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'The Grand Design'
Release Date: 4th December 2015

Ian Sutherland
ian sutherland

khymera grand design

Khymera started out as a collaboration between keyboard player Daniele Liverani and Kansas singer Steve Walsh back in 2003. By the time their third album 'The Greatest Wonder' was released in 2008 Walsh had gone and Pink Cream 69/Unisonic bassist Dennis Ward was using Khymera as an opportunity to show his abilities as a lead singer as well as a songwriter.

After a seven year hiatus Khymera is back and now Ward has taken complete control of the project. The music has all been written 'in house' so to speak this time, by Ward and the musicians he has recruited for this release along with long time collaborator Paul Logue.

However the overall vibe and outlook has not changed much despite the changes. The aim is to record classic sounding melodic rock with the accent on the melodic part. This isn't hard rock, there are no Heavy Metal edges, this is old fashioned pure AOR where the guitars are always sweet sounding and keyboards and vocal harmonies dominate.

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The first thing that hits you is the strength of the lead vocals. I have no idea why Ward hasn't had many chances to sing lead before this project as he is not just a capable singer but a good one. He has the melodic strength necessary for this style of music but with a little touch of grit which helps give him a bit of gravitas to carry the songs with.

He doesn't hit the notes that Walsh could in his heyday but backed up by the multiple vocal harmonies on most songs here his performance is excellent.

The rest of the band are very good too with the all important guitars and keyboards hitting all the notes and styles this kind of music demands.

The song writing fits the bill too and all the songs have the right vibe and colours and choruses whether they are uptempo melodic rockers like 'Never Give Up On You', big sing along chorus songs like 'I Believe' or the inevitable power ballads like 'Streetlights'.

All the necessary requirements for a high quality melodic rock/AOR album are present then. However while this is certainly an album full of quality it suffers a little from being a bit formulaic, from maybe being written with a bit too much forethought about what the end result should sound like.

As such it doesn't have enough personality or originality to stand out from the crowd. Labels like Frontiers and AOR Heaven release a lot of stuff like this and 'The Grand Design' is certainly among the best I've heard this year but it is squarely aimed at fans of the genre with no ambitions beyond that.

As such it is very good but only the already converted will find it wholly satisfying.

Line up:
Dennis Ward: bass guitar and lead vocals
Felix Bohnke: drums
Michael Klein: guitars
Eric Ragno: keyboards
Jim Rybkost: piano, additional keyboards

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