Here’s a new Melodic Rock signing from Frontiers records. A signing with a weird name. I mean, whoever waits for Monday? This band hails from Los Angeles and was brought to Frontiers’ attention by one Jeff Scott Soto, making the label jumping on to signing the band pretty much right off the bat. Formed by big-voiced Rudy Cardenas, a Venezuela-born rocker who was in the finals of season 6 of American Idol and guitarist August Zadra best known for handling guitar duties in former Styx guy Dennis De Young’s solo band, the guys brought in Walter Ino (guitars, keyboards), Eric Baines (bass) and Joe Travers (drums) and cut some demos, demos that now lies as the ground for their self-titled debut record.
The record opens with the second single, an upbeat, catchy rocker called “Until The Dawn”. Style wise the song comes across a more Melodic Rock twisted modern day Stryper with a huge AOR vibe where Journey seems to be an obvious influence. It’s a straight-forward number where guitars are at the front and the keyboards lies more as a compliment to thicken up the sound. It’s a really strong tune that combines great musicianship, strong melodies and a big, striking refrain. It’s followed by the leading single “End Of A Dream”, a tune that starts out with acoustic guitar over some vinyl-rasp cracklings before it continues as a mid-paced pop-rocker, laid-back yet upbeat with big melodies, lots of hooks and a huge massive refrain with more Journey influences that at least in book should have given them at least a minor hit. This is great stuff and the album sure could have had a worse start.
As song # 3 we get the latest single, the power ballad “Shattered Lives”, a slower piece, quite melancholic and a big emotional touch that gives the song an honest outlook. Without feeling dated at all, the song takes us back to 1990 sound and style wise – back then this song would probably been all over MVT’s Countdown Top 20 with its majestic chorus and hook-laden melodies everywhere. Very good indeed. The balladry continues with “Found You Now”, a soft and laid-back number that starts out with with a grand piano but continues on a bigger scale with an orchestrated arrangement. It’s very much a lighter-in-the-air 80’s ballad with a big Survivor twist. It’s not bad at all but the big refrain brings on a bit of an over the top sugar-rush. I guess we’re looking at future single # 4 here.
“Right In Front Of You” leaves the sugar-balladry for now and with a shameless borrowing from Kiss’ “Turn On The Night” in the guitar/keyboard riffs, the band is trying to take us into a party vibe – and they’re very successful in that. It’s a stompy pop-rocker with an intense 80’s groove with an infectious refrain that sticks right from hello. But instead of keeping the party going, WFM takes us back into ballad-land once more with “Must Have Been”. It’s definitively not a bad song – maybe the best ballad on the album – but it sure takes the edge off things just when the tempo was on the up again. It’s a smooth and slick mid-paced number right where AOR and Melodic Rock meets, very pop-friendly with an instant chorus that screams hit. But maybe it should have been moved a couple of steps in the track-list.
“Pick Your Lies” continues the slower and softer pace and even though this one is a bit more upbeat and bouncier, it still rocks on the threshold to power-balladry. It’s big on hooks and striking melodies and I hear traces of both Styx, Survivor and Journey and even though the chorus could have been more prominent and less sloppy, it’s still a pretty good tune. On a heavier and harder note, “Inside Your Head” rocks things up with a grittier sound and crispier guitars and a rhythm that’s punchier and fatter than most of the previous songs. The bluesier touches marries very well with the Melodic Rock structure and the rougher live-feel makes the song a stand-out tune on the record.
With “Make It Better” the uptempo and rough yet poppy Hard Rock continues somewhere in the midst of Journey and Night Ranger on a straight-forward route that gets in your face and on your case with a massive refrain that’s impossible to not surrender to. Fact is, I’d like to put in Survivor into the mix as well as I can easily hear a singer like Jimi Jamison (RIP) sing this. Very good. With yet another ballad – “Love You Forever” – it could have been easy to yawn for yourself but with this one, WFM has gone back to the late 70’s, Journey style and instead of a power ballad, we get a powerful, soul-fueled Classic Rock slow-paced number, very organic and stripped with a slight gospel twist. While it’s a bit soft, it’s also guitar-based, pretty crispy and with a huge vocal arrangement in the majestic chorus. The title might be a bit on the cheesy side but the song itself sure isn’t. Great stuff.
On a more traditional Hard Rock basis, the straight forward rocker “One More Round” brings on a groovy and uplifting rhythm and a punchy beat while the guitars certainly creates an edge with a raunchy and crispy sound. With melodies of Melodic Rock structure, the tune is based on Classic Rock where the 70’s and 80’s meet and this beefy and juicy number sure rocks with the best of them. The album closes with an acoustic version of “Found You Now” and even though I have never been a huge fan of acoustic versions of electric songs, this one actually benefits from it. It’s more stripped down and organic and the amazing vocal harmonies is lifted up several steps here. If I’d lift one version off the album it would be the electric version.
While I can’t find any bad songs on this album it do contain its fair share of fillers. That being said, there are a whole bunch of really great tunes here, there’s the issue that the band lack identity, I can’t really find the WFM sound. Also, the album contains too many ballads for a Rock album, something that becomes too obvious when the rockers shows up – these guys knows how to rock and they should do it more often. Also, the production is way too smooth, slick and streamlined which makes it hard to really stand out. Both Cardenas and Zadra sings lead on the album and both gents are really good singers and the good songs on here shows that there’s endless of potential for the future to come. Let’s hope that WFM rocks things up more the next time around.
1. Until The Dawn
2. End Of A Dream
3. Shattered Lives
4. Found You Now
5. Right In Front Of You
6. Must Have Been
7. Pick Your Lies
8. Inside Your Head
9. Make It Better
10. Love You Forever
11. One More Round
12. Found You Now (Acoustic Version)