|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Michael Voss|
|Record Label: AOR Heaven||Country Of Origin: Germany|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 44:18|
The history of the German melodic metal outfit Mad Max dates back to the early eighties. Hitting the scene in 1982 with a nine song self-titled debut that featured guitarist and founding member Juergen Breforth, the band recruited a new vocalist in Michael Voss before signing to Roadrunner Records and putting out its sophomore effort Rollin’ Thunder in 1984. With the rhythm section of bassist Roland Bergmann and drummer Axel Kruse rounding out its classic line up, Mad Max released Stormchild in 1985 and Night Of Passions two years later (both on Roadrunner Records). Following the departure of Voss in 1989, however, Mad Max was put on hold for the decade that followed prior to re-uniting and recording Never Say Never in 2000 and its most recent outing, Night Of White Rock, in 2006.
Night Of White Rock finds Mad Max delivering an eighties flavored blend of commercial hard rock, melodic metal, classic metal, AOR and melodic rock. Fans of Stryper, Holy Soldier, Guardian, Scorpions and Dokken will find a home here as will those into Rob Rock, Narnia (Enter The Gate era), Jaded Heart and Shakra. A throwback to an era when soaring vocals, searing leads and hooks, hooks and more hooks dominated FM radio and MTV, the album proves quite the consistent and well rounded effort. The band, for example, combines several melodic based tracks (“Losin’ It”, “Hope To See You” and “Sun”) with those that move in a more up-tempo and hard rocking direction (“To Hell And Back Again”, “Raise Your Voice” and “Upon My Soul”). The diversity of NOWR, at the same time, can be found in a very well done customary ballad in “Unbelievable” in addition to “Homeless”, a gritty number giving rise to a scratchy and blues based feel.
The most accurate comparison I might make to vocalist Michael Voss would be Michael Sweet (Stryper) but with a touch of grit and sass added to his delivery. Voss combines with Juergen Breforth to form an able guitar team that puts in place a solid foundation of rhythm guitar – the music here is melodic but heavy at the same time – and very well done lead guitar. (Check out the soling on “To Hell And Back Again”, “Losin’ It” and “Night Of White Rock”.) The performance of bassist Roland Bergmann and drummer Axel Kruse remains strong and steady throughout.
Production values reflect a crisp but polished feel that serves to bring out the best in the quality material here.
Lyrically, NOWR can be described as an openly Christian effort with positive themes revolving around, faith, hope and the need for salvation.
Album opener “To Hell And Back Again” begins to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar before taking off at a spirited, upbeat tempo. Smoothly navigating its verse portions, the song culminates for a romping chorus repeated twice in energetic fashion. A lightning-like run of lead guitar helps put the song over the top. “To Hell And Back Again” talks about exactly that:
Oh, Lord have mercy
Don’t turn your back on me
I sold my soul to darkness
For the promise to be free
I washed my hands in innocence
I cursed Your Holy Son
Raped the soul of freedom
Oh, Lord what have I done
“Losin’ It” immediately launches into a muscular riff prior to evening out upon obtaining its first verse. The song proceeds to drive ahead with a profusion of refined impetus, breaking out in a sweeping manner for a melodic based chorus shored up by a trace of vocal harmonies. The lead work here comes across on the bluesier side of things.
“Hope To See You” takes off quickly only to abruptly decelerate to a quietly played guitar line at the start of its first verse. Picking up in pace as an edgy rhythm guitar imbues the mix throughout the second, the song moves ahead to an abundant and flowing chorus accentuated by a flattering touch of keyboards. “Hope To See You” focuses on the salvation experience:
Here I stand, a broken sinner
Wanted dead, but not alive
Got no chance to be a winner
‘til that day You changed my life
Hurt the ones that really loved me
Never cared what’s right or wrong
Took all that I had for granted
‘til that day You came along
The radio friendly ballad “Unbelievable” is gracefully carried ahead by a piano until it reaches a chorus that almost comes across worshipful in feel:
You’re incomparable, you’re irresistible
But I believe you’re so adorable
You’re unforgettable, you’re unbelievable
But I do believe
An emotional setting is established, however, as a crisp rhythm guitar steps forward to drