TONY MILLS – Over My Dead Body

9926141Everybody goes: Who? Yes, Tony Mills is one of those guys in rock that few people know anything about and / or who he is, but if you’re at least a little nerdy, there’s a good chance that you have heard him sing at one point or another. In my book, Tony Mills has always been one of those guys that people really should know about. On the other side, his whereabouts has always been somewhat shadowed, much because of the bands he has been in has never become big acts, despite great musicians and good songs. Also, Mills is one of those singers that you either love or hate. He has a distinct voice, but is on the more falsetto and high-pitched side (think Mark Slaughter, Michael Sweet, Tony Harnell, Mike Matijevic). It works for some, but many find that kind of voice annoying. Tony Mills started his career fronting British AOR rockers Shy, a band whose three first albums Once Bitten, Twice Shy (1983), Brave The Storm (1985) and especially their finest hour (45 minutes…) Excess All Areas (1987) are classics today. The latter really should have broken that band big in 1987, but sometimes things just don’t work logically. Shy’s career more or less died when their record company took them to California in 1989 to record Misspent Youth and they hired top producer Roy Thomas Baker (Queen, Mötley Crüe) who didn’t give a rat’s ass about the band and the album came out sounding horrible, worse than a bad demo. That and the fact that the record company tried to turn them from an AOR band into a L.A. glam / sleaze band to fit in with the times. Mills then left to form the ill-fated Siam, a more progressive band with big Queensrÿche influences. Siam released two albums in the mid 90’s that nobody cared about (it was the 90’s and grunge was the big thing) and he rejoined Shy for a while at the end of the 90’s but left the band for good after the underrated Sunset And Vine (2005). Throughout the years Mills has also been involved in projects like China Blue, Serpentine, State Of Rock and Nergard, if those names ring any bells for you. But the most well-known band Mills has fronted has to be Norwegian melodic hard rockers TNT. Mills replaced Tony Harnell who left the band in 2007 and he sang on three records, The New Territory (2007), Atlantis (2008) and A Farewell To Arms (2010), but unfortunately those albums weren’t up to match the quality that we were used to when it comes to TNT. To be frank, those albums were pure shite. Really, really bad. But what might have passed by unnoticed, even for fans of Shy, Siam and TNT, is that Mills also has a solo career that started back in 2002 and has released eight solo albums including this one. I haven’t heard all of them myself, but albums like Cruiser (2002), Freeway To The Afterlife (2005) and Vital Designs (2008) were all really good records and it’s a shame that those albums doesn’t seem to have reached out to a broader audience. As a solo artist, Mills doesn’t have to listen to anyone but himself and his albums has a tendency to spread a bit, style wise, mixing hard rock, prog and AOR anyway he feels like.

Being a fan of unpredictable, I was hoping that would be the case with his new album as well. When you have a voice like Mills, it doesn’t matter what direction the music is taking, it will sound like Tony Mills no matter what. I didn’t have to hope for long because already in the opening song “Time Won’t Wait”, Mills take us on a ride of unpredictable. I have to admit that the melodies are somewhat forgettable, but the brilliant mix of progressive hard rock and AOR makes the song interesting anyway. “28 Flights” is a really great progressive hard rockers, not a far cry from how Queensrÿche sounds today. Fact is, I started thinking that if Todd LaTorre had passed on becoming Queensrÿche’s new singer when they sacked douchebag Tate, Mills could have been a great replacement as well. “We Should Be On By Now” is pure brilliance, a pompous tune that mixes Queen with both TNT and Shy. It’s an epic track, but still very accessible and catchy. “No Love Lost” is a straight forward melodic rocker that borders to AOR and Mills’ old band Shy comes to mind here. “Gate 21” is a heavy rocker, progressive with clear metal influences and it’s no doubt about Mills would be a great metal singer as well. “My Death” is a progressive metal ballad and I really love the fretless bass here, it makes the song stand out a bit. The fretless is played by none other than Neil Kernon, a guy I have heard little of in recent years, but was known as a producer back in the 80’s and has had bands like Dokken, Queensrÿche and Autograph as his employers. Never a favourite producer of mine, but he sure can play the fretless brilliantly. “Northern Star” is an amazing melodic hard rocker, catchy as hell and a clear single contender. As is “4 In the Morning”, a extremely catchy AOR track that bear traces from both Journey and Toto as well as Shy – easily the most pop song on the record. Mills leaves us with “Free Spirit”, and here we’re talking unpredictable. It’s a really cool track with a massive Queen influence and a dance hall vibe – great stuff.

Lyrically, this is a very personal album for Mills, probably the most personal record he’s ever done and many of the lyrics are about the near fatal incident where heart failure almost cost him his life. “Gate 21”, “My Death”, “4 In The Morning” and “Somewhere In London” are some tracks that clearly were inspired by that. Musically, Mills has recorded his best solo effort to date as well, an album that is only beaten by his first three Shy albums. Mills takes the paths he feels like and never looks back and he deliver on all accounts. But this album has a more progressive flavour than AOR or melodic rock, but of course, he was in Shy twice, for many years both times and that has rubbed off on his song writing. His Queen influences are also quite prominent, but it seems like Queensrÿche are the biggest influence here. I have always thought that Shy were an extremely underrated band and that Tony Mills never got the attention he deserves. I’m also clueless of how those TNT records turned out to be such shite because voice wise, Mills fitted that band like a glove and both Ronni Le Tekro (TNT guitarist) and Tony Mills has big song writing skills. Let’s hope that he will get some attention with this record because it is a brilliant mix of progressive, hard rock and melodic rock / AOR that really should have an audience if marketed right. The least you can do is to give it a shot, music fans out there.

Jon Wilmenius (8/10)


1. Time Won’t Wait
2. 28 Flights
3. We Should Be On By Now
4. No Love Lost
5. Gate 21
6. My Death
7. Bitter Suite
8. Northern Star
9. 4 In The Morning
10. Somewhere In London
11. Free Spirits

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