|Musical Style: Heavy Acoustic Rock||Produced By: Varies|
|Record Label: LNJ||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Liberty N' Justice|
|Tracks: 14||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 59:16|
While Liberty N’ Justice has been around since the early nineties, it has gained renown in recent years for its all star projects Welcome To The Revolution (2005) and Soundtrack Of A Soul (2006). The brainchild of founding member Justin Murr, Liberty N’ Justice amalgamated a variety of styles on Welcome To The Revolution – from melodic rock to metal to modern – before heading in an eighties influenced metal and hard rock direction with Soundtrack Of A Soul. Independence Day, the third straight all star project from Liberty N’ Justice, finds Justin exploring acoustic rock territory while still reflecting many of the eighties sensibilities characteristic to Soundtrack Of A Soul. No, this is not a hard rock album, but if your musical tastes trend towards the bands of the many guest artists appearing on the previous two Liberty N’ Justice released, then I cannot help but think the acoustically driven sounds of Independence Day will appeal to you.
Those of you who are like me, however, and agree that change is good, will find the move towards an acoustic based sound a refreshing one. That being said, there is no need to worry in that what we have in Independence Day is not a one dimensional or lackluster “unplugged” effort. In contrast, this proves a lively and inspired work – delivering more than enough punch to attract those into the metal and hard rock genres – characterized by maturity in the area of songwriting. And nowhere is this more evident than on “Doubting Thomas”, “Monkey Dance”, “Soldier”, “Fade” and “Independence Day”, all choice tracks standing out with their notable chorus hooks. The same high quality is maintained on up-tempo numbers “Phoenix” and “Bullet, Train, Breakdown” in addition to the more temperate sounds of “Addiction” and “Snake Eat Snake”. An almost Gospel-like feel is even exuded on the laid back “Sacrifice”.
As an all star project, Independence Day remains true to the spirit of Welcome To The Revolution and Soundtrack Of A Soul. Guest appearances abound, made by numerous talented vocalists and musicians representing many of the best in the business both past and present. Independence Day, for example, features the vocal abilities of Jack Russell (Great White), Mark Slaughter (Slaughter), Tony Mills (TNT), Ted Poley (Danger Danger), Jamie Rowe (Guardian), David Raymond Reeves (Neon Cross) and many others. Guitarists Jack Frost (Savatage), Nikki Dimage (Line Of Fire), Mike Layne & Dirk McCoy (both StepDown), Tommy Denander (Radioactive) and Sayit (Jet Circus) appear as well along with bassists Ez Gomer (Jet Circus), Jerry Dixson (Warrant), Mark Hovland (Hovland) and Mike Layne (StepDown).
It must be noted that a great deal of thought went into the process of selecting the vocalists appearing on the project. The majority, for instance, contribute a gritty and raspy mid-octave vocal style that perfectly complements the acoustic material here. The same can also be said for the choice of guitarist. Nevertheless, am I out of line to suggest that the area of lead guitar ended up being slightly underutilized? There are a couple of tracks – “Soldier” and “Fade” come to mind – in which I cannot help but think a bluesy or emotionally played guitar solo would have sounded right at home. In no way, however, is this offered as a critique but rather an observation in that it does not detract from the albums quality.
Production values represent a strength. Crisp and clean, all the instrumentation stands out in the mix, especially the bass and drums. As a matter of fact, the pronounced feel to the albums low end actually makes it sound heavier than it really it, which is the effect one wants to capture on an acoustic based release.
“Doubting Thomas” slowly moves forward from the start, the raspy vocal delivery of John Corabi (ex Motley Crue) adding to the collected scene as the way is paved for a chorus advancing at a catchy but mid-tempo clip. Over its final two minutes the song picks up in pace as a bluesy lead guitar helps decorate the acoustic backdrop. Very solid album opener focusing on the issues of faith and doubt:
Saying prayers to God
Wondering if He really hears
And if He does
Does He really care?
If we don’t know where goin’
How do we find the way
How do we face the day
And there’s no hope for tomorrow
Jack Russell” (Great White) lends his scratchy vocal abilities to “Monkey Dance”, a track advancing at the faster tempo in comparison “Doubting Thomas” but proves no less notable. Also showcasing a choice hook, this one is shored up its full length by an acoustic guitar while a touch of backing vocals highlights its riveting chorus.
“Soldier” combines a resounding bass heavy low with the gravely vocal flavorings of Kelly Keaggy (Night Ranger) and Mark Slaughter (Slaughter). A song that ranks among my favorites on Independence Day, “Soldier” stands out with its gripping chorus hook and determined feel to its lyrics:
Keep your eye on the prize
Keep your mind off the lies
Keep your head in your hands
And the bullet at your side
Swing the blade
Twist the knife
And leave nothing left standing that’s in your way
“My Sacrifice” showcases a laid back sound that almost gives rise to a Gospel influence. The piano at the start of the song slowly propels it forward, underscoring its tranquil verse portions and a chorus accentuated by a bountiful mix of vocal harmonies. Shawn Pelata (Line Of Fire) displays his versatility with a vocal performance on the soulful side of things. Beautiful song.
