|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Tony Correlli & Wayne Johnson|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 80%|
Everything about North Of Nowhere, the summer of 2013 debut solo release from vocalist and guitarist Wayne Johnson, meets our definition of straightforward hard rock. Powerful and aggressive in form with heavy set rhythm guitars perfectly aligned with a trenchant low-end: Drums assertive as it gets and driving bass providing the unwavering backbone. Vocals are mid-ranged in trending towards the gritty and raspy.
Johnson is best known for his work in Under Command, having founded the group in 1999 with drummer Steve Songy and recording its full length debut, Secret Place Of Thunder, later the same year and follow up efforts Damage Control and Seeing Red in 2001 and 2002, respectively. An acoustic album from 2003, Acoustic Experience, preceded the 2008 half original half covers release Undercover and the groups final studio effort Back In The Thick (80% Angelic Warlord review) from a year later. The Behind The Scenes DVD ensued in 2011.
North Of Nowhere stays true to the trademark thick and crunchy intertwined with a hint of the blues and no-nonsense hard rock Under Command sound. If one were to instead place North Of Nowhere under a heading of Under Command, as a matter of fact, long term fans would not think twice (by no means a fault but rather testament to the comparable musical leanings between the two projects).
Similar to Back In The Thick, North Of Nowhere is not catchy from a commercial standpoint but brings more than adequate hooks all the same (it would not be out of line to suggest the album features melody structures on the subtle side of things). Consistency also continues to play a lead role in that you will find ten good songs all of which hold up under repeat play. The lone caveat being that North Of Nowhere, also not unlike Back In The Thick, took several listens to fully grow on me (you will find a slight sameness feel to its material on first listen) but proves well worth the long term time and investment.
Wayne Johnson’s gravelly and mid-ranged vocal presence, much the same as Glenn Kaiser (Resurrection Band) and Joey Bradford (Thieves & Liars), sounds right at home in a classic hard rock setting. The lone exception being “Fly”, a lighter and more atmospheric track featuring lead vocals from the artists wife Julie Johnson, who performs very commendably BTW.
The album, otherwise, rests on a foundation of thick and weighty mid-paced maulers, with “Shake”, “Longway”, “Sneak Attack” and “In The Between” standing out with their straightforward and no-nonsense sensibilities. Maintaining the unwavering focus but in a more accessible format are the catchy hooks to “My Madness” and “Not Finished”. An upbeat heading, in contrast, can be found in the aptly entitled “Up” and the albums forthright title track from their emphasis on the high energy and riff driven.
To say that Wayne Johnson stays true to the Glenn Kaiser and Stu Heiss (Resurrection Band) school of hard rock riffs and soloing would be an understatement. The artist adeptly buries the album in layer after layer of rhythm guitar without coming across overbearing in the process (those previously referenced subtle melody structures play a role here). Soloing proves equally resourceful in hinting at aspects of the bluesy and razor edged while also reflecting the artists trademark moving touch. He also provides the albums staunchly driven bass lines, while Nate Johnson (no relation) handles the perseverant drum duties.
Production delivers the raw edged goods in allowing for just enough polish without detracting from the natural energy at hand. Packaging, however, disappoints in that I went the download route (no CD version available) and only received the music files with no lyrics or liner notes.
If a fan of Under Command or straightforward hard rock in all its forms (including the aforementioned artists but also F.O.G., Mission Of One, Stonefuze and a host of others) then North Of Nowhere comes highly recommended. Again, an album that proves consistent but also with solid production and performance from Wayne Johnson. Lone complaint revolves around bare bones packaging (hopefully a CD release will be forthcoming in the future) and some slight sameness to the songwriting (resolved with repeat listen).
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Longway” (5:48), “Sneak Attack” (4:21), “North Of Nowhere” (5:08), “In The Between” (4:03), “Fly” (5:20), “My Madness” (4:43), “Not Finished” (5:32), “Up” (5:24), “Completely” (3:58), “Shake” (5:10)
Wayne Johnson - Lead Vocals, Guitars & Bass
Nate Johnson - Drums
Julie Johnson - Lead Vocals (on “Fly”)
Tony Correlli – Keyboards & Second Guitar (on “In The Between”)
Steve Songy – Drums (on “Fly”)