MAVERICK – Cold Star Dancer

I had merely written down the words that I hadn’t really heard of a Melodic Rock / AOR band from Ireland when this album took a dive into my mailbox. Now, I wasn’t sure at all whether Maverick was a Melodic Rock/AOR band or a Metal band or what not. But the name Maverick rang a bell for me for some reason, I knew I had heard the name somewhere before. Well, I still don’t have a clue about that but the name sure sounds familiar. Well, Maverick was formed by the Belfour brothers  Ryan (guitars) and David (lead vocals) in Ireland in 2012 who brought along bassist Richie Diver and drummer Jonathan Millar for the ride. Judging by their tour mates, bands such as The Poodles and Treat, my guess is that they are in the Melodic Rock vein. Also, Treat guitarist Anders Wikström guests on two songs on this album. The band have released two albums – Quid Pro Quo (2014) and Big Red (2016) – that followed their debut E.P. Talk Is Cheap (2013).

The album opens with “Dusk”, an intro that really didn’t need to be a song of its own as it’s just there to take us into the real opener, the title track. It’s an uptempo Metal track with big Melodic Rock influences that tells us that the guys are heavily into the 80’s. It actually borders to Power Metal, a genre I don’t hold very dear, but it doesn’t bother me at all. Anders Wikström of Treat guests the song with his very melodic playing – a very underrated player indeed. It’s a very catchy tune that really gives me a taste for the rest of the album. Very good. “Myrmidon” is a pure Metal track – fast, heavy riffing, smattering double bass drums and an aggressive attitude but it never gives in on melody which makes the tune very melodic. The refrain is also on the catchier side and the Power Metal vibes are current in this track as well. Could Maverick be a Power Metal band? Oh well, it’s damn good track no mater what genre it’s in.

“Kiss Of Fire” is also a pretty fast piece but more a straight-forward Hard Rock tune. It’s not as distinct as the previous tracks – it’s not bad but it doesn’t really stick with me either. “Goodbye” is based on Hard Rock but the whole tune just oozes Melodic Rock with its huge Pop arrangements and AOR-like chorus, a chorus that is so catchy it’s insane. It comes in a mid pace and is sniffing around ballad borders. I’d release this as a single if I was them because the hit potential is huge! “Ex Machina”, the second track to features a guest spot from Wikström, is a mid tempo Melodic Hard Rock stomper that holds a somewhat darker twist. It leans towards classic Hard Rock as well and is a song that will go down hard when played live. The main melody is memorable as hell and the refrain hits right where it should – awesome! “Magellan Rise” is a bit slower and it have a progressive touch in both rhythm and melody arrangements and at times it makes me think of old Queensrÿche. And just like said band, this tune is very memorable without going into flirtation with radio-friendly choruses and melodies. Brilliant!

“Seize The Day” however, is more of a standard Melodic Hard Rock tune that brings on a Heavy Metal vibe and even though its chorus is on the catchy side it still fails to grab me. It’s not a crappy song but it’s hardly exceptional either. It passed me by quite unnoticed. “Viper” is upbeat, fast with a memorable melody that puts it very close to ending up in the Power Metal file, especially with the double bass drums going off while a sing-along ish chorus lies on top of that. Still, I quite like the song – it reminds me of the band Neonfly. “Kings” on the other hand takes a dive right back into the late 80’s / early 90’s Arena Rock with an audience-friendly Hard Rock groove and a chorus so memorable it could have taken over MTV back in the day. I also get the feeling it will work brilliantly live. Brilliant.

The band keeps the Arena Rock on their pay-roll with “Devil’s Night”, a mid-paced rocker with an addictive groove and a big chorus full of hooks. I must admit I prefer Maverick when they take this route and don’t glance towards Power Metal. Great track. In my last review of Maverick’s Irish peers No Hot Ashes, I wrote about me wondering why no bands are covering Rick Springfield tunes because No Hot Ashes had included a version of Springfield’s “Souls” on the album. Well, covering Springfield tunes seems like an Irish thing because here comes the next one –  Maverick closes the album with a cover of “Jessie’s Girl” (Working Class Dog, 1981). They make a really good cover of it but just like the case of NHA’s cover, this one lies extremely close to the original, maybe a bit heavier. It’s very well done but when doing a cover, an artist should try to put their own identity over it and frankly, Maverick don’t. That also makes the tune stick out like a sore thumb here style wise, it doesn’t really fit in.

As I haven’t heard anything by this band before, I don’t have anything to compare it to so I can’t tell if it’s better or worse than their previous efforts but I can tell that I think this is really good album. To judge only by this album, Maverick’s roots seems to be in Heavy Metal and Hard Rock but they’re not afraid to mix Arena Rock, AOR and Melodic Rock into their sound, genres that takes over on a few tracks. The guys sure have a thing for big melodies, catchy choruses and they sure know a hook when they hear one. The album’s production is faultless but feels a bit stale and lacks dynamics at times. The sound could be both warmer and fatter but it’s not something that affects the album in a way that makes it unlistenable. Because this record sure is listenable and the production slips aren’t bad enough to lower the score here. I love finding new bands and when they make records as good as this, it’s nothing but a treat.

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Dusk
2. Cold Star Dancer
3. Myrmidon
4. Kiss Of Fire
5. Goodbye
6. Ex Machina
7. Magellan Rise
8. Seize The Day
9. Viper
10. Kings
11. Devil’s Night
12. Jessie’s Girl

Advertisements