Melodic/Sleaze Roundup: David A Saylor + Niterain + Black Diamonds + Kingdom

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Reviews by Brian McGowan

Again a look at some of the stuff on the melodic and sleaze rock periphery. Small bands on small labels. All with big ambitions. When you’ve listened to hundreds of demos and independent releases over the years, you fast realise that most haven’t made it onto a major label for one very good reason…they’re simply not good enough. Yet, some slip through the net, and recently the Independent/Minor label charts have been seriously troubled by a batch of new releases, mainly thanks to word of mouth and a thriving, if small, underground music community. We take a look at four of these:

  • David A Saylor – Kiss Of Judas (AOR Blvd)
  • Niterain – Crossfire (Indie)
  • Black Diamonds – Perfect Sin (Indie)
  • Kingdom – Just A Soul

David A Saylor – Kiss Of Judas

American emigrant Saylor sang with UK band Push UK, whose rather good 1980’s demoes got a release as a full album (Strange World) on AOR Blvd Records in 2010. This is Saylor’s second solo release on the same label. There is no doubt that Saylor’s voice fits neatly into the eighties’ AOR/Melodic Rock profile. You’ll be reminded of vocalists like Stan Bush, Jim Jidhed, Freddy Curci and no doubt many others…it has the same timbre and tenor as the celebrated voices that drove power ballads and hook heavy rock songs into the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Surprisingly then, the album opens not with a bang but with an immediate anticlimax…the title track. The only one not written with Saylor’s involvement. It promises much to begin with, but a deflated chorus quickly displaces the verse’s swift pulse and the moment is gone. Fortunately, the album improves dramatically thereafter. The tracks are highly derivative, but it is done well…the Survivor-ish ‘If Only’; the chest beating, Alias like ‘Anna’; the white soul meets pop ‘n’ roll ‘Tonight’ – vividly reminiscent of Brit Boys, Climie Fisher, and ‘True Reflection’, liberally lifted, phrasing included, from Don Henley, circa ‘Building The Perfect Beast’.

Saylor - Kiss of Judas

Anyone with an appetite for eighties AOR will consume this album with relish; anyone else might regret its unavoidably trite after-taste.

6 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Kiss Of Judas
  2. If Only
  3. Ana
  4. Tonight
  5. True Reflections
  6. Now I’m Free
  7. Stand Up And Fight (acoustic)
  8. Strange World (Acoustic)

 

Niterain – Crossfire

Only when you’ve listened a few times to Crossfire do you realise it’s not one 45 minute track that’s delineated by microsecond intervals, but eleven different tracks which only truly divide into separate entities after sufficient focus. It’s so derivative, you’d swear it must be some kind of Eighties’ Bandana Rock covers album. Then you realise you aren’t recognising any of the songs. It exists in a kind of sub Poison, Motley Crue, Warrant pantomime underworld, where convention abounds, everybody knows the plot and audience participation is positively compulsory.

That said, although it lacks the soul emptying irony of Steel Panther, or Reckless Love’s contemporary spin, there’s still something to be said for the album’s loud, leering, LA glam rock style, full of sparks, steam and kinetic energy. And the patient listener, willing to sift through recycled riffs and well worn lyrical themes, might find a few diamonds in the rough. ‘My World’s ringing riff and declamatory chorus mark this song out as a bit special, and the rawer, hard bodied rock of ‘Run Run Run’ edges it toward AC/DC / The Angels territory. Apparently they’ve been going down a storm live. Album number two will be the one to look out for.

