My first thought when I saw the reviewer’s download link to this album was: “Dante Fox. Dante Fox. Where have I heard that name before?”. See, I’m not familiar at all with this British AOR / melodic rock band. Then the lights went on. Didn’t Great White used to be called Dante Fox before they became Great White? That’s where I must have heard the name a million years ago. However, this Dante Fox is a totally different beast than the American classic rock band. This Dante Fox was formed way back in 1989 by lead singer Sue Willets and guitarist Tim Manford but it would take them another seven years to make the band complete and release their debut album Under Suspicion and a follow-up, The Fire Within to follow three years later. If the grunge and nu-metal owning the 90’s had anything to do with the fact that Dante Fox didn’t do much until 2007, when they released their third album Under The Seven Skies is anyone’s guess but it would also take them an additional five years to release album # 4, Lost Man’s Ground in 2012.
However, it seems like this band is on a roll now. Their last album Breathless came out last year so it seems like Dante Fox have been on a creative high lately as it’s only been a year since their last album, even though the new record consists of re-recordings (with some new arrangements) from their two first albums. In 2017, Dante Fox have been reduced from a five-piece to a three-piece where Willets, Manford and bass player Alan Mills are the core of the band with Eric Ragno supplying keyboards. And the band is firing (yes, pun intended) on all cylinders with opening track “Firing My Heart”, a pop-laden, soft-rocker that characterizes everything that is AOR. The chorus – actually every little melody and hook – is so catchy it’s ridiculous. So it’s FM-friendly as hell and it sounds as if it’s written with the hope for air-play but so what? A bloody brilliant tune. Another tune that screams HIT! is the following “Lonely”, a mid-paced AOR pearl on the softer side with a refrain so catchy you’ll be singing it forever no matter if you like the song or not. Amazing!
“Under The City Lights” comes with some Def Leppard influenced guitar lines, an astonishing huge AOR refrain that’s more addictive than crack cocaine and some major pop vibes. Brilliant again! The ballad “A Matter Of Time” is up next and it’s not the kind of power ballad you’d might expect from a band like this. This one is slow, laid-back, emotional and a bit bluesy but still with a glossy and slick AOR sound. But yes, it do comes with a very memorable chorus that sticks forever so to call it a kind of power ballad might not be wrong. No matter what you call it, it’s still a fabulous song. “Still Remember Love” is a more groove laden melodic rock song in the AOR vein. It sports a sound that’s equally mid 80’s AOR and early 90’s arena rock with a big and sticky chorus that’s catchier than chlamydia. Awesome! “Remember My Name” (just called “Remember” on The Fire Within) is more melodic hard rock than AOR and comes with a heavier touch and a rockier vibe. The raunchier rock feel breaks out of the whole AOR circle a bit but it’s still catchy as hell. A great tune.
“Lost And Lonely Heart” was the opening track on Under Suspicion and it’s suitable as such but I do find “Firing My Heart” a more accurate opener. But it is an uptempo, straight-forward late 80’s sounding melodic rock / AOR tune with a good live feel. It’s a really good song, however it’s not as direct and hit-laden / radio friendly as the rest of them. “I Can’t Sleep” was originally on Under Suspicion but was also re-recorded for Lost Man’s Ground which means that this is the third time the song was recorded. With its feet back in the late 80’s sound wise, the song brings on a really good groove but at the same time it’s very pink and fluffy with all the AOR elements there are – very memorable hooks here indeed. We get another ballad in “All That I Need”. This one is based on acoustic guitars, it’s pretty quiet and soft, smooth and silky with a big pop vibe and a brilliant arrangement. On top of that, a super-catchy refrain brings the song home and makes it a winner. How awesome. The closing track is called “How Do We Learn About Love” and is an 80’s AOR-pop-rocker in the vein of Fiona, Robin Beck and Pat Benatar, very slick, silky and smooth with yet another one of those awesome chorus we have gotten out fair share of already. A killer track and a superb good-bye for now.
What I wanna know is, how the fluck have I managed to miss out on this band? I mean, they’ve been around since 19-bleeding-89. And they play in a genre I have always loved. I know I would have had become a fan if I’d checked them out earlier because this record floored me right from hello. There’s not one bad song on this album, not even a half-weak one. Sure, they might not be the most original band in the world, but those songs, man. Those songs!! It’s actually unjust that these guys never made it big because, God knows they deserve to have been. The only thing I might object to here is that the production is a bit light-weight. This is AOR at the fullest, but AOR is rock and rock needs guitars. At the front. It also needs drums – heavy drums and without that it becomes a bit too pop and this record would have benefited from a heavier production. Otherwise, no complaints here. It also needs to be mentioned that Sue Willet is a brilliant singer that belongs up among the best in AOR which also adds to the greatness of this record. The 8 is very strong, very close to a 9 – and my next mission is to go back and check out their previous albums. For AOR/melodic rock fans – DO. NOT. MISS!!!
1. Firing My Heart
3. Under The City Lights
4. A Matter Of Time
5. Still Remember Love
6. Remember My Name
7. Lost And Lonely Heart
8. I Can’t Sleep
9. All That I Need
10. How Do We Learn About Love