Like so many other rockers, I was total sucker for guitar heroes back in the 80’s. It was a decade when Yngwie Malmsteen still knew how to write a decent song and record listenable records. The guy was an influence on so many guitarists back then and guys like Vinnie Moore and Tony MacAlpine were obviously influenced by him on their first records. There was also Chris Impellitteri. When it came to borrowing – yes let’s use that word to be kind – from Malmsteen, Impellitteri was in a league of his own. His band’s debut album came out in 1988 and was called Stand In Line and featured singer Graham Bonnet (The Marbles, Rainbow, MSG, Alcatrazz), bass player Chuck Wright (Quiet Riot, House Of Lords) and drummer Pat Torpey (Mr Big) and I bought it, of course. Anything Malmsteen related back then was worth purchasing for me.
Now, I wasn’t too impressed by that album which meant that I let Impellitteri go and I haven’t heard any of their/his other nine albums, the latest of which came out in 2015 – up until I got the reviewer’s link for this one, that is. The lead singer today is Rob Rock (Project Driver, Axel Rudi Pell, Warrior) and he has been so since 1992 except for a few albums when Curtis Skelton took over between 2003-2008. The rest of the band is bassist James Amelio Pulli, keyboardist Ed Roth and drummer Jon Dette (Slayer, Testament, Iced Earth), the same as on the last album Venom. Since I have been more or less oblivious to Impellitteri’s activities until now, I really don’t know what to expect here although I do wonder whether Impellitteri’s Yngwieisms are still as obvious as they used to or not.
The album opens with “Hypocrisy”, a super-fast blaster that almost blackens my eyes. It’s an 80’s sounding classic Metal tune with a furious approach that sounds like it wants to beat you dead. I’m ok with that but the tune lacks hooks and even though it doesn’t suck, it’s totally forgettable. “Masquerade” keeps the classic Metal of the 80’s going here and even though this tune is a fast, heavy and rough belter, it’s not as fast as the opener. Riff-happy and thunderous, the tune is out for blood but just like the opener, nothing sticks with me at all. Standard and not memorable at all. First single/video “Run For Your Life” keeps the fast pace up. It’s a kicking and hard-hitting Metal track with a punch but unlike the two predecessors, it’s a bit more hook-laden, which is why it was chosen as a single, I guess. But that said, it’s not overly catchy and it doesn’t really stick with me either. It’s an ok song, but hardly convincing.
“Phantom Of The Opera” is not a cover of the old Iron Maiden song but it is a cover of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s old musical classic. To cover that song you either have to be brave or stupid – or maybe both – but one thing is for sure, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll better it. Chris and the boys have made sure that they have put their mark on it without a doubt. It’s fast, hyper and total 80’s Metal. But really! Why? I mean, this is horrible, a total slaughtering – and almost sacrilege. What a shame! After that, things can only get better and sure, “Gates Of Hell” – fast, furious, aggressive and raging – is a step up. But not a big one. The tune is all about speed and heaviness which results in the melodies gets completely lost and the tune passes by like a hurricane on crack, leaving nothing but a “what the f**k was that?”. Let’s just say that this song won’t end up on any playlist of mine anytime soon.
“Wonder World” goes on in the same vein as the rest of the songs – fast, hard, aggressive with all nuances well hidden and no hooks or efforts to make the songs stick. I don’t even know if this song is good or bad because I don’t remember squat of it when it’s finished. Yawn! With “Man Of War”, they finally decide to slow things down a bit which at least brings some variation onboard and Chris’ ADHD guitar playing isn’t all over the song. It’s still very much a Metal Track but heavier and more bouncy with a steady rhythm which helps the melodies to shine through more. It’s not the greatest song in the world but it’s listenable and easily the best one so far. Next up, a cover of Black Sabbath’s “Symptom Of The Universe”, the latest single. Originally, this song is brilliant, but Impellitteri fails miserably to give it new life. It’s done in the vein of the six first songs – like a standard 80’s Metal tune. How sad.
“Do You Think I’m Mad” picks up the speed and the fuel-injected ferocity but here the verses are more nuanced and melodic but as soon as the refrain comes in, we’re back to the same standard Metal again. The song is ok but it doesn’t grab me. “Fire It Up” is again fast and blasting and very heavy but this contains catchy hooks and a memorable refrain which makes the tune stand out. Best tune so far. The heavy and pounding “Kill The Beast” is kicking and rough but the verses slows things down and holds a very solid, memorable melody while the chorus blasts on in a Metal frenzy but with some catchy melodies. It also hold a calmer and softer middle-break which gives the tune some space to breathe, something the song – and the album – benefits from. Good tune. Closing track “Shine On”, however, is best of all. It’s fast and hard but brings on some really memorable melodies and a catchy chorus – a crafty and direct way to say goodbye for this time.
First up, I must say that I know that the musicians here are fully competent, to put it mildly. In fact, they’re great but great musicianship isn’t enough to make a killer album. You need great songs as well and those aren’t around on this album, I’m afraid. It’s a matter of taste, of course and I’m sure there will be people out there that will think that I’m totally deranged here, but I can’t find anything that sticks or at least makes things interesting – if I hadn’t taken notes while listening to this album, I wouldn’t have remembered one single tune, not even the ones that were remotely good. Sure, Chris can shred and when he’s not shredding he’s still a very good player but he still got the tendency to play too much, too fast, too often and yes, Rob Rock got a strong voice and a broad register, but in all honesty, I have never been comfortable with his style of singing which doesn’t help. Also, the production is weak and comes across more like a demo than a finished product. The best thing about this record is that Impellitteri has left his Malmsteen influences at home!
3. Run For Your Life
4. Phantom Of The Opera
5. Gates Of Hell
6. Wonder World
7. Man Of War
8. Symptom Of The Universe
9. Do You Think I’m Mad
10. Fire It Up
11. Kill The Beast
12. Shine On