When was the last time you ever heard a Russian band that gave you the thoughts: “These guys will make it huge”? Never? Well, to speak the truth, I actually don’t know of that many Russian hard rock bands at all. I do remember Gorky Park, though. Back in 1989, the released their self-titled debut album and under the wings of manager Doc McGhee and with lots of help from both Bon Jovi and the Scorpions, they had a really big shot at making it. That album – and it’s follow-up Moscow Calling (1993) were both great albums but the big break never came and the band is now defunct even though they reunite for occasional gigs every now and then. But besides them? Well, I googled “Russian hard and heavy metal bands” and I got a quite a lot of hits, but of all of those bands that have released albums – 83 of them to be precise – I haven’t heard of a single one of them. Except for Kruiz. But I never liked them. That’s a shame. So when I got the e-mail asking if I wanted to review the debut album from Russian band Strangers, I thought, why not? Sure, the album has been out since May this year and usually, I don’t review albums that has been out for so long but I thought I’d make an exception here just for the hell of it.
The band was founded in 2015 and the members are: Kirill “Fish” Efimov – vocals, Ivan Filinkov and Leonid “Leo” Mikhailov – guitars, Axl Pekov – bass and Sergey “Ser” Vovk on drums and this is what the press release told me about the band and their debut album: “There are some precious moments of your life, when you just see a CD booklet cover and can’t define where this band came from. Is it United States, Great Britain, Germany… or even Russia? Yes, Russia of course… Well, those image of Rockin’ America Almighty grew very dim all through 90’s and 2000’s, but the Legend Of Rock’n’Roll still live forever. And so this legend of eternal life of your favorite music, rock’n’roll (and eternal youth as well) is the cornerstone of all Strangers’ deeds here and now, in 2017. But there’s a feel of Eternal 1987 all over, so when vocalist Fish took a mike with loud’n’proud “I Wanna Be A Rock Star” catchphrase you can do nothing but believe him” — Vsevolod Baronin (music journalist, reviewer,rock-critiс). Sounds interesting enough to me even though I know that most press releases should be taken with a pinch of salt.
The album opens with the title track and leading single and what we’re given here is an uptempo hard rocker that lies somewhere between classic hard rock and NWOBHM of the early 80’s. If the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) ever reached Russia, I’ll leave open for discussion, but it sure sounds as if it is an influence. It’s a really good song that comes with a great hook. “Take Me To L.A.” is more party rock laden with some catchy hooks and driving rhythm. There’s a slight metal groove in it but mostly this tune are more glam/sleaze/pop influenced arena rock. A good track again. “Strange Little Girl” is more of a ballad albeit a heavy one and not in the vein of the US power ballads that were popular in the early 90’s. It sounds more like the ballads British metal bands wrote in 1981 – lots of heaviness but also very catchy. Great tune. “Tell Me Where Is My Home” is a metal infected arena rocker with a very catchy pop chorus that sticks right away. It’s a very good tune that falters some because of the broken english. Shouldn’t that be “Tell Me Where My Home Is”, guys?
“Money Is Just Paper” comes with some classic metal riffing and the tune is an early NWOBHM tune all the way through. Lyrically it leaves quite a lot to be desired but musically, it’s actually really good. “Do What You Love” is a slower paced ballad-like hard rock tune with a metal influence. The main melody is very memorable and the whole late 80’s melodic rock vibe marries fine with the early 80’s heavy metal foundation. “Heavy Rain” is a punchy and ballsy heavy metal influenced hard rock number with a slight German feel – you know German metal from the mid 80’s in general. It’s a very distinct and direct tune and if you don’t like it at first listen you probably won’t like it at all. I quite liked it. “Evil Within” is more of a classic hard rocker that combines both mid 70’s hard rock with 80’s arena rock and a chunk of heavy metal added in the riffs. Very catchy. Closing track “Find Your Way Forever” is a straight-forward rocker with great riffs, a memorable main melody and a very catchy refrain – this just might be the hit song on the album. Very good.
To sum this album up, I must first say that it’s a bit tough to rate. Musically and song wise, there’s not much to complain about. The quality of the songs are pretty high, the guys seems very dedicated and serious about their music and they’re faultless as musicians. But then there’s the rest. The production is way too thin and lacks dynamics at times – it actually sounds like a demo more than an actual release. Is the album even mastered? But where the record falters the most is within the lyrics – the english here is very, very broken. I know that this is a Russian band and that english isn’t their native tongue but it can’t be helped, something needs to be done in that department. This is a band full of potential but they’re not quite there yet – they need a proper producer, a mastering engineer and some help with their lyrics if they want to take their music out of Russia to the rest of the world. The songs get a 7/10 but the rest only gets a 3/10 which leaves the full rating a 5/10. Hopefully the guys will tough it out and correct the mistakes when it’s time for their next album because as I wrote, there are lots of potential here.
2. Take Me To L.A.
3. Strange Little Girl
4. Tell Me Where Is My Home
5. Money Is Just Paper
6. Do What You Love
7. Heavy Rain
8. Evil Within
9. Find Your Way Forever