NiteRain-Crossfire5 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Bad Girl
  2. Dirty
  3. Make My Day
  4. She Said No
  5. Get Me A Doctor
  6. My World
  7. Run Run Run
  8. Hey Baby
  9. Run For Your Life
  10. Playing The Game
  11. Judgement Day

Black Diamonds – Perfect Sin

Here’s a Swiss Glam/Melodic Rock band with their eyes on the prize. Their grasp isn’t quite the equal of their reach just yet, but they’re getting tantalisingly close with Perfect Sin. Classy mixing desk maestro, Tobias (Europe/Crashdiet/Hardcore Superstar) Lindell has added a studio sheen of sophistication to the band’s high calibre production and musicianship and in places, some high quality songwriting. It’s a recording that’s hard wired into Europe’s Sleaze/Melodic Rock zeitgeist, plushly fitted out with compact choruses, memorably melodic hooks and a driving, urgent tempo to many of the songs. At times their hair sprayed hard rock will remind you of Reckless Love and the criminally underrated Dynazty, (Shot Of Love, Perfect Sin) and at others of the guitar-driven, metallised melodic rock of The La Guns and maybe Cinderella (Take My Life).

What’s often most interesting are the arrangements, where the band frequently use a tried and tested trick – when the tempo of the song drops, the lead guitar picks up the pace, spluttering tunefully all over the chorus like a Chinese firework, or simply going solo, lighting up the darkness with measured bolts of axework lightning. Despite the lazy “sound likes” comments here, the Black Diamonds genuinely seem ready to shake off any obvious comparisons. Maybe if Lindell had also produced, he would have carved out a clearer band identity. Some judicious trimming would have been advisable. When the listening public is conditioned to an industry standard 45 minutes, an album of 15 tracks and 65 minutes duration seems overlong. That said, this band show real promise. One to watch.

7 out of 10

Black Diamonds 2013

Track listing:

  1. The Court
  2. Judgement Day
  3. Shot Of Love
  4. I’ll Be Ok
  5. Take My Life
  6. Hell Boys
  7. Perfect Sin
  8. Hold On
  9. Read My Lips
  10. We Want To Party
  11. Hands Of Destiny
  12. Evil Seeds
  13. Up All Night
  14. Somebody Put Something In My Drink
  15. A Thousand Roses

 

Kingdom – Just A Soul

Fronted by Kelly (Baton Rouge/Blue Murder/John Norum) Keeling, it’s a real sign of the times that Louisiana Rock band, Kingdom, has had to release its album independently. Produced by the talented Kim Roy, the band’s guitarman, it’s an almost undefinable rock music album. Impossible to pigeonhole. Their PR tells us the music is in the classic rock style of Kansas, Styx and Led Zeppelin. And yes, you can hear echoes of all three in Just A Soul, but the truth is this: in recording a “progressive hard rock” album, they’ve created a sound all of their own.

Keeling’s voice – a bit like Steve Perry impersonating Sam Cooke – is now a living, breathing thing. Knowing, nuanced and deeply ingrained by experience, it elevates an ordinary song and lifts the great ones onto another level completely. Roy’s guitarwork, ably supported by the rhythm section of blues band, Balance, and by keyboardist, Jeremy LePretre, is truly extraordinary. Fluid, flexible in one moment, crystalline in its hardness the next.

Opener, ‘One Thing’ and ’Something Great’ have a musical focus and an emotional depth unknown to most bands, in which piano, guitars, keyboards, drums and bass all mesh to create a melodic wall of sound. There’s an almost spiritual dimension, as the two prime elements – Keeling’s wail and Roy’s piercing axework – fuse together, evolving into one compelling piece of music. The album peaks with the title track. A track that intros with an LZ stomp before transitioning to triumphal anthem – a soaring, heavier version of Styx like progrock, fleshed out with orchestral flourishes and Roy’s wiry axework. It switches and sways between those two styles for an ecstatic four and a half minutes. If any young aspiring rock band is looking for inspiration, look no further. Outstanding.

Kingdom 20139 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. One Thing
  2. Something great
  3. Any Chance
  4. Could It Be You
  5. Ambassador Caffery (instrumental)
  6. I’ll Wait
  7. Never Thought
  8. Just A Soul
  9. Mixolydian (instrumental)
  10. Because Of You
  11. Papillon De Nuit
  12. One Thing acoustic (hidden track)
  13. Just A Soul acoustic (hidden track)