PRIDE OF LIONS – Fearless

pride_of_lions-fearlessWow. This is a band/project I haven’t given any thought in, well, more or less never, to be honest. I mean, I do know of this duo that is former Survivor keyboard player / guitarist Jim Peterik and lead vocalist Toby Hitchcock so a thought or two towards the band must have been going through my mind at some time, but it’s not like this AOR duo has made any impact on me. I received burnt copies of their self titled debut album that came out in 2003 and their second album The Destiny Stone (2004), but even though I didn’t dislike those albums per se, I wasn’t that impressed either. OK AOR but without anything that reached out and grabbed me at all, good but too forgettable is my verdict.  And forgot about them I sure did because I didn’t know that they have released no less than three albums back in 2003 – the debut, The Sound Of Home and Black Ribbons (Voices Of The World) (although it looks like the other two aren’t actual studio albums of original tunes from what I have figured out) and I had no clue what so ever about the fact that this album that I’m about to review is number five in their discography – the live album Live In Belgium (2006) excluded. Their last effort Immortal came out in 2012 – another album I didn’t know existed. Fact is, I thought that the two albums I had were the only two Pride Of Lions had ever made, so there you go. So it turns out that Pride Of Lions are an actual band and not just some side project that Peterik and Hitchcock throws themselves into when they don’t have anything better to do.

Opening track and first single “All I See Is You” was the first track that I heard when I saw the video that pre-dated the release of this album and it really knocked me out right away. It’s a very happy, upbeat and feel-good AOR number – gloomy, pretentious rockers will hate this tune without a doubt – with a huge Survivor feel. The chorus is brilliantly addictive and the whole thing totally breathes optimism. Call me a cheese-lover if you want, but I love this tune! “The Tell” brings a bit of a darker mood in the AOR genre and comes in a Foreigner meets Survivor vibe. The tune isn’t ‘hitty’ in a flirting with radio kind of way but it’s sure memorable – very affable! “In Caricature” is so total AOR that haters of the genre would probably describe it as just that –  a caricature. A big melody, a big chorus, a big pop arrangement and sing-along-ish to the max – catchy as can be – fabulous! “Silent Music” is a soft half-ballad with a groove and this one is total Survivor, a song for all fans of Vital Signs (1984) and When Seconds Count (1986) – Survivor’s finest albums in my opinion. I wouldn’t call the tune silent at all, taciturn maybe. What I will call the tune is great! They rock things up with the title track, AOR on the heavier side with dirtier guitar riffs and double bass drums. It actually leans more towards melodic hard rock than AOR and it suits them well. The refrain, however, is really catchy and it’s one of the finest moments on the album. “Everlasting Love” is a very soft ballad that is on the verge of being too cheesy for comfort, but the dynamics and the pure passion and love from the duo makes it work – good stuff!

“Freedom Of The Night” starts out as another ballad, but the pace speeds up pretty fast which turns the song into a rocking AOR tune with a memorable melody both in verse and chorus – sticky sweet indeed. “The Light In Your Eyes” is a power ballad that keeps an uptempo pace and a Survivor meets Asia type of melody – total 80’s AOR – world-class stuff! They bring out the heavy artillery with the rocking “Rising Up”. It’s still very much AOR but with a kick and a more hard rock attitude. They do the rockier stuff so well and I wish they’d do more of this kind – great song. “The Silence Says It All” is a classic, uptempo AOR stomper that holds a brilliant refrain that sticks right off the bat and it sure could have been a hit back in the days of old. “Faster Than A Prayer” is a Survivor style power ballad in a faster pace and even though it’s a pretty good tune, it’s too much on the saccharine side. A song like that needs to heavy up a notch or three. The same case is to be said of closing power ballad “Unmasking The Mystery”, a song the sounds more like a more AOR-ish version of the cheesy ballads that Chicago did in the 80’s. It doesn’t suck, but it’s too syrupy for me.

Even though the records holds a few mishaps , I must say that I’m impressed and the album is way better than I thought it would be. I know, I have only heard two prior Pride Of Lions albums, but this one is easily the best of them. Jim Peterik’s Survivor past is all over the record which in my book is only positive. For AOR lovers, the smooth, slick, pink and fluffy sound that we get here must be pure Heaven – love it or hate it but this is exactly how AOR should sound as far as I’m concerned. The musical performances by the musicians – Mike Aquino on guitar, Klem Hayes on bass, Ed Breckenfeld on drums, Christian Cullen on keyboards with lead vocalist Hitchcock and vocalist/guitarist/keyboardist Peterik are all superb even though Peterik has a pretty limited voice. If you’re not into AOR then this album is probably a waste of time, but if you are, it would be a big mistake to not at least give it a go.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. All I See Is You!
2. The Tell
3. In Caricature
4. Silent Music
5. Fearless
6. Everlasting Love
7. Freedom Of The Night
8. The Light In Your Eyes
9. Rising Up
10. The Silence Says It All
11. Faster Than A Prayer
12. Unmasking The Mystery