Debut album from ex Shakra vocalist, Mark Fox and his band. And, shock horror, released on a major…Sony BMG. Tells you something.
Fox’s band comprises Franky Fersino (ex Gotthard), Tony Castel (ex Krokus) and Reto Hirschi (Treekillaz) (me neither). They play melodic hard rock like their lives depend on it. Fox produced with help from Chris (Krokus/Gotthard) Von Rohr and you can hear them aiming for a more expansive sound, only to be confined by the straitjacket of the genre’s limitations. Accordingly, they’ve tweaked it here and there and turned everything up to 11. Where Shakra built their songs on driving riffs, bone dry, sparsely rationed, Fox and Von Rohr fill every space to the point of suffocation.
There are some decent songs here trying to get out – but it’s all a bit claustrophobic, and ends up lacking a real sense of direction..
For a 21st century rock album, it’s lyrically stunted. So there’s not a lot of light. But they make up for that in heat – it smoulders, it burns, and occasionally it ignites. At first listen it has the kind of visceral emotional impact achieved by their previous bands.
We’ll focus on the highpoints and tracks of note. They all lie within a sequence of key tracks forming the core of the album, bookended by two ballads.
The first of those, ‘Nothing Without You’ could be Cinderella circa ’Heartbreak Station’ playing in Bonfire’s backyard, but with more cliched lyrics. Took the last train outta my heart, I can tell you. The second, the acoustic guitar and strings ballad,‘Home Again’, seeks to recreate a Mr Big ‘To Be With You’ or an Extreme ‘More Than Words’ moment, and has an attractive melody. But the flood of lyrical sentimentality, masquerading as true sentiment, turns the romantic aims of the narrative to mush.
Elsewhere, ‘Black Sunday’ quickly builds to a continuous cacophany of beefed up guitars, supported by a beat that consists more of a series of detonations than a regular percussive thump. Fox shows he can mangle his vowels with best of them, howling like some scary blues singer with a story to tell. It’s clearly designed as a Led Zeppelin tribute, but seems out of place here.
‘Flashed’ is a steaming slab of psychedelic blues, recalling sixties innovators, Jefferson Airplane and MC5. It wells up like an oil fire, spewing volcanic riffs and ear splitting noise all over the musical landscape. Album standout, by a wide margin.
Trailing not far behind, ‘Anytime’ reins back the bombast to reveal a Shakra like riff, resolutely – and astutely – resisting the temptation to throw in the kitchen sink. At least until the closing moments, where it grafts on some Zeppelisims and a few chugging, contemporary axe churning moments.
With ‘2012’, Fox and crew prove they can write a decent rock song, but they really need to decide if post modern or classic is their true calling.
Rated 6 out of 10