dark (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 HANNAH JAMES & TOBY KUHN Sleeping Spirals (Jigdoll Records)
Power Plays w/c 15 November 2021 (Mon-Fri)
THE FORGOTTEN Interstellar (FiXT Noir)
QUILL Riding Rainbows (indie)
DEAD REYNOLDS Uninspired (The Fort)
CAVALCADE Dreaming About (Golden Robot)
HANNAH ALDRIDGE Sinking (indie)
GREYHAVEN All Candy (Rude Records)
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