Confession time: When I saw that Burning Rain’s new record had landed in my mail-box, I wasn’t the least intrigued. Why? Well, this band (project?) have never impressed my the least. The fact that their style of music usually is right up my alley – melodic Hard Rock with big influences by bands such as Whitesnake, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin mixed with a more 80’s-laden sound – made it even more clear that this band just wasn’t for me. Their self-titled debut from 1999, Pleasure To Burn (2000) and Epic Obsession (2013) were to my ears both bland and underwhelming where no song really stuck out and everything sounded like every other band in that genre – Burning Rain never lasted at all with me, despite containing great musicians and a damn fine vocalist in Keith St John (Kingdom Come, Montrose, Lynch Mob, Quiet Riot among others) who worked in the school of David Coverdale.
And speaking of fine musicians, St John founded this band with guitarist Doug Aldrich (The Dead Daisies, Revolution Saints, ex- Whitesnake, Dio, Lion, Hurricane, Bad Moon Rising) and other musicians that has been in the group are bassists Ian Mayo (Hericane Alice, Bad Moon Rising, Bangalore Choir) and Sean McNabb (Great White, Quiet Riot, House Of Lords, Montrose, Lynch Mob, XYZ, Dokken, Resurrection Kings) and a drummer like Matt Starr (Ace Frehley, Mr Big, Joe Lynn Turner). Today the the band’s rhythm section consists of bassist Brad Lang (ex- Y&T) and drummer Blas Elias (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, ex- Slaughter). All of this really should speak volumes because no band that could pull over killer musicians like these really should be the least bad which means that with this new record, I put my past experiences with them aside and just treated them as a new band, leaving my mind as open as I possibly could for an as fair review as possible.
The album opens in a heavy and crunchy way with “Revolution”, an in-your-face, fat-riffed rocker with a bluesy swagger and a steady groove. Heavy and raunchy with a kick-ass attitude, the song might not break new ground but who cares? As long as it provides some identity and high quality, I’m game and this tune does exactly that. Was this band always this good? I dunno, but this opener tells me I might be in for a real treat here. The mid-tempoed “Lorelei” comes off as a heavier mix of The Dead Daisies and Whitesnake. A tough and sturdy rhythm section even makes the tune headbang-friendly and my fist goes for the sky instinctively. This is killer stuff! “Nasty Hustle” is a raunchy rocker that’s covered in 70’s sleaze where the Aerosmith influence is all over the track. It holds a dirty grit but still with lots of memorable melodies all over which marries brilliantly with the kick-ass attitude. Very good indeed.
Leading single “Midnight Train” follows and with a striking refrain like this, it’s quite obvious why it was chosen as the first single. It’s not cheesy or Pop by any means but it catches on right away with lots of addictive hooks. That said, it’s a kicking tune, a hard-rocker with an infectious groove and just like on Aldrich’s main-band, The Dead Daisies, Aerosmith is a huge influence here as well. Lang’s meaty bass-lines and Elias’ chunky rhythm makes the tune a swinger which will make every crowd move. A winner! With “Shelter” it’s ballad time. Acoustically laden, it’s laid-back with an earthy, soothing vibe, still with a big groove. The refrain goes more raunchy when the electric guitars joins in and the mix of Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith makes this a more 70’s Rock ballad than a power ballad from the 80’s. Without being the least sugary or radio-friendly, this is single-material to me. Awesome!
The title-track and latest single is another big-grooved stomper with a distinct punch and hooks everywhere. It holds a bluesy touch in a late 70’s/early 80’s way and a chorus that grabs a holds by first listen – a really good track. “Beautiful Road” is a heavy, 70’s smelling Led Zeppelin influenced groover, stompy and swinging in a way the late 80’s Whitesnake did it. Good stuff. “Hit And Run” starts out with a swampy blues lick, raunchy and chunky but turns heavy with a kicking groove. It’s a riff-happy piece with a meaty rhythm and a refrain that’s catchy without being hit-friendly. It also brings on a somewhat grungy vibe where – and hold on to something now, please – traces of Nickelback shows up. Some of you might cringe to that information but I think it’s awesome.
Ballad # 2 is called “If It’s Love” and is easiest described as a more upbeat version of Whitensnake’s “Is This Love” with a bluesier vibe. St John’s best Coverdale-impression makes the tune even Whitesnakeier but that said, it’s not a clone we’re talking about. The tune holds a feel-good flow, it’s smooth but not cheesy and the refrain is superb – very good. “Hideaway” is a swinging pop-rock groover with a big 70’s feel, a funky rhythm, danceable and rhythmic with both a bluesy vibe and a tiny nod towards disco, the way Rolling Stones approaches it – a very contagious and catchy thing. Closing track “Since I’m Loving You” brings on a fat, Led Zep influenced groove complete with a rowdy, fat rhythm, catchy riffs and very memorable melodies, striking and direct. A great way to bid farewell for this time.
This was a surprise. And then some. I don’t know if it’s because I reset my mind towards Burning Rain, if it’s because I have been wrong about them all along or if this album is just so much better than the previous ones but the fact is, Burning Rain’s new album is great. Sure, they don’t bring anything new to the table – this is Hard Rock with a nod back to the 70’s and the first half of the 80’s – and even though they wear their influences on their sleeves, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and Whitesnake mostly with Aldrich’s day-job The Dead Daisies showing up from time to time, the guys do sport their own identity. If crunchy, beefy and groove-laden Hard Rock with lots of hooks and catchy choruses are your thing, then this album is highly recommended. For myself, I don’t have any other option than to revisit Burning Rain’s back-catcalogue.