THUNDER – Wonder Days

Thunder - Wonder DaysIf there ever will be a world championship in reunions, England’s Thunder will be a contender for the gold medal without trying too damn hard. Thunder was formed in 1989 by singer Danny Bowes, guitarist Luke Morley and drummer Harry James out of the ashes of their former band, the melodic rock / AOR outfit Terraplane. Terraplane released two album in the mid eighties and got some rave reviews in the rock mags, but they never took off (pun intended). The band was completed by Ben Luckhurst (who later became the bassist for Coverdale/Page) and guitarist Ben Matthews and in 1990 they released their debut album, by far still their best, Backstreet Symphony. All the AOR vibes was gone and Thunder was working in a more 70’s hard rock direction that had bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Bad Company and Whitesnake as influences. The album spawned four classic songs in “She’s So Fine”, “Dirty Love”, “Love Walked In” and the title track and Thunder was looked upon as the next mega band from the U.K. But already by 1992, when they released the follow-up, the highly underrated Laughing On Judgement Day, the interest for the band seemed to have worn off a bit. Yes, Thunder were still a damn successful act, but all the pressure of being the next big thing wasn’t as evident anymore. Besides, the musical winds of change had started to blow in from Seattle, US and Thunder’s kind of hard rock was on its way out. But the band had a good career up until their first demise in 1999, by then Thunder had released at total of five albums. However, this was no hiatus, this was a split and the band said that Thunder were no more. But it only took them four years to reunite and in 2003 they released their come back album Shooting At The Sun. The comeback was successful and this time it seemed like Thunder were back for good, but after three more records, the band disbanded once again in 2008, to focus on other things. Again, this wasn’t a band put on ice, but a full-blown split-up, never to return again. Singer Danny Bowes had started to manage bands successfully and was making a good buck, making it economically impossible for him to keep playing with Thunder – at least that’s what he said back then. Luke Morley on the other hand, formed the rock band The Union with a guy named Pete Shoulder and they turned out to be a quite successful unit. Drummer Harry James has been playing drums for Magnum from 2002 – 2005, he went back to Magnum when Thunder split again in 2008 and he is still with them to this day. In 2011, Thunder was offered to reunite for a one-off on the High Voltage Festival and they said yes to the opportunity which lead to Bowes and Morley put on some acoustic performances which lead to Thunder playing a Christmas show back in 2012 which in turn lead to Thunder touring in support to bands like Whitesnake and Journey and all of a sudden Thunder had reunited without them even knowing it. Apparently the boys had so much fun doing this that the reunion now is permanent, so why not record a brand new album, then? Said and done, they started to write songs and now the result is right here before us to enjoy.

To say that Thunder has only released brilliant albums throughout their career would be an understatement. Not that they have released any crappy ones, but too many  of them has fallen under the “forgettable” banner. The first time around, Thunder’s records got more and more uninteresting by each release, but the second time it was the other way around. The band then finished on a good note with the brilliant Bang!, so the band quit on top of their game. That’s why it was interesting to hear where this album would go – and in what direction it would take. Would they try to make another Backstreet Symphony or would they start on a new page? Would they change their sound or would they stay true to the Thunder sound? Would it sound dated or would it have a true Thunder sound, only updated? Let’s push play and find out, shall we? They open the album with the title track and the first impression is that it sounds very much like Thunder, but at the same time it doesn’t. Makes sense? Well, see there is that typical mix of 70’s and 80’s hard rock with a clear blues vibe, but at the same time I hear a lot of Led Zeppelin and the refrain has a lot of melodic rock / AOR in it. However, which way you see it, it’s a brilliant track. “The Thing I Want” on the other hand, is a real classic Thunder track and if you’re a Thunder fan, you’re gonna love this one. I think you’re gonna love it even if you have never heard of Thunder in your whole life – plus, this will be in their live set, I’m sure. “The Rain” is an epic acoustic ballad, very British in style. It’s not a cheesy power ballad at all, more in the vein of early Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin – very good, indeed. “Black Water” has this really cool jazzy and bluesy groove and a killer melody. I’d love to hear this one live, it might not get the crowd jumping up and down but I’m sure it will sound really cool played live. “The Prophet” is a really cool u-turn, I hear Thunder in the song because of Bowes’ lead vocal and Morley’s guitar sound, but the song’s rhythm has a lot of old Sweet in it with an almost Iron Maiden influenced galloping bass and drums. Throw in some early Def Leppard and you’re pretty much there. They take a more pop turn with “Resurrection Day”, a twist I’m not used to hear with Thunder, but they manage to master that kind of music as well. It’s very catchy and has a big hit potential. “Chasing Shadows” is a lot closer to what we’re used to hear from this lot. Heavy 70’s hard rock in the Led Zeppelin and Free tradition. With “Broken” they have a majestic ballad, based on piano, it really touches you in the right place – brilliant piece of work. “When The Music Played” could have been taken straight off their brilliant debut album – a classic groovy, yet very catchy Thunder tune! “Serpentine” is an extremely rhythmic rhythm & blues rocker – I guess we’ll get this in their live set as well. The same goes with the closing track, “I Love The Weekend”, a real party thrasher that will bring the house down – brutal stuff.

If Thunder will split up – forever – again after this album and tour remains to be seen, but I hope to the almighty God of rock ‘n’ roll that they don’t, because with this album, they have recorded their best album since Laughing On Judgement Day. Hell, I’ll take it even further, this is their best album since the classic debut. The band has developed and tried some new things, but they haven’t lost any of what made the classic band. The influences from bands such as Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Free, Humble Pie, Bad company and Deep Purple are still as present as ever, but this time they have thrown an eye on melodic rock and AOR, even though those influences hardly makes this record soft or pop at all. No, the groove and the swing is there and I can guarantee that Thunder will be a brilliant live band when they go on tour. This album is highly recommended for all lovers of classic rock.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)

Tracklist:

1.Wonder Days
2.The Thing I Want
3.The Rain
4.Black Water
5.The Prophet
6.Resurrection Day
7.Chasing Shadows
8.Broken
9.When The Music Played
10.Serpentine
11.I Love The Weekend

One comment on “THUNDER – Wonder Days

  1. Agree Jon that BackStreet Symphony is there best! The title track is awesome. Like you said there 2nd album was good also but they were a few years too late ..too bad ..kick ass band….may have to,check this one out!
    Good review ….

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