(Avenue Of Allies)
Review By Woody
It’s been four years since Kurt Vereecke’s Frozen Rain released their debut album which featured lots of guest musicians and turned out to be a popular pure AOR / west coast album. For the follow up Ahead of Time Kurt has assembled a solid line-up of musicians all hailing from Kurt’s native Belgium except for new front man Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One / Paradise Inc). On the album you’ll find Jurgen Vitrier (Keyboards), Vincent De Laat (Bass), Kurt’s Brother Hans Vereecke (Drums) & Rik Priem (Guitars). The album is also mixed by Alessandro Del Vecchio and mastered by the ever popular Dennis Ward.
Kurt and his fellow writers this time have aimed for a more guitar edged album, a tad heavier and grittier than the debut. They have definitely achieved that and I have to say I prefer the stronger sound, but the keyboards are still ever present and melody has not been ditched in favour of power which is refreshing. After a few listens you’ll also pick up some touch’s that will remind you of the debut album, but this is more of a Melodic Hard Rock album.
I thought the debut had some shining moments but I think Ahead of Time is a far stronger overall album. It’s a really cool collection of upbeat melodic rock tunes, with plenty of killer keyboards, head bop inducing melodic guitar riffs and instant enjoyable melodies galore.
The musicianship shown throughout the album is of the highest calibre and some of the guitar and keyboard work is near perfect melodic rock joy. My one reserve on the album is the vocals, now I love Carsten Schulz, especially his work with Evidence one and I enjoy his gritty powerful rock vocal. That said I can’t help musing with every listen how a smoother, lighter rock vocalist may have been a better choice for the front man of the band. On some songs more than others I doubt the compatibility of Cartsen and the Frozen Rain sound. That’s not knocking Carsten’s vocal performance, there are plenty of fine moments from him on this album, and it’s about style not performance. I suppose many could disagree, I know some will definitely prefer the harder grittier edge Carsten brings to the songs. That is my only negative but instrumentally this album is a total melodic rock wet dream, those four years off definitely let the cream rise to the top of the song writing pile.
Opener ‘Believe It Or Not’ sets out the stall for the new sound of the band with heavy handed slap, but the song fails to get going and had me initially doubting the music and voice combination. The next track ‘Forever’ got me re-hooked into the band with its great combination of hook filled Keys and Guitar riffs. It’s an upbeat rocker with a nice energy and is a certified dance floor filler. ‘Breakin’ Out’ has a catchy guitar riff and a killer keyboard driven chorus. Without doubt one of the most immediate tracks on the album, I guarantee the chorus melody will stay with you!
‘We’re Gonna Rock’ has an outstanding guitar riff which is beautifully melodic. The song is instrumentally amazing with a smooth memorable chorus. The albums sole ballad comes from the pen of Kurt’s daughter ‘Too Late’ which has a very 80’s inspired power ballad feeling to it. A pretty decent tune with a memorable guitar riff, if you’re a fan of all those big power ballads from back in the day I’m sure you’ll enjoy this. ‘Turn It On’ is a moody driving rocker with a persistent chorus. Although for me it’s not one of the stronger songs on here.
Slow burner ‘Ahead Of Time’ is Journey-esque especially in the guitars and it does build to a strong chorus. Full force rocker ‘The Last Dance Ain’t Over’ has a storming energy and is a sure fire dance floor filler. It has an instant and catchy chorus coupled with a wondrous keyboard riff and I love the guitar solo on this one. ‘Not At Home’ has a killer guitar riff, very melody driven and reminiscent of the debut. It has a harmony drenched chorus and is one of the most enjoyable tracks.
‘The Way That You’ is an upbeat rocker with a big chorus but I can’t help wondering if this track would have benefitted from a smoother sounding vocalist. The band close out with an instrumental ‘Voodoo Party’ which given the musicianship so far should be pretty good and right enough it is! It contains some wonderful melodic guitar fret board tickling and reminds me of the instrumentals Gerhard Pichler did for Ted Poley’s Melodica outfit.
Ahead Of Time is a perfect album for genre fans to check out I’m sure most will be pleased. In fact I can predict the upbeat melodic rock of Frozen Rain will have listeners seeing dandruff flying around, have their air guitars taking some serious abuse and oh yeah, the ladies dancing around their handbags!
Track Listing: Believe It Or Not / Forever / Breakin’ Out / We’re Gonna Rock / Too Late / Turn It On / Ahead Of Time / The Last Dance Ain’t Over / Not At Home / The Way That You / Voodoo Party
Album Rating: 8/10
Woody’s Essential Track: The Last Dance Ain’t Over
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