Album review: GIANT – Shifting Time

GIANT- Shifting Time

Frontiers Records (Release Date 21.01.22)

In the small and incestuous world of melodic rock the release of a new Giant album has caused the liveliest controversy for many years. Their first two albums are widely seen as classics of the genre but their sound was heavily dependent on Dan Huff as singer, lead guitarist and main songwriter. Subsequently long in demand as a Nashville session man and producer, he has given his blessing for the band to continue without him.

If I recall rightly, 2010’s ‘Promised Land’ with Terry Brock singing, and most members of the original band on the songwriting credits, did not attract the same level of controversy, but social media was humming with outrage that the Giant name was now being purloined for a new line up fronted by Perfect Plan singer and huge Giant fan Kent Hilli and a completely different European-based  songwriting team of familiar Frontiers Records house writers, notably keyboard player Alessandro Del Vecchio who divides opinion, so ubiquitous is his work.

John Roth is still on guitar, and two original members remain in bassist Mike Brignardello and Dann’s drummer brother David. Indeed the latter pair share a production credit though the typical Frontiers production with a generic rhythm section pushed to the background makes me sceptical how much influence they actually had.

After an instrumental title track, as if reassure the sceptical this is really a Giant record, the opening riff to ‘Let Our Love Win’ feels like a reprise of one of their old songs (‘Thunder And Lightning’ I think) and the song has the muscular feel of Rainbow or Whitesnake and some shredding from John Roth, though after the bridge a mid-paced chorus is a bit of a letdown.

‘Never Die Young’ has a massive hook and busy production but is not Giant-esque in the slightest- ironic since Dan Huff makes his sole contribution with a fine guitar solo- owing more to the contemporary likes of W.E.T, H.E.A.T. or Eclipse. The same is true of ‘Don’t Say A Word’ with a melodic solo from John and Kent’s vocal delivery even reminding me of Steve Walsh in his Streets days.

It should come as no surprise to his admirers, this writer included, that he sings superbly even if his shtick of starting every song with a ‘who-oh’ tires after a while.  ‘My Breath Away’ is reminiscent of the great songs on Perfect Plan’s ‘Time For A Miracle’ album, his vocals soaring on big bridges and choruses, while ‘Highway Of Love’ is a bluesier hard rocker and closer in style to Giant though perhaps not the strongest of songs.

In a slightly odd pacing, after five rockers, there are then three ballads in the space of four songs. However the first two are worth waiting for: ‘It’s Not Over’ is a perfect, albeit a tad generic, power ballad notably as John produces a sweet solo over a series of ‘ who-oahs’, while ‘Price Of Love’ is pure class with an intro not unlike Giant’s ‘I’ll See You In My Dreams’ and distinctly Foreigner-esque in approach. However ‘Anna Lee’, which reminded me of Work Of Art, will epitomise some peoples frustrations with the album- typical contemporary European AOR, but is it Giant?

The rockers ‘Stand Tall’ and ‘Don’t Wanna Lose You’ come over as a mix of prime time Giant and Red Dawn, lifted above the ordinary by Kent’s gruff, swaggering voice. However he saves his best to last, soaring on the tour de force of ‘I Walk Alone’ with its melodramatic arrangement. It is a fine end to an album which stands in its own right as one of the strongest pieces of work in this over saturated genre.

Indeed I am left thinking the decision to piggyback on the established Giant name was in hindsight a counterproductive mistake. Listen to this ‘blind’ on a white label and it would be hailed as a melodic rock master class which gets better with repeated listens. Yet as it is many will still be unable to give it a fair hearing and look beyond the ‘is it really Giant’ debate.  ****

Review by Andy Nathan

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