One of the albums more up-tempo compositions, “Phoenix” gets underway to an even blend of acoustic and electric guitar. The song proceeds to settle down for its first verse only to regain the lost momentum as it obtains a lively chorus in which Pete Loran (Trixter) exhibits his smooth sounding vocal delivery. I like the analogy found in the lyrics here:
We can build our man made idols
We can build our dreams on side
We can place the King on trial
Will the phoenix rise again?
An anthem-like aura is exuded throughout the albums moving title track. The song advances its distance with a pronounced bass line standing in support of Kelly Keeling’s (Baton Rouge) full sounding voice, not culminating until procuring a chorus standing out as a result of the decisive feel to its delivery. A declaration of faith is made on “Independence Day”:
Listen to our declaration
Listen to our testament
We’ve been given a revelation
We are sure of where we stand
So let the banner be unfurled
We’ve found the Light of hope in a dying world
The relaxed AOR of “Meet My Monster” slowly progresses through its verse portions and stylish chorus as Tony Mills (TNT) puts forth a graceful showing on lead vocals. Following a very well done acoustic based instrumental section, the song picks up in pace and closes out its final minute in near hard rocking fashion.
“Praying For A Miracle”, the shortest track here at just 3:12, highlights Ted Poley’s bountiful voice in backing an acoustic guitar with occasional touches of piano. A distinguished chorus of the grand variety helps put this classy ballad over the top. I cannot help but think the following line sums things up best:
This world would be a much better place
If everyone would show each other just a little grace
Jamie Rowe – a mainstay to the LNJ projects – is best known for his work with Guardian, Adrian Gale and new band Crunch. “Fade” finds him contributing his trademark gritty vocal presence, bringing out the best in a first rate composition holding up under its catchy chorus hook and decisive mid-tempo pace.
When considering the albums better tracks, the up-tempo “Bullet, Train, Breakdown” represents one of the first to come to mind. Starting slowly, the song gradually builds in force throughout its verse portions only to break out for a chorus giving rise to a profusion of hook driven momentum. I enjoy how at its three minute mark “Bullet, Train, Breakdown” tapers off as a stretch of lead guitar underscores Jaime St. James’ (Warrant) gravelly voice. I might describe this as a song touching upon the issue of grace:
Right in front of your face
Can you see the grace
It’s right beside you
Can you feel it, can you feel it
Inside of you
“Addiction” moves forward with a touch of piano underling the backdrop, putting in place a compelling melody as Jani Lane adds to the poignant scene with his smooth sounding vocal stylings. Quite the touching piece, this one is a bit on the short side (3:23) but still holds up as a result of the emotional feel to its delivery.
“Wake The Dead” is the only track here I struggle to get into. Musically, the song moves in a heading directly opposed to the majority of the albums material with its forward mix of keyboards and occasional use of rhythm guitar. Bordering on quirky, the song struggles to define itself as a result of its disjointed and almost experimental feel. It is, on the other hand, good to hear Ez Gomer’s unique vocal style again (although I hope this is not the direction he will be heading on the next Jet Circus album).
One of the albums pleasant surprises has to be the vocal performance of David Raymond Reeves. Best known for his high pitched wailing on Neon Cross’ self-titled debut from 1988, David has toned it down a great deal in displaying a low key – almost somber – side to his abilities. This is best exhibited throughout the songs melancholic verse portions (quite the haunting atmosphere here) in addition to a rumbling chorus conveyed in near stalwart fashion. Another hook here that will refuse to leave your head.
Independence Day closes to “A Little Bit Of Love”, a commercial sounding number featuring a duet between the husband and wife team of Mark and Shannon Hovland. While Mark brings a gritty mid-octave style, it is Shannon who shines in accentuating the song with the abundant power and range to her voice (those who have Hovland’s 2004 debut Rise Up know what I am talking about. Great talent.) The only complaint worth noting, however, is that the lead vocals end up mixed a bit forward. Still, this one asks several relevant questions:
Can you spare a little bit of love?
Can throw a bit of compassion my way?
Can you spread a little bit of heaven?
Make it worth your while today…
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Doubting Thomas” (5:01), “Monkey Dance” (3:29), “Soldier” (4:14), “My Sacrifice” (5:27), “Phoenix “ (4:06), “Independence Day” (4:13), “Meet My Monster” (3:46), “Praying For A Miracle” (3:12), “Fade” (3:45), “Bullet”, Train, Breakdown” (5:01), “Addiction” (3:23), “Wake The Dead” (4:55), “Snake Eat Snake” (4:51), “A Little Bit Of Love” (3:55)