The first thing that came to mind when I saw Dario Mollo’s name was power metal. Why? Well, there’s something about Italian musicians that lies on Frontiers records that puts that connection into my mind. I have never heard of Dario Molle before – or so I thought. Because somewhere in the back of my mind something felt familiar with that name. A quick google search (and a closer read of the press release…) gave me the answer. Turns out that the guy have released three albums with a project called Voodoo Hill that featured lead vocalist / bass player Glenn Hughes – Voodoo Hill (2000), Wild Seed Of Mother Earth (2004) and Waterfall (2015) and three albums with The Cage which featured ex – Black Sabbath vocalist Tony Martin – The Cage (1999, also featuring keyboard player Don Airey (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Ozzy)), 2 (2002, also featuring bassist Tony Franklin (The Firm, Blue Murder, Whitesnake)) and The Third Cage (2012). A pretty impressing CV – and a bit embarrassing for yours truly as a fan of both Hughes and Martin as I haven’t heard a note from any of those albums. Also, there is a self-titled debut album by Crossbones, released in 1989, making this new one the second effort from this band. This new album features lead singer Carl Sentance (Nazareth, Don Airey Band, Krokus), suggested by Airey himself. Not very much power metal over that, is it?
Opener “Red” is a powerful melodic hard rocker with a kick-ass rhythm, crunchy guitars and a rough Hammond organ that brings a fat 70’s feel to an otherwise more 80’s sounding rocker. A great song that raises a lot of hope for the rest of the album. And the following tune “Take Me High” doesn’t disappoint one bit. It comes in a faster pace, not a far cry from the rougher stuff that the Joe Lynn Tuner fronted Rainbow brought us back in the early 80’s. Bits and pieces of the chorus also comes with some influences from the American melodic rock of the late 80’s.A killer tune. “Navigation” is more in a mid-paced tempo, but there is a big groove and the whole melody shines with brilliance. Also, the chorus is über-catchy, sticky as Hell without being the least cheesy. Three songs in and I’m very pleasantly surprised. And the fabulous song writing continues with the following title track. The groove strikes hard, the verses are on the rougher side and the bridge is hard and robust and when the fantastic in-your-face chorus kicks in with a major catchiness, I’m knocked for six. Wow! “Gates Of Time”, a big, dark and bombastic ballad is maybe my favorite song on the album. It’s heavy with a “Gates Of Babylon” (Rainbow) influenced eastern arrangement in the middle and an amazingly good vocal performance.
“I Got The Feeling” is the first song that doesn’t rock my world. Without being bad, it’s more of a standard melodic hard rocker that really never hits any nerves at all and goes in one ear and out the other. Same with “In My Blood”, a straight forward hard rocker. It’s got a pretty cool swagger but it just doesn’t reach out to me – it’s ok, but not as good as the first five tracks. But “Running From The Shadow” brings things back on track again. It’s a melodic hard rock song but with some melancholy and darkness and on top of it, some AOR vibes. The melodies are really good over all, the chorus nails itself to the brain without pardon and the groove is infectious. Parts of the song makes me think of Crown Of Thorns and even some of the vocal arrangements brings Jean Beauvoir to mind. “Speed” is – as the title suggests – an uptempo hard rocker the comes with big Rainbow / Deep Purple influences – the guitar solo just reeks (that is supposed to be compliment here) of Ritchie Blackmore. Killer track! With the closing track “Fright” Mollo and his boys takes stroll into Tony Martin era Black Sabbath territory but with a refrain that’s more traditional hard rock. A very memorable song and a great way to end this record.
This album is a really pleasant surprise almost all the way through. I had no expectations on it what so ever, but since the quality of both songs, production and musicians is very high, I now feel the need to check out Mollo’s earlier projects. The fine mix of 70’s hard rock and the more melodic and poppy rock of the 80’s works like charm and even though Crossbones aren’t out to reinvent the wheel at all, the songs on this record are strong enough to overshadow the lack of originality. Highly recommended to fans of hard rock with strong melodies, catchy choruses and big, groovy rhythms. Thumbs up!
2. Take Me High
4. Rock The Cradle
5. Gates Of Time
6. I Got This Feeling
7. In My Blood
8. Running From The Shadow