I love Ireland. I dunno why because I’ve never been there, but it’s one of those places I MUST visit before I bite the dust. I love the language, I love their music, every time I see a movie that takes place there or I see a picture from there, its landscape and the views are so damn beautiful – and I always get the feeling of warmth and emotion when it comes to its citizens. I dunno, maybe I have a tendency to romanticize things but the thought of Ireland just makes me feel good. And the rock bands. Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, The Answer… well, there must be something in the water there. But one type of genre that, at least to my knowledge, seems quite unusual is Irish’ AOR and Melodic Rock. For some reason, Irish rock music has always been more rootsy and down to earth. So it was quite nice to hear that one of Frontiers’ latest signings, No Hot Ashes, hails from Ireland – and they play Melodic Rock / AOR.
The band was formed way back in 1983 and influenced by bands such as Whitesnake, UFO, Thin Lizzy and Foreigner the band started to build a following but it would take them all the way to 1986 for them to release their debut single “She Drives Me Crazy”. They went out to support bands such as Magnum, Girlschool and Mama’s Boys. Still, it would take them an additional two years before they would be offered a record deal. So in 1988 they finally signed a deal with GWR Records, the home of Motörhead and Girlschool. But failure would strike before an album could be released and when the album still wasn’t ready for release in 1990, the band decided to call it quits. But back in 2013, the guys were offered to do a reunion tribute gig and the guys got the taste back for it and since 2014 they have supported acts such as Aerosmith, Scorpions, UFO and Foreigner – and played festivals like Download and Hard Rock Hell. Frontiers Records took a notice of that, signed the band and finally the band could release an album. Good things come to those who wait, right?
Opener “Come Alive” bodes really well for the rest of the album. It’s a good, steady Pop-rocker with a good flow, an atmosphere and it’s quite easy to hear that this is an 80’s band. Both Foreigner and Journey comes to mind but mostly I think of Aldo Nova’s debut album. A catchy tune that really sticks. Very good. The following “Good To Look Back” is total AOR, uptempo and straight-forward with a slight twist of Country. It’s a pretty catchy tune on the softer side but it also sports a good beat. A good song that doesn’t really reach great. “Satisfied” comes with a Classic Rock swagger, some funkiness and a nice groove. There’s an AOR-laden chorus that brings on the catchiness and to me, this is an obvious single. “Boulders” is an uptempo power ballad, Arena Rock style. It’s rhythmic with a floating sound not a very far cry from Whitesnake’s late 80’s ballads. Yes, I quite like it – very good.
NHA rocks things up with “I’m Back”. It still holds a big chunk of AOR but it’s also quite raunchy if consider which genre it plays in. It holds a distinct refrain that’s very hummable and sticks right off the bat – a good tune. They take a mid-tempo route on the smooth and silky AOR tune “Glow”. To me, it’s a bit too soft and especially the guitars could have been higher in the mix to roughen it up just a little. With a title like that, I wish the tune could do just that – glow! That said, it’s still very catchy and I really dig the chorus. I like it a lot. “Over Again” is total AOR that glances at balladry. It do comes with a nice enough melody but it fails to stick. It’s ok, not more. “Johnny Redhead” is easily the roughest track on the record. A slight Pop vibe has snuck in but it’s an edge and loud rocker with an organ that angers it up a few notches. One of my fave track on this album.
With a treasure chest full of musical pearls that a guy like Rick Springfield owns, I have often wondered when some band / artist would get the idea to cover one of his songs and on this album it has finally happened. The tune is called “Souls” and hails from Springfield’s 1983 album Living In Oz and is a song I have loved long before I actually became a real Springfield-fan. NHA stays pretty true to the original and doesn’t change it around much – which I think is a pity. Sure, it’s a really good cover as it’s such a killer originally but the way I see it, when you make a cover, make it your own, put your own stamp on it. NHA hasn’t done that but it’s impossible not to like the track any way. Closing track “Running Red Lights” is my favorite song on the album. It’s a good, chunky rocker in the AOR vein with the guitars louder in the mix and it comes with a kicking beat. It’s energetic and a bit rowdy and a perfect closer that I think have got the perfect sound for this band – more of this next time, please.
First off, this band is not to be confused with the other No Hot Ashes, a post-pop disco/funk band from Great Britain. With that out of the way, what we have here is a pretty standard Melodic Rock / AOR album that wouldn’t have hurt with a bit more identity. That said, it’s not like NHA are a bunch of copy cats or like the album goes in one ear and out the other, it’s just that I wouldn’t be able to tell it was NHA playing if no one told me it was. Still, the album contains a whole bunch of really good songs and even though there are a few fillers, I can’t find a single bad one. I also find the production a bit too slick and safe – they way I see it, it needs more punch and power. It needs to ROCK more. They are there on a couple of tunes and it’ll be interesting to see what they will come up with in the future because there’s enough potential to sell in this lot. Oh yeah, guys, a video wouldn’t hurt either.
1. Come Alive
2. Good To Look Back
5. I’m Back
7. Over Again
8. Johnny Redhead
10. Running Red Lights