Here’s another band I can file under “bands I have heard of but never listened to”. Formed as an alliance between former Kansas singer Steve Walsh and Italian musician/producer Daniele Liverani it turned into a band/project when bass player Dennis Ward (Magnum, ex- Pink Cream 69, Unisonic) came onboard back in 2005, where he also took over the lead vocal spot, this Melodic Rock unit has released three albums previous to this one. I’m a bit puzzled myself that I had never looked into this band – back in 2005 I was still starved for new music within this genre and checked out everything I could. I guess they fell on the way-side for some weird reason.
It’s been five years since the last record – The Grand Design – hit the shelves and the project has been on hiatus since then. Since Ward had been involved in different projects during this time such as Sunstorm, Place Vendome and Magnum’s Bob Catley’s s solo career added to the list above, there just hasn’t been enough time to get another Khymera record off the ground – until now that is. Since both Kai Hansen and Michael Kiske returning to Helloween, leaving Unisonic at hiatus and Ward himself jumping ship from Pink Cream 69 to focus on playing bass in Magnum, there now was time for him to get the band together and to write and record a new record – Ward is also the producer – and the result is out now as we speak. As this is my first encounter with the band, I found it really interesting to find out what I had missed out on – if I had missed out on anything at all.
“Walk Away”, the albums lead-off single opens the record and it is great as such. On an uptempo pace, this guitar-driven, late 80’s sounding rocker comes on with a stellar beat and some hooky melodies. The solid beat makes for a punchy groove and the song’s refrain is a sticky one without going sugar-rush on us. I really like this one and if the rest of the album can hold this standard we might have a winner here. The following tack, the AOR-laden rocker “The First Time” takes on a whole lotta keyboards with held-back verses that borders to soft. There’s touches of both Def Leppard’s most sugary moments here and Unruly Child and the refrain is on the catchier side albeit a bit too standard. There’s a nice mid-section that takes on a pomp-style arrangement for variation’s sake. Pretty good, but the refrain could have been stronger.
The title-track is an upbeat rocker that lands somewhere between melodic Hard Rock and AOR, guitar-driven but also with layers of keyboards. It’s slick and smooth but never cheesy and holds a huge chorus that’s impossible to get off your mind – not that you’d want to. A very good song with a big hit-potential. Future single, maybe? The straight-forward “The Sun Goes Down” is rougher and crunchy and very direct. At times, I think of Harem Scarem here, although quite not as good. We get a distinct chorus that brings on a slight late 90’s neo-grungy pop-radio-touch, pretty catchy. It’s an ok tune but a bit forgettable, I’m afraid.
On a mid 80’s swing, the AOR-stomper “Paradise” brings on a slick and silky soundscape with softer laden verses and a more upbeat and uplifting refrain, very big on hooks and catchiness. In all honesty, it’s quite standard but the magnificent refrain is unescapable and very memorable so I file this track under “winner” anyway. “The Rhythm Of My Life” is a pretty straight ahead, uptempo Melodic Rock track where Bonfire meets Harem Scarem. It’s a stellar rocker that brings on some very memorable verse-melodies and an even catchier chorus that holds a broad scope and gang-vocals that will make you chant along whether you want or not. Very good.
“Follow The Sun” is edgier and rocks out with a crunch, gets in your face on a straight-forward rhythm. Parts of it makes me think of Prisoners In Paradise (1991) era Europe and even though it holds a crispier and rougher outlook, it’s still Melodic Rock we’re talking about here. Again, we’re given another spot-on chorus with some immediate and direct melodies. Very good. With “Father To Son” it’s ballad-time and this one comes across as a power ballad but still not. It’s slow, atmospheric and very emotional – a real tear-jerker, to be honest. Acoustic guitars blends brilliantly with electric ditto and with some beautiful keyboard-arrangements weaved in. As the icing on the cake we’re treated with a majestic chorus that will leave you helpless, you just have to surrender. A great ballad that stand every chance to be a hit if released as a single.
Want another single? Well, don’t look any further than next track, the upbeat, groovy and even danceable AOR-stomper “After All This Time”. Sure, it’s a bit sweet, especially the grand pop-chorus and yes, it’s quite glossy and big on keyboards but I’m lost to the massive chorus. It might be somewhat mainstream but I can’t help diggin’ it. Speaking of mainstream, “Victim Of Your Love” is an ordinary, straight forward Melodic Rock number that on one hand holds a good, beefy live-feel but on the other hand is really nothing special at all. It’s not bad but too easily forgotten. Khymera closes the album with the meaty, grit-grooved, Hard Rock riffed cruncher “Let It Happen”. Its verses are laid-back with a darker touch and some 80’s sounding keyboards. While it’s a bit melancholic and rough-edged, it also holds a more Melodic Rock-laden refrain with clear AOR punches. It’s a good song but it never climbs over just good.
As a whole, it’s a well-written and well-produced Melodic Rock record completely without any bad songs but also the real great songs are too rare for a really high score. Also, there are a few fillers too many and on occasions even the better ones feels streamlined and a bit middle-of-the-road and the fact that I can’t find anything that gives Khymera an identity of their own – this could be an album by any Melodic Rock band out there – I find it hard to keep my interest intact even for the really good songs. It’s really a good album while listening but when I’m done listening to it, I can’t really remember all that much. A good album that’s a few steps too many away from reaching great.
1. Walk Away
2. The First Time
3. Master Of Illusions
4. The Sun Goes Down
6. The Rhythm Of My Life
7. Follow The Sun
8. Father To Son
9. After All This Time
10. Victim Of Your Love
11. Let It Happen