|Musical Style: Melodic Rock||Produced By: David Zajicek|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 50:43|
Back in the days when MTV actually played music videos and Pac-Man and mullet haircuts were all the rage, melodic hard rock dominated the airwaves. Now, there is no need to go into detail about the musical trappings inherit to the genre – in terms of pop influenced catchy hooks, shredding guitar solos and hair, hair and more hair – but I cannot help but “wax nostalgic” when it comes to eighties influenced metal and hard rock.
Of course, all good things must come to an end, as happened at the start of the decade that followed when the Seattle sound (and the flannel shirts and grunginess that went with it) forced the musical landscape in a more modern direction. But a comeback of sorts has been made in recent years in that AdrianGale, Action, Line Of Fine and former Foreigner vocalist Lou Gramm all have put out quality albums that hearken back to the more commercial sounds of an era gone by.
James Guest is the latest artist worth mentioning. The melodic rock and AOR of his 2005 solo outing Klenzd is a musical tribute to the decade in question with its radio friendly sensibilities and commercial hooks, soaring vocals and guitar soloing in abundance. Fans of Journey, Foreigner and Survivor – not to mention the previously referenced artists – will find a lot to like here as will those into Petra, White Heart and Sweet Crystal. If metal on the lighter side of things (think Shout, Stryper & Guardian) is your cup of tea then I can see Klenzd appealing to you as well.
Yes, Kenzd brings its share of commercial hooks - choice tracks “Woman Of The World”, “Keep Fighting” and “Walk In Faith” shine with their radio friendly feel – but when flexing its muscles can deliver an up-tempo rocker in “Set Me Free” and “Bring On The Darkness”. Every melodic rock album is going to have its share of ballads, but “Catch You When You Fall” and “Not Live A Lie” are tastefully done with melody and guitars in complementary amounts. It also must be reinforced how Klenzd makes effective use of acoustic guitar – most notably on “Glory” and “Amber” – while delivering the occasional bluesy moment, as can be found on “Good Love”.
Vocally, James Guest is a wonderful talent who presents with a crystal clear and refined style. While I hesitate to invite direct comparisons, fan of Steve Perry (Journey), Rik Emmett (Triumph), Harry Hess (Harem Scarem) and Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire) are certain to enjoy his pristine flavorings. Which leads to the lone question I have at this point: And that is why we have not previously heard from the guy? Needless to say, I cannot help but think the artist would make an excellent candidate to appear on the next Liberty N’ Justice “all star” album.
David Zajicek contributes the majority of the guitar work here, adding fitting touches of rhythm and acoustic guitar while presenting with soloing that ranges from blues driven to flashy to jazzy. Keyboards, also handled by David, are tastefully done in playing an accenting role with coming across overbearing.
Production could use a bit of polish – at least for the style of music presented – but fails to disappoint with an even balance of the instrumentation.
Lyrics, straightforward and too the point, leave little doubt as to the artists faith. The few tracks here that deal with relationship themes are done in a constructive and positive manner.
The album gets underway to commercial hard rocker “Woman Of The World”. Commercial being the key word in that the song, with its non-stop hooks and immaculately done chorus, could potentially dominate FM radio. Some acoustic guitar can be found along with occasional female backing vocals. This one draws its lyrics from John: 8-11:
A crime not her own
She did not stand alone
Everyone on that day
They turned & walked away
Son of Man had not gone
Asking woman, where are they now?
Woman, oh, woman
Where are your accusers?
There’s no one here, sir
Has not one condemned you?
There’s no one I can see
Go & sin no more
Who can cast the first stone…
“Glory” maintains the acoustic propensities. This one features the stronger tempo – the rhythm guitar plays the more defined role – but is put over the top by the regal bearings to its chorus and the artists passion filled vocal delivery. I cannot help but be reminded of Guardian as a result. A worshipful feel is conveyed here:
Today the light of the city
His robe of righteousness
He will say well done
Thou good & faithful, enter in, enter in, enter in
Glory to the King
Glory to the Lord of Lords
Glory to the Lamb
To the Great I am
“Better This Way”, a slower piece approaching semi ballad territory, is the only track here to come across a bit flat. Yes, the commercial sensibilities are maintained but the gripping hooks of the albums better material is missing with the end result an environs bordering on the forced. This is the only skip button out of the eleven.
“Catch You When You Fall” represents a first class ballad. The song opens its first minute quietly as a piano decorates the backdrop. The pace gradually builds and gains momentum until the rhythm guitar steps forward and carries things ahead in the more decisive manner. The end result is a classy piece that would sound right at home on any Stryper album.
“Not Live A Lie”, the second ballad in a row, works every bit as well. Getting underway to a joining of acoustic guitar and keyboards, the song kicks into a full blown rocker when an edgy guitar steps forward to drive its steadfast chorus. Some emotionally charged lead work rounds things out. This one is aptly entitled:
Because time has seen my life
Go down a different road than most
Where you & I have traveled it cannot be the same
If you think you know me my past can’t even tell
I look ahead believe God not to live a lie
When I look around & see the chosen few
I stare & wonder could this really be true
I don’t care much for stories, I don’t care for lies
I need to sacrifice my pride…
What we have in “Bring On The Darkness” is a well timed hard rocker. The song starts smoothly in cruising through its acoustic layered verses, not picking up impetus until acquiring an energized chorus driven at a resounding upbeat tempo. I can see Ken Tamplin (Shout) doing something like this. “Bring On The Darkness” makes a statement of faith:
Bring on the darkness
Let it come, Let it come
Bring on the black night
The morning sun will rise
Bring on the darkness
By the light I’’ make my way
Bring on the darkness
The Son will light the sky
Slowing things to a bluesy mid-paced tempo, “Good Love” is upheld its length with a hard rocking rhythm guitar maneuvering in and out of the mix. Zajicek highlights things with his blues driven playing, bringing out the best in what can best be described as quite the weighty and swarthy scene.
“Amber”, another gritty slab of hard rock, intertwines with occasional acoustic passages with others driven by a forward mix of rhythm guitar. What we wind up with is perhaps the albums heaviest, reflected in a staunchly done chorus (sustained by a touch of backing vocals) and low end bordering on the unwavering.
An airy keyboard solo gets “Keep Fighting” underway. Keyboards continue to play a role as the song drifts through its verses, a trace of guitar adding to the ethereal scene as a smoothly flowing chorus dealing with putting the past behind is obtained:
We’ve got to keep fighting
What we see coming
We’ve got to keep holding on
To memories we can’t forget
It might be hard to do
Zajicek adorns the instrumental moments with his jazzy playing. The ultimate theme here is to not give up the fight:
We tried so much to see it through
The eyes of the light of love
Hiding in who’s been right or wrong
Now we’ve come to realize
What’s been said & done
Cant’ tear apart hearts alive with Christ
What we have in “Walk In Faith” is a tempered and low-key piece, approaching semi-ballad territory with its poignant qualities but put over the top by another hook driven chorus of the commercial variety. Some church organ rounds out the albums longest track at just over six minutes.
“Set Me Free” flows its first minute acoustically prior to the rhythm guitar abruptly cutting in. The song proves an all out rocker the rest of the way, driving guitar riffs playing a defined role while a deep and weighty chorus – very catchy and ranking with the albums best – will refuse to depart with repeated listen. Somehow I am reminded of Bloodgood in the process. “Set Me Free” talks about holding firm to the faith in the face of the storms of life:
When the storms of this life
Rush over you they try to hide the truth
To the one who knows your way
He will carry the weight
You’ve got to lay it down
Let it fall, let it shine
Let is wash all over me
Open my eyes that I might see
Oh my Lord just set me free
Fans of melodic rock and AOR will find a lot to like in James Guest and the commercial sounds of Klenzd. Yes, the songs bring enough hooks to be a force on FM radio – at least in a previous era – while the soaring vocals and abundant lead work round things out. What else can I say except give this a chance if you are a fan of any type of eighties influenced hard rock.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Woman Of The World” (5:11), “Glory” (4:00), “Better This Way” (4:25), “Catch You When You Fall” (4:01), “Not Live a Lie” (4:19), “Bring On The Darkness” (3:57), “Good Love” (4:14), “Amber” (4:41), Keep Fighting” (4:39), “Walk In Faith” (6:07), “Set Me Free” (4:54)
James Guest – Lead Vocals & Acoustic Guitar
David Zajicek – Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Craig Welch - Drums