|Musical Style: Melodic Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Dennis Cameron & Ken Tamplin|
|Record Label: Intense||Country Of Origin: Canada|
|Year Released: 1989||Artist Website: Dennis Cameron|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 42:40|
We profess great admiration for the Intense Records 1989 self-titled Angelica debut for its ability to balance the virtuoso guitar abilities of Dennis Cameron with the melodic lead vocals of Rob Rock. Angelica traces its history to the late eighties and Ontario, Canada based founding member Cameron, whom came to the faith in early 1987 following a stint in mainstream bands Antix and Masquerade. Subsequent to the release of a pair of custom cassette demos, with the first fronted by Graham Turonzo and second by Andy Lyon, Cameron faced the decision to either join Holy Soldier or Bloodgood or sign with Intense Records. He chose the latter and went on to record four full-length albums with Intense under the Angelica moniker.
Please note that Angelica represented a project as opposed to a full time band in that per the artist, “(Angelica) was more of an idea for a band than anything with my songwriting, my direction, and me financing everything from the demos to whatever” (referencing an interview from back in the day). More specifically, “The whole existence of Angelica only revolved around making the records. As hard as I tried to make it a 'band', it never came to fruition” (as noted in a recent online interview). He further summarizes the Angelica mission: “(Angelica) was only meant to be a vehicle for me to present some Christian oriented music and use it to glorify God instead of trying to get myself on center stage and in the spotlight using the secular music model.”
Rob Rock came into the fold when the original singer slated to front Angelica did not work out in the studio, and it became necessary to recruit a replacement vocalist to finish the album. At that point, Ken Tamplin, whom was serving in the role of vocal producer, offered Cameron two choices: Bob Carlisle or Rob Rock. Cameron went with Rock due to being familiar with his work in M.A.R.S. and its album Project Driver, which is not to be confused with Rock’s other band of the time Driver in which he recorded a demo with guitarist Roy Z. Of note, it took Rock only three days to record the Angelica vocals despite not having previously known the songs, although the vocal melodies on many cuts had to be reworked due to Rock’s classic tenor voice being in a higher range than that of the original vocalist.
I like to define Angelica as eighties influenced melodic metal and commercial hard rock. Opening cut “Only One Hero” leaves little doubt in this regard, albeit taking a heavier approach with its pointed guitar attack and brusque ‘there is only One hero!’ refrain. Verses calm as composed bass and keyboards hold sway. “Only A Man” preserves the fixed mindset, with assuming guitar harmonies standing alongside a forthright momentum that has direct as it gets written all over it. Cameron unleashes a distorted Oz Fox like guitar solo.
Equally heavy is “Are You Satisfied?” with its bouncing guitar rhythms and laid back if not cogent demeanor. The minute long stretch of soloing from Cameron rates alongside the best other guitarists Rock has worked with in Joshua Perahia and Chris Impellitteri. Likewise, Satriani influenced instrumental “Ahh!” shines with its groove driven riff focus and stretch of ‘OMG, how did he do that!’ pull-out-all-the-stops shred lead guitar at the end.
Taking a more commercial stance but equally good is “Danger Zone”. The song spotlights guitars of a keyed up variety for its verses, which contrast with the smoother leanings to the catchy, background vocal driven refrain. In similar fashion, “Take Me” mirrors its share of commercial qualities, not quite heavy with guitars on the tempered side but every bit melodic in terms of its draw you in at once radio friendly allure. Such is the quality that if placed on a prime Stryper album either cut would sound right at home.
Whereas in my opinion the previously noted represent the six best Angelica cuts, albums remaining material does not come without its share of choice moments.
It starts with “I Believe”, an AOR infused melodic hard rocker delivering the up-tempo goods in the form of an inspirational refrain and arresting drum presence of Scott Ernest. Further playing up the melodic rock leanings is “One Step At A Time” with its larger than life backing vocals and more reserved guitar penchant (in a positive light either way). Also of an AOR based nature but not doing anything for me is “Shine On Me”. Yes, the lighter Angelica material translates well, but this one strains too far in that direction for my taste with a lack of guitar presence leading me to hit the skip button.
Angelica can also deliver a keen sense of groove. Consider “Will I Every Learn” in this capacity, elevated with Robert Pallen’s clear-cut bass underpinnings but playful in terms of the lavish backing vocals that adorn its lively refrain. “S.O.S.” further plays up the groove attributes as resonate bass plays every bit the defining role and buoyant guitars lend to the affirmative scene. The reach for the skies falsetto’s Rock cuts loose with on the two proves that his ‘the voice of melodic metal’ nickname is aptly earned!
Closing cut “Face To Face is an upbeat showstopper in which Tamplin showcases his warm vocal flavorings. Tamplin had decided to record a rough track of the “Face To Face” vocals for Rock, whom was taking a break after putting in twelve-hour shifts. They turned out so well Cameron made the decision keep them for the final mix.
Production falls within the not bad but could be better category. On one hand, it is obvious Angelica was recorded on a limited budget and sounds fine in this regard; on the other, it could use a bit of sprucing at the same time. My thought is that it is long overdue for the album to see re-issue after having been professionally re-mastered.
Packaging also deserves improvement. I like to think ‘the powers that be’ could have come up with something more original than the gold Angelica logo over a black background cover art. Also, the band photo on the back of the CD insert includes the vocalist that did not perform on the album - you would think someone might have thought about taking a promo picture of Cameron and Rock while in the studio - while lyrics are printed in a font so small that you need a magnifying glass to read them.
Said lyrics reflect the as noted artists goal to ‘present Christian oriented music and use it to glorify God’. “There’s Only One Hero” talks about exactly that:
The Son of God, the heirs to the Throne
A perfect sacrifice, it's time to make known
He lived a life, not just for his own
A perfect sacrifice, it's time to make known
What was I that You should die
Die to set me free
I only wish the whole world could see
“I Believe” focuses on God’s faithfulness:
And when the waves come crashin’ in
You’ll be lost on your own
There is no one by your side
And no place to call home
I have come to testify, Lord
You'll always be there
He'll always be there to hold the line
When in despair
“Danger Zone” deals with faith during hard times:
God please forgive me
I’ve been torn in two
My head goes one way
My heart belongs to You
All through the night
When I’m all alone
I know you’ll always be there
Lord, You’re the One I can depend on
Taking me out of the danger zone
“Face To Face” makes a statement of faith:
Trusting in You
I won’t deny
Lord, fill my life
You know I gotta try
You’re the answer (my way out)
Face to face Lord, I could never
Want for more when I’m
Face to face
You’re all I need
Angelica in my opinion is the best of the four albums Cameron released under the Angelica moniker. It comes down to songwriting from how the album includes many of my favorite Angelica cuts; performance stands out equally from the unbeatable guitarist and vocalist combination of Cameron and Rock. If into melodic metal or any of the projects in which Rock has participated - Joshua, Impellitteri, Driver and his solo material - then Angelica comes with a strong recommendation. Looking ahead, I would like to encourage Cameron to put together ten to eleven equally good melodic metal and hard rock cuts and then touch basis with Rob Rock to complete the final piece to the puzzle.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Rob Rock - Lead Vocals
Dennis Cameron - Guitars
Robert Pallen - Bass
Scott Ernest - Drums
Ken Tamplin - Lead Vocals
Mark Hugenberger - Keyboards
Arnold, Christy. "Angelica Interview." Take A Stand (September 1989):4.
Arnold, Christy. "Angelica Interview." Take A Stand (November 1990): 1-2.
Mutillo, Dave. "Rock, Stock & Dennis Cameron." White Throne 11 (1992): 48-50.