This should be an interesting one and one I am looking forward to hearing. Rage of Angels is the creation of Ged Rylands, who most of you will have come across with Ten as well as playing keyboards live for Tyketto.
This album has a plethora of names involved alongside the regular band complimenting Ryland's keyboards and guitar. The list of guest vocalists especially is something to marvel at – Matti Alfonzetti (Jagged Edge), Harry Hess (Harem Scarem), Robert Hart (Bad Company), Danny Vaughn (Tyketto) and Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear). Add to that little collection the likes of guitarists Neil Fraser, Vinny Burns and Ralph Santolla, and it is quite a line-up.
So, before I confuse you any further, let's get down to business and see what Ged and co have produced musically.
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'Dreamworld' kicks things off and is well named... a long intro to the track, child's voice, synth coming in setting the atmosphere, hope in its tones. Guitar comes in to get things really under way, keyboards sitting well behind it. As the vocals kick in, you are immediately hit by some stunning melody and harmonies, come the chorus. Musically this song is all about that... melody and harmony (No not the Melody and Harmony advertising in the phone box for the ultimate twins experience). It is beautifully crafted, well written and a more than good way to start the album.
'See You Walking By' is next and picks off where the last one finished. Catchy riff leading the way and when the keyboard comes in, they fit together so well. Once upon a time, a track like this was thought to be the sole province of the American stadium band (whatever the bleeding hell that meant) and generally got labelled as commercial, until the likes of FM redressed the balance, but this takes it to a whole new level entirely.
Catchy chorus, backing vocals never overdone, great guitar solo – it has that feel but is layered so well, there is never the chance of getting bored as with so many songs of that genre. Simply put, another winner.
'Through It All' changes the tempo totally and comes at you with some grit and throatiness. Robert Hart's vocals take this to another power level, even going a little Coverdale like at points (when he was good). The screaming guitar of Neil Fraser early on gives extra impetus to the track and again the vocals fit perfectly. As it calms down with some bass and drums in the middle, you just know there is more to come and sure enough it doesn't take long for the crescendo to start building.
The structure of the song is another interesting facet to it – staying away from the standard verse, chorus, solo concept you are never quite sure when the solos are going to come storming out of the mix and that just helps raise the song from good to right up there. As well as being musically good, the thing you notice very early on with this album is how much thought has gone into picking songs for the guest musos, something not always done so well with this many guests on an album.
'Over And Over' goes back to slightly more sedate, AOR as it used to be called (who is it who actually thinks up all the sub genre names?). Again the melodic implants are what stand out, fairly straightforward guitar line perfectly suited to the song (pointless going widdly for no reason), keyboards firing it up a gear, drums cantering along with the bass keeping the whole tempo going.
We do get some widdliness in the solo though so all you air fellas have nothing to worry about. Not for the first time the backing vocals are done superbly, just enough for depth and harmony without going over the top – something the sound engineers must take a lot of credit for as well. The sound guys happen to be Rylands and guitarist Martin Kronlund so keeping it in house works well.
'Prelude For The Gods' as you would probably guess from the title is a fairly short, instrumental composition. It is far more than just a smattering of synth thrown in though and works well – I would actually have liked it to have gone on a lot longer – it had the feeling of building just as it came to an end. It leads perfectly into the next track and the instrumental could have been included as the intro to that song but it stands up in its own right so justifies a track number all of its own.
'Falling' features Ralph Scheepers and his evident range is put to full use on the track with another catchy melody. Superb keyboard and guitar interplay especially in the middle of the song give it an edge over similar style tracks. Another well crafted song, heavily relying on the rhythm section again to pull the whole thing along.
So to 'With The Beating Of Your Heart' and we are off into fully fledged ballad country with this one. Synth, piano and soulful vocals, guitar subtly woven into the tapestry. This one has David Reed Watson singing on it and whilst he isn't one of the most recognisable names on the album, he puts in a stirring performance – if his name isn't a household one (at least in houses where real music is played) in the not too distant future I will be a mite surprised. The haunting guitar rearing its head and perfectly filling the space adds a depth of sentiment and gravitas to the already passion filled track.
Whilst the guitar sticks to the tried and tested arrangement with the solo towards the end of the track, it is a powerful affair, accompanied by the now familiar backing vocals and if there wasn't already enough sentiment in the song, the six strings pile it on even more.
Hands up those who sighed when the word ballad was mentioned – if you did, then you will more more than pleasantly surprised as this has as much to do with the 'Every Rose Has It's Thorn' type pap as the X Factor has to do with music (in case you aren't sure, that is nothing whatsoever). Another gem on a so far seriously good album.
'Spinnin Wheel' starts off with a little of a very familiar sound to us ageing (though not gracefully) rockers – vinyl crackle. Then full blooded rock that will always rule the roost – blues rock. Tyketto's Danny Vaughn takes vocal duties on this one and it also again features Neil Fraser's six strings. Superb stuff, crunchy, rocky shifting one way then the other, keyboard patterns bringing even more out of the music.
The individual instruments are so expressive on their own and collectively that you can almost see this one coming out after a free for all jam. Coming in at just under eight minutes, this is pure class and the standout to me on the album.
Another long track 'Requiem For The Forgotten Soldier' is next up and starts as you may expect with sounds of gunshots and general war noise together with air raid sirens. Drums, military like, come piling in followed by guitar and throughout the song, what guitar it is.
Featuring Vinny Burns, Ralph Santolla, Xander Demos and Martin Kronlund, it is so varied and full of feeling but what is also very impressive is that there are no clear battle lines where one guitarist starts and another finishes. Instead it all fits together seamlessly.
The track is almost entirely an instrumental, the only vocal is spoken from Neville Chamberlain as war is declared, the atomic bomb is dropped and other monumental incidents. It is all very fitting this year and ironically even more so as a quick glance at the date on my computer as I write the review shows the date to be June 6th (I really hope I don't need to tell you what happened on that day 70 years ago). A moving and musically inspired track and only pipped for song of the album according to my ears as I am a sucker for some classy blues rock.
'We Live We Breathe We Die' is both an incontrovertible fact and the title of the next one. Guitar and more than melancholy keys start this one off, Robert Hart singing again on this. On the softer side he has that true grit to his voice, good mix of pure and raw, and add in another memorable melody, very in the sing along category. But once again not the straightforward structure you hear so much gives it a lot more depth and intrigue complimented perfectly by Vinny Burns again setting everything alight with his guitar wizardry on the second half of the track especially.
So there it is, a quite superb album, full of melody and harmony, not to mention some outstanding musicianship from everyone concerned. The whole album is top notch but the second half is when everything really goes up a gear. For those that like to sort their CD collection by genre, I suspect this one will give you a headache because it doesn't fit into any single genre or sub genre and that variety in style just helps to make it as good as it is.
The band is on tour this month and next month and I really would advise you to get out there and see them – naturally the touring band is not going to have the full complement of the album participants but a very fine collection of musicians has been assembled and they are dealing with what can only be described as dynamite songs.
You can find out more about the band on their facebook page as well as at http://www.rageofangels.co.uk/