|Musical Style: Melodic Hard Rock||Produced By: Vic Rivera|
|Record Label: Kivel||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2014||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 38:46|
We’ve admired Jamie Rowe fronted AdrianGale for years. Rowe garnered our initial attention from his work in Guardian, having lent his signature soulful vocal abilities to the groups 1991 sophomore release Fire & Love, one of the finer examples of commercial melodic hard rock you will hear. Follow up effort Miracle Mile from 1993 took a similar heading, albeit more laid-back and acoustically driven while yielding the greater groove based effect. On 1994 release Swing, Swang, Swung, Guardian further played up the acoustic leanings but in a modern package only to go full-bore alternative meets grunge on Buzz and Bottle Rocket from 1995 and 1997 respectively. While the groups latter material might have earned it a new fan base in line with the current trends of the time, long-term Guardian devotees, obviously, could not help but be found wanting (or at the very least desired a return to the classic sound of the past).
Hence, it came with welcome relied - and much to the delight of longstanding Guardian followers - when it was announced following the turn of the century that Rowe had joined forces with guitarist Vic Rivera to front the newly formed melodic hard rock act AdrianGale. A group with the backbone to pave its own trail by eschewing musical trends and fashions, AdrianGale presents with the same type of eighties influenced sound that made Fire & Love and Miracle Mile such special releases. Imagine the classic Guardian line up of Rowe, guitarist Tony Palacios, bassist Dave Bach and drummer Karl Ney stepping out of a Delorean after having been teleported forward through time and boldly announced to the world: We are back!
This is the type of impact AdrianGale debut Feel The Fire (2000) had with its immediately recognizable melodies and radio friendly sensibilities wrapped in a guitar driven package. Sophomore release Re:Program (2002) built upon this with better production allowing for a heavier sound while finding the group continuing to season its songwriting. Tracks such as bitter metal lament “No More Chances” and bluesy shuffle to “Stealin’ Hearts” could not help but make one feel AdrianGale was going to produce something very special in the near future. And such is the case with the groups quintessential third release Crunch, which found it hitting its musical stride in combining the near perfect balance of melodic songwriting (if ever there was an album that deserved to go multi-platinum it is Crunch) and clean as it gets production.
After such a promising start, however, AdrianGale dropped off the map for the better part of 9 years (there were rumors of new material under the moniker Crunch but nothing materialized) only to regroup in 2013 with fourth album Suckerpunch! A return to the heavier direction of Re: Program manifested itself on Suckerpunch!, keeping in mind AdrianGale had not abandoned its inherit commercial leanings in the process. Proving a single comeback album is no fluke, AdrianGale rebounded the following year with fifth album Defiance in which it continues to up the guitar driven proclivities - creating by far its heaviest work to date - while staying true to the same melodic framework we have come to embrace from the group.
Melodic but heavy would be the best way to describe opener “Defiance”, uplifting with its decisive mid-paced milieu and scintillating refrain while also fixed upon a bedrock of staunch guitars. The song also sets the albums tone with its big as it gets low-end bass sound (in which a groove based presence rises to the surface) and polished backing vocal melodies galore (allowing the hooks to stand out that much further). Equally notable is the melodic soloing of second guitarist Eddie Campbell.
Also mid-paced is “Yours Forever”, even heavier (almost approaching all out metal) with its rumbling disposition but also giving rise to a pop essence reflected in its mirthfully flowing chorus. Vic Rivera steps to the plat with a stretch of keyed up soloing (one thing to appreciate about AdrianGale is how it features two equally good guitarists). “Fire” maneuvers gradually as well, laid back but stalwart in form with its edgy guitars and anthem-like mentality throughout (I can see this one translating well in a live setting). Once cannot help but notice on the two how fresh Rowe sounds with his choice gritty vocal flavorings.
From a commercial standpoint, “Back To You” hints of semi-ballad territory with its darkly plodding (almost ominous) verses only to break out at once for an enthusiastic (and very catchy) chorus flowing at the more pronounced tempo. Likewise, “Fall” transitions between gently done verses touched by distant keyboards and a larger than life refrain in which impetus picks up exponentially. “Last Of My Heart” represents albums lightest, walking a fine line between AOR and melodic rock with its interweaving of piano and reserved guitars with pristine vocal melodies to touch upon the radio friendly. Upshot is a melody as big as it gets.
AdrianGale can also kick it into high gear with the best of them. “What About Love” bristles from front to back, with guitars cemented to the front of the mix in delivering ample doses of snarl and bite. Contrasting with the heated scene is the non-stop catchy hook chorus. “Sometimes” sustains the up-tempo proclivities, playing up sledgehammer like momentum and unwavering low end but also bolstered by the groups trademark accessibility. Campbell lets loose with another run of fluid soloing. “Warning Sign” is aggressive as it gets as far as AdrianGale are concerned. This one kicks up a storm of impetus, almost pretentious with its awesome bass presence and all out energy of a near infectious capacity.
Closing things out is the cool Billy Idol cover “Speed”. A song originally recorded by Idol for the soundtrack of the 1994 movie of the same name, “Speed” shines with its unremitting clout and prodigious doses of eighties influenced keyboards. A ton of brash attitude and mirth is the aftermath. Also, credit Rivera for nailing the intricate riffs and guitars lines of Idol guitarist Steve Stevens to perfection.
AdrianGale maintains its penchant for top-level production. Lone difference is how the heavier nature of the Defiance material lends to the rawer and tougher vibe overall, at least in comparison to what the group has done in the past (an effect I find quite flattering). Also, credit Kivel Records for the professional packaging, including a multi-page mini booklet with band photos and lyrics/liner notes in an easy to read font.
AdrianGale, obviously, are not a Christian band and Defiance is not a Christian album. That said as with previous releases from the group, Rowe helps contribute lyrics, penning the prose to one song and collaborating with Rivera on four others. Topics deal with life and relationships from a positive standpoint. The focus of “Defiance”, for instance, is on persevering and having hope for the future:
No more - picking up the pieces
Building up my strength again
Watch out - gonna bowl ya over
Gonna turn it up to ten
So much stronger now than I was then
No more hopeless days in sight for me
“Back To You” touches upon a similar topic –
Fighting demons I don’t know
‘Til the fractures start to show
Now it’s time to face the truth
Helps to get me back to you
This is something I confess
Promise not to fail the test
I will always see this through
‘Cause I’ve been led back to you
And my faith will guide me - with you here right beside me
- and “Fire” setting goals and putting your best foot forward:
Stoke the flame
And keep it burning high
Win or fail
You won’t know ‘till you try
Stand your ground
And don’t give up the fight
Keep the target in your sight
Rowe makes albums strongest statement of faith on “Yours Forever”:
It lifts you up when you get down
When you feel lost it’ll make you found
And when you see from the other side
You’ll never wanna go back again
A little bit of love (it) goes a long way
Cause it isn’t easily taken away
If like me and were disenchanted with Guardian’s 2014 comeback album Almost Home then give Defiance the chance it deserves. Musically, it proves the better throwback to the classic melodic hard rock sound Guardian fans have been clamoring for literally years. Credit AdrianGale in this capacity for being so prolific over such a short timeframe with a pair of quality albums recorded the past two years. Lone constructive comment is that perhaps Defiance could have used one more song when factoring it includes nine cuts and one cover (running time is a bit short at 38 minutes). It would also have been interesting if Rivera and Campbell had contributed some duel lead guitar work to a couple songs, or at the very least given us another ripping instrumental along the lines of “Temporis Intermisso” (off Suckerpunch!). All things added up, Defiance serves to maintain our admiration for both Rowe and AdrianGale!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Defiance” (3:49), “Yours Forever” (3:24), “Back To You” (3:50), “What About Love” (4:19), “Fall” (3:36), “Sometimes” (3:48), ‘Warning Signs” (3:10), ‘Fire” (3:47), “Last Of My Heart” (4:24), “Speed” (4:38)
Jamie Rowe - Lead Vocals
Vic Rivera - Guitars, Bass, Drums & Keyboards
Eddie Campbell - Guitars