THE DEFIANTS – The Defiants

The Defiants STFirst a confession: I have never been much of Danger Danger fan. Not that I think they’re a crap band, they’re not, I think they have written some really good songs and I have had the pleasure of watching them live a couple of times lately and as festival band, they’re killer – perfect party music on a sunny day. But for me, they have always passed as a more glammy, second-rate Bon Jovi. They had the big hair, the flashy clothes and those AOR-ish choruses that made me sing along but never really meant anything. Needless to say, I don’t own any Danger Danger albums. So why bother bringing them up here, one might ask? This is not a Danger Danger review. Well, this record is Danger Danger related – and then some. See, all three members of this little side project have one time or another been a member of Danger Danger. Bruno Ravel, the guy who handles bass duties here is not only the bass player in Danger Danger but also the main song writer and founding member of that band, the singer Paul Laine – if you’re into melodic hard rock in the vein of early Bon Jovi, check out his album Stick It In Your Ear from 1990 – replaced the original singer Ted Poley in 1993 and sang in that band until 2004 when the band reunited with Poley and guitarist, Swedish born Rob Marcello (ex – Ron Keel and currently the guitarist in melodic rockers Laney’s Legion – no relation to former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello what so ever) joined D2 back in 2003 and his only studio work with the band is on their 2009 album Revolve.  Revolve was an ok album that didn’t make much of an impact on me even though style wise it had everything in common with D2’s two first albums, the self-titled one from 1989 and Screw It! (1991), so as a non fan I wasn’t sure about this record – how would it sound? Would it be like a new D2 album under another name? Would I like it all or would it leave me cold? Well, I was pretty sure that I wouldn’t hate it, but there was the slight risk of me finding it uneven and / or mediocre. However, the snippets of songs that the guys leaked pre-release of this album boded really well and they made me real curious of what this little threesome (plus drummer Van Romaine) had come up with outside the world of D2.

Usually I have a problem seeing the point with all those short intros that does nothing for the album – there are too many of them. Those intros should just be part of the opening track and not a song of their own. That’s not the case with “Carillon’s Theme”, this album’s intro. It’s a dramatic and atmospheric piece of music with a Western movie vibe and it actually brings something valid to the table – good job. The first “real” track “Love And Bullets” was the first tune to be released online as a taster and what a taster it is. The first time I heard it, I – let’s quote Warrant’s Jani Lane here – had a smile on my face ten miles wide. This is how you write a real AOR killer. It’s an uptempo pop rocker with an intoxicating melody and a chorus to die for and it actually makes me think of Swedish rockers Treat in the mid 80’s. “When The Lights Go Down” is AOR on the heavier side and leans more towards melodic hard rock than AOR. It makes me think of when Paul Laine fronted Danger Danger style wise – maybe the best song Danger Danger never recorded. A killer melody and a refrain catchier than chlamydia. Close your eyes and turn up “Waiting On A Heartbreak” real loud and you’re back in 1987 right on the spot. For us Swedes who just got cable back then would probably have seen a video of this song on high rotation. The song is pure AOR Heaven! The title “Runaway” might have been used to death by now, but this little pop pearl is nothing but magnificent and have lots of  D2 to it. Why didn’t they write stuff like this to Revolve? “Lil’ Miss Rock ‘N’ Roll” is really old rock ‘n’ roll influenced, still with a nice chunk of AOR over it. Think the soundtrack to the movie Grease, the band Nelson and Paul Laine’s debut solo album in a fine mix and you’re pretty close. Any good? Hell yeah! The song is awesome. “The Last Kiss” starts out really solid with a brilliant verse, but even though the chorus is ok, it won’t lift like I had hoped. Good song, but the weakest so far. “Save Me Tonight”, however,  is monster ballad, the kind that makes the hairs on the arm stand up. It sounds like a mix of Def Leppard, the 1987 version of Whitesnake and Bon Jovi before they turned crap. This, ladies and gents, is how you write a power ballad and in a perfect world, this would be a huge hit. Want a theme song for hot summer days? Say hello to “Take Me Back”. This little AOR gem, with just a touch of D2, will be on my every playlist the for many summers to come. Halle-fuckin’-lujah! With such a great song it would be easy to dip a little with the following one. But The Defiants put “We All Fall Down” there, a tune that would have fitted any Laine-fronted D2 album with a bit of a Bon Jovi influence on top, and the dip is nowhere to be seen (heard) – melodic rock at its best. Next up, monster ballad # 2 – “That’s When I Stop Loving You”, the bastard child of Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” and Whitesnake’s “Is This Love”. You can’t really go wrong with that – and they don’t! The closing track, “Underneath The Stars” – a fine mix of D2, Nelson and Bon Jovi – is like the perfect way to close an album. It’s so catchy and the melodies are really addictive and it makes one just wanna put the record on repeat.

This is how you make an AOR record, peeps. Everything – the melodies, choruses, the production, the attitude, the musicianship – are just awesome. See, it’s not like these guys have invented the wheel again musically and when you’re in a genre like this – AOR – where many acts sounds just the same and many records get dull fast, you need that little extra, that little thing that you just can’t put your finger on, the icing on the cake that can take an AOR album from being mediocre to good to god damned brilliant and The Defiants have that. Oh, and that little thing called identity, that’s what they also have. See, Paul Laine doesn’t sound like anyone else and on this album he delivers like crazy, maybe his best vocal performance ever. Ok, I might exaggerate a little but the man really sounds like a million bucks to me. And then there’s Rob Marcello (Laney’s Legion, Shotgun). The fact that the guy haven’t got the recognition he deserves is close to criminal because he’s really an ace on the axe. His playing is melodic and emotional but still with a brilliant technique and speed and a killer ability to play exactly what the song needs without overdoing it. This is an album where all the components connects and in a time where the majority of all AOR sounds like everything else it’s a blessing to get an album that stands out from the rest. Let’s just hope that this isn’t just another one-off project and that we have a real band on our hands here. Fans of melodic rock and AOR, whatever you do, do not miss this album – for the world!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Intro (Carillon’s Theme)
2. Love And Bullets
3. When The Lights Go Down
4. Waiting On A Heartbreak
5. Runaway
6. Lil’ Miss Rock ‘N ‘Roll
7. Last Kiss
8. Save Me Tonight
9. Take Me Back
10. We All Fall Down
11. That’s When I’ll Stop Loving You
12. Underneath The Stars

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