Album review: KENT HILLI – The Rumble

Frontiers [Release date 18.06.21]

After two albums fronting A Perfect Plan, Kent Hilli has gone solo (helped by wunderkind, Michael Palace, who has arranged and produced), with The Rumble, on which he has written the bulk of the material.

Unsurprisingly, it’s not a million miles away from the Palace sound.

There’s a thin line between homage and pastiche, and Hilli stays just the right side. In fact this is more than pastiche, it is a tribute to the artists who made the radio worth listening to in the eighties, Survivor, Foreigner, Giant, The Storm, and the others who made us seek out the American Heartbeat Compilations that briefly slaked our thirst for new product, and often pointed us toward the next band who would be selling out the world’s stadiums. Signposts showing us the way ahead.

But as much as ‘Cold’, ‘Love Can Last Forever’ and ‘Never Be Mine’ have that “sound” … the sweet keys, the guitar chime, the big choruses, the urgent AOR momentum, there is a drawback … writing and performing in the style of these bands has its limitations. Hilli self identifies as a singer of many voices without one that is truly his own.

Once you accept that this is new material done in the style of Hilli’s recent EP, Juke Box Heroes… covers of the glory days’ Melodic Rock giants, then you can enjoy guessing which page of the AOR Blueprint he has turned to this time.

That’s not to say the song writing isn’t strong. It is. ‘All For Love’, ‘I Can’t Wait’ and ‘Miss Up To No Good’ are muscular AOR songs with sturdy melodies. And there’s so much wannabe here, it makes you smile.

The title track, ‘The Rumble (Never Say Die)’ is a peach. It has the blood of Bickler and Tempest in its veins, and the chorus is a killer . . . there is a thread of Crown Of Thorn’s fabulous ‘Dying For Love’ running through it. If you’re gonna “steal”, steal from the best. ***

Review by Brian McGowan

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