DEVIL’S HAND – Devil’s Hand

So Mike Slamer is back with another project. It was quite a while since he showed any signs of life musically, something I think is a pity as Mike Slamer usually equals quality. City Boy, Streets and Steelhouse Lane are a few bands where he and his cohorts have provided us with high-quality Melodic Rock, Hard Rock and AOR. I must admit, though, that I’m not at all familiar with his Seventh Key project, which is weird as I really dig the man’s other work. The last time I heard anything from the guy was in 2006 when he released an album called Nowhere Land under the Slamer moniker. Back then, Terry Brock (Strangeways, Giant) was hired as the singer and he did a brilliant job. The album itself was also a real killer, full of heavy yet melodic Hard Rock and AOR tracks. When Slamer now returns after years of silence, it’s with singer Andrew Freeman (Last In Line, Hurricane, Lynch Mob) at the mike, another dude with an amazing set of pipes. And of course, this is an album released with lots of anticipation to go with it.

The album opens with “We Come Alive”, a direct and upbeat rocker that brings on a punchy rhythm and some striking melodies. The Slamer sound is easy to recognize here and the tune brings me right back to Nowhere Land. It’s a good song with a chorus that grabs a hold after the first listen. First single “Falling In” follows and as a single, this tune is perfect. It comes in a mid-tempo and holds a refrain so addictive you’ll need rehab to get it out of your head. Style-wise, I’m getting slight Streets vibes here mixed with the sound of the Slamer album. Great! “One More Time” is slower and heavier and a bit more bluesy, kind of Classic Rock meets Melodic Rock with a touch of American early 90’s Arena Rock, think Warrant. An effective main melody and a catchy chorus on top takes the song on a homerun. Very, very good.

“Another Way To Fly” is a bit more kicking and comes in a faster pace with clear Hard Rock vibes all over. It still dwells in Melodic Rock territory only a bit punchier and rawer. It’s an ok song but it doesn’t really cut it all the way and tends to fall on the way-side quality-wise. “Drive Away” is also more a plain Hard Rock tune – tougher, ballsier and more in-your-face than the previous tracks. It do sport a Melodic Rock-laden refrain but that never takes away any edge. A good, distinct and memorable tune. “Justified” takes us into ballad land but even though the tune is more laid-back complete with acoustic guitar based verses it’s still powerful and the chorus is just huge. Very good. “Rise Above It All” is heavy, slightly Metal-influenced with some fat, beefy guitar riffing. Fact is, the chugging guitars in the verses brings mid-90’s Rock to mind. The big refrain is catchy without being Pop or flirting with rock-radio. Very good.

The title-track is a pretty hard-hitting, straightforward hard rocker that reminds me a bit of House Of Lords’ “Sahara”. It is almost anthemic where heavy guitars goes hand in hand with big keyboards on a solid ground of Hard Rock and some twists of Stadium Rock and an AOR-influenced melody in the chorus. This tune really hits where it should. “Unified” is slow, dark and stripped down in the verses but heavies up in the chorus, a chorus that sticks right away. It’s a tough, ballsy and punchy Melodic Rock tune that sounds like it was written for the last Slamer album. “Heartbeat Away” is slow, laid-back with a dark twist in the verses. The chorus brings on a Melodic Rock meets AOR vibe and over-all, it’s a power-pop tune. It’s catchy and good but don’t quite reach great. Closing track “Push Comes To Shove” is a melodic but fast and rough Hard Rock tune not a far cry from the Joe Lynn turner fronted Rainbow. It’s not bad at all but it could have been way catchier, now it kind of disappears.

With this album, Slamer have taken off where Nowhere Land ended. That said, this album is heavier and more Hard Rock but on the other hand, the song aren’t as strong. To be frank, I’m slightly disappointed because without being even close to bad, I listened to this album with Nowhere Land – an album I find bloody fantastic – in the back of my mind and Devil’s Hand – don’t reach  that album’s heights. Andrew Freeman, however, is a brilliant vocalist with a broad range, a strong set of pipes and voice-control. He’s also able to sound soft and smooth when the song craves it only to sound like he’s ready to kick the shit out you when the song needs that. All in all, a good album that a little bit away from being great.

6/10

Tracklist:

1. We Come Alive
2. Falling In
3. One More Time
4. Another Way To Fly
5. Drive Away
6. Justified
7. Rise Above It All
8. Devil’s Hand
9. Unified
10. Heartbeat Away
11. Push Comes To Shove

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