Review by Woody
Issa is a new name to the world of melodic rock but this Norwegian beauty has been doing the rounds in the background of the music biz for years, building up a formidable reputation and now she gets her chance to step into the limelight. She has done lots of work for various labels especially in Scandinavia singing on demos. She also intriguingly sang on a lot of Martin Brother’s demos over the years, I wouldn’t mind hearing a few of those songs sang by Issa. Filling Issa’s band are Peter Huss on Guitar, Tim Larsson on Keyboards, Nobby Noberg on Bass & Uli Kusch on Drums, with production duties been fulfilled by Ronny Milianowicz (Saint Deamon).
All the songs here are from outside writers, but I’ve heard that Issa is hoping to contribute more in the song writing department on her follow up. So we get songs contributed by The Martin Brothers/ Nick Workman (VEGA) obviously, Daniel Flores (The Murder Of My Sweet), Soren Kronkvist (Crash The System), Joachim Cans (Hammerfall) & Thomas Vikstrom (Candlemass). Here’s a fun fact for you Issa was originally in place to be the female vocalist on the recent Kiske / Sommerville album before Amanda Sommerville joined the project, thankfully Frontiers showed their faith in Issa’s skill’s and gave her the opportunity for a solo album!
I have to say I really like Issa’s vocals, but I do have a soft spot for female fronted rock bands. Fair enough some female vocalists don’t have the power in their voice for some styles of rock, but in my opinion female vocalist’s tend to be far stronger, have a greater range, be more versatile and whilst lacking in your face oomph they sure make up for it in soaring melodies. There is a warmth to Issa’s vocals that I really took too and her ability to bang out killer hook filled melodies is second to none and sometimes their’s a country-esque vibe to her voice which I really like. Issa is the focal point of this album, regardless of the strength of the songs and the performance of the other musicians, in order for this album to be a success she needed to shine. Issa put’s in a strong and impressive performance and shine she does, this album is bound to tick all the right box’s with Melodic Rock / AOR fans and be welcomed with open arms!
It’s not a standard melodic rock sounding album though, whilst that is what it is essentially, there is a blend of softer melodic metal and symphonic metal thrown into the mix. The album also has some slight goth tinge’s which give’s some songs a real dark vibe. It’s a solid collection of Melodic Rock tunes, which I can’t recommend enough to genre fans. Full of Big Choruses, soaring melodies, killer hooks with excellent musicianship and astounding vocal’s and harmonies! Also this is heavy enough to appeal to heavier rock and metal fans whilst still been melodic enough to keep AOR fans on board!
“Angel’s Crying” is an explosive opener, full of hooks, soaring harmonies and vocals. It’s a driving rocker with some great keyboard work and a gothic tinge - puts me in the mind of Crash the System. Lead track “I’m Alive” has some great keyboards and there is a great build up to an instant and catchy chorus. Great vocal’s from Issa here really draw you into the song. Ballad “Give Me A Sign” doesn’t have an instant impact but I really like the warmth of Issa’s vocal’s on it.
I should have known “River Of Love” was a Martin Brothers song; it has their stamp all over it. First time I heard the album I was totally unaware of the Brothers involvement, even in the PR their presence is strangely omitted. This time though the Brothers are accompanied by VEGA comrade Nick Workman on song writing duties! Probably the most commercial and instant song on the album, also there is no goth or dark vibe is present on this summery slice of feel good rock roll courtesy of the new saviours of melodic rock VEGA! Issa obviously puts her vocal stamp on it and delivers a fantastic performance on a top notch song which she makes her own - prepare to sing along! It’s keyboard heavy, unbelievably chart friendly and is dripping with melodic goodness from every note. With a killer infectious chorus, hook filled keyboards and unforgettable guitar playing the VEGA guys should have kept this one for themselves! Can’t get this one outta my head!
“What Can I Do” is dark and gothic with some symphonic metal style keyboard work. It’s a good showcase for Issa’s vocal ability and I absolutely adore the bombastic keys on this one! “Closer” has a modern / alternative tinge to it and it reminds me of a band called Lambretta, if you like this song I highly recommend you track down Lambretta. “Unbelievable”, I love Issa’s voice on here and its probably her finest performance on the album. It’s a very poppy ballad, puts me in mind of Deacon Street & Crash the System. This would do well in the mainstream charts and I’m sure it would become a stalwart song on The Karaoke Factor, if it was a hit!
“How Will I Know” has some killer in your face keyboards coupled with a driving guitar riff and accompanied by Issa’s emotive vocal style. It has an unforgettable chorus, powerful and highly melodic. Are you ready for another song from the VEGA writing time? Well here you go “As I Live And Breathe” is a chart bothering, insanely catchy and instant slice of melodic rock from the VEGA boys. It has a fantastic melodic guitar riff, strong and powerful with a killer smooth and melodic chorus. As you’d expect from The Martin Brothers this is pure Melodic Rock gold!
“Flying High” is a driving mid-tempo rocker, with a pounding and punchy chorus. It’s very Crash the System but with female vocals obviously, dark and slightly gothic. Ballad “It’s Not Me” has a great memorable chorus and has a really nice drive to it. Issa’s vocals are very country-esque here, the songs not though, with a powerful and pounding rhythm section and heavy guitar riff. “Falling Angel” is a full on rocker with soaring harmonies and a killer chorus. There’s also a great guitar riff and the subtle keyboard brings out the best in every aspect of the song.
Whilst I love the keyboard work on the entire album this is a guitar heavy rock n roll adventure of an album and will appeal to melodic rock fans who want a little more crunch to their music. It’s full of unshakeable melodies and I’m sure this is destined to make many people’s favourite album of the year lists and make Issa the talk of the town. If you’re a fan of female fronted rock in general or Symphonic / Goth metal you should check this album out. Also it’s for fans of Scandi rock and bands akin to Crash The System, Human Temple, Lambretta & All Ends. A fantastic debut album and I’m sure Issa will be around for a long time to come!
Track Listing: Angels Crying / I’m Alive / Give Me A Sign / River Of Love / What Can I Do / Closer / Unbelievable / How Will I Know / As I Live and Breathe / Flying High / It’s Not Me / Falling Angel