Album review: RESTLESS SPIRITS – Second To None

Frontiers [Release date: 12.08.22]

Restless Spirits’ guitarist Tony (Lords Of Black) Hernando’s melodic rock project gains some momentum here, with 4 outstanding singers. 3 of them, Chez Kane, Kent Hilli and Renan Zonta are on the verge of wider recognition. The fourth, Johnny Gioeli, is already well known for fronting Neal (Journey) Schon’s Hardline and Axel Rudi Pell’s band. All 4 contribute 2 or 3 songs each.

Second To None is the ensemble’s second album. Emphatically, it shows the writer’s grasp of melody, his sense of time and place, and his ability to craft a song around it.

Kent Hilli again proves to be something of a find. Having displayed real style and vocal panache on recent solo and Giant albums, he stretches his nearly-as-soulful-as Lou Gramm vocals almost to breaking point on the powerful opener, ‘Need A Li’l White Lie’.

It’s confirmation, if any were needed, that the heart of Hernando’s music on STN takes its beat from the eighties.

The artist with her finger truly on that pulse here is Chez Kane.

‘Hey You’ is the first track to raise its head above the parapet. Kane sings her heart out on this feisty little chunk of poprock, reflecting a range of vocal influences, from the throaty hysterics of Fiona and Vixen, to the controlled power of Ann Wilson.

‘Until The End Of Time’ ups the stakes. If a song is a slice of emotion expressed with words and a good tune, then this song pushes that notion to the limit, echoing the bloodrush of intensity that inhabited so much pop/ rock/ metal in the eighties. In other hands you would conclude it’s way beyond its sell by date, yet a commanding performance from Kane turns it into a triumph of passion over pastiche.

In complete contrast, Zonta’s material goes for an update, trading OTT intensity for a faster, sturdier, more contemporary melodic rock sound, with occasional jazzy undercurrents, embracing just enough aural hooks to capture the past in the present.

You could say that too of the Gioeli material, though his tendency to over emote squeezes the life out of much of his material. Only ‘Too Many’s neat upward gearshift into a tough, swaggering chorus gets us there.

Hernando’s highly polished production moves the music along with an athletes speed and grace, and the finishing line comes all too soon. ****

Review by Brian McGowan

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