R.O.C.K – Mirror Ball and Red Lights

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Review by Brian McGowan

Is this a piss take, at the expense of H.E.A.T.?

Finnish rock band, R.O.C.K., is a “project”, comprising Heikki Pöyhiä (Twilightning) on vocals, Sami Leppikangas (Lullacry) on guitar, Toni Paananen (Malpractice, Reversion) on drums, with renowned producer, Anchi Kippo on bass and at the mixing desk. Their debut, ‘Mirror Ball & Red Lights’ starts out like it’s filled to the brim with dance rock and pop metal of unerring simplicity. The Gummi Bears meets Lordi, or at best, a Motley Crue/Backstreet Boys mash up. Lowest common denominator music, artfully crafted, skilfully written, arranged, produced and performed with a knowing wink.

It opens with the pairing of the loud, vacuous, metallised pop and thumping metronomic beats of ’Here Comes The Music’ and ’Dance’. No doubt these tracks will do just what it says on the tin: fill stadium sized dance floors from the Balearics to Baffin Bay, while taking a sideways glance at the European charts this summer. There will be sniggers and sneers from short sighted, small minded critics; there will be wringing of hands from the serious musicians who see their positions undermined by such frivolity.

But such weighty matters are never allowed to influence this R.O.C.K. band, nor are they allowed to

overshadow the band’s desire to entertain and to stir the blood that moves the body. ‘Rock With Me’ and ‘Greatest Love Song’ are over-the-top, precision engineered dance rock anthems, though you’ll feel a growing discomfort with the latter’s sinister turn.

‘Bye Bye’ is almost symphonic in its shifts of tone, tempo and mood, but is largely spoiled by the “amusing” lyrical payoff. And by the time we reach track 6, ‘Counting The Stars‘, it’s unclear if the band’s wordy lyrics are an amateurish attempt at ironic humour or just clumsily written. That uncertainty deflects us from the fact that the music – having metamorphosed from dance rock to something close to melodic metal / symphonic rock – is really rather good.

Elsewhere, ‘No Try Only Do’s powerful power metal chorus is let down by an unfocused verse, while the impressive ‘Venomous’ combines the fervor and fun of the album’s dance rock beginnings with the drama and intensity of the melodic metal sound into which it later evolved.

The four members of R.O.C.K. are undoubtedly a talented bunch, and, some lyrics aside, they prove their versatility as songwriters time after time here, but the album’s lack of structure and cohesion lets it down. Just where they go from here is open to question. An independent producer might be enough to anchor their apparent whimsy, and provide much needed direction. Having done that, they could go places.

Rated 6 out of 10