RAINTIMES – Raintimes

First: I recently got the information that Raintime are an Italian death metal band. That’s not the band I’m reviewing here – hence the s after Raintime. I just needed to point that out to avoid any misunderstandings. The band in question here is so far from death metal possible, this band is right on the other side of hard rock. This band is an AOR band. But they are Italian, at least most of the band are. Out of six members, at least three are Italian – drummer Pierpaolo Monti, keyboardist Davide Barbieri and bass player Andrea Gipponi. I’m unsure of the whereabouts of guitarists Iván González (Mexican maybe?) and Sven Larsson (probably Swedish). Lead singer Michael Shotton (Von Groove), however, is Canadian. Monti and Barbieri hails from bands such as Charming Grace, Shining Line and Wheels Of Fire, bands at least I never heard of and Monti says that the main inspiration for this album was the band The Storm, a band with two albums under their belt that features Journey knowns Gregg Rolie, Ross Valory, Steve Smith and Kevin Chalfant. Since I’m not familiar with The Storm at all – which is weird as I love Journey – all I could guess was which genre this album would move in. That also meant that I had no expectations on this album what so ever for a change, something that felt really good.

Opening track “Forever Gone” is a very pop laden AOR track with all that goes with it – it’s smooth, silky, pink n’ fluffy with a gorgeous arrangement and melody that is just addictive. There are Journey influences here but it reminds me more of a band like Alias, to be frank. It’s a damn good track with a very catchy chorus. It’s not a big surprise it’s chosen as the first single. “Make My Day” comes in a mid tempo but still with a really big groove. There’s a Swedish AOR sound all over the track and the refrain hits like a ton of bricks – very, very good. They turn up the tempo for “Don’t Ever Give Up”, a total AOR track that sports a big pop laden chorus that sticks right off the bat. Without a doubt a future single. “Swan” is a big, pompous and over-blown power ballad that holds a melody so huge it’s impossible not to give in to it. In 1990, this tune would probably have shipped this album platinum. Brilliant stuff.

“I Need Tonight” turns over a bit more to melodic rock but the AOR vibes are everywhere and especially the big chorus comes with a great deal of pop. What we also get here is a bit more edge on the guitars and some huge backing vocals layered I don’t know how many times. But it sounds good – damn good. The title track – of both band and album – is just an intermission or an intro (should have opened the album) that leads into “Just A Little Bit More”, an upbeat, pink and fluffy AOR tune with a huge pop twist that holds the Swedish sound. Hell, if I didn’t know any better, I’d put my money on this song being made by a Swedish band. A very good song that catches on fast. Next up is the very slick, soft and cozy ballad “Empty Days”. It’s a very memorable ballad that drips of both sugar and saccharine, almost too much for me. I guess this is a song that could be played as the last dance on any dance place in the world. It’s a good song, though.

“Together As Friends” is an uptempo pop-rocker that’s very radio-friendly complete with one of those ‘whoa whoa whoa’ refrains. I know those have been done millions of times but who gives a crap? This is catchy as hell and just can’t help but to love it. So I love it! A future single, perhaps? The uptempo pop-rock with AOR vibes continues with “Missing Pieces”, a song that’s very smooth and silky, very AOR, very big refrained, very catchy and very, very good. Instead of going out with a bang, Raintimes go the other way – with a laid-back, soft and even silent ballad track. The song is called “I See The Light” and it contains a brilliant arrangement. It’s not catchy as in ‘hitty’ but the main melody is very memorable and it goes more for pure emotion. It’s a damn fine tune and it works very well as a closer.

As you might have guessed by now, this is total AOR complete with big keyboards which are as high in the mix as the guitars, a very slick, polished and glossy sound, big arrangements and of course, great players and a killer singer. To these ears, the sound is very Scandinavian, Swedish in particular and here lies some of the album’s problem. Yes, these guys are brilliant song writers – not one song comes even close to be weak – but there’s a lack of identity that runs throughout this album. Also, the record is a bit too polished for my taste. I have mentioned it before – I really want my AOR to come with a bit of an edge – heavier guitars that are louder than the keyboards, more punch in the drums with a more powerful production. However, the songs here are all so damn good that impossible not to get seduced and if I was only reviewing the tunes, this album is close to the full monty. I would strongly advice any lover of AOR and melodic rock not to miss out on this one.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Forever Gone
2. Make My Day
3. Don’t Ever Give Up
4. Swan
5. I Need Tonight
6. Raintimes
7. Just A Little Bit More
8. Empty Days
9. Together As Friends
10. Missing Piece
11. I See The Light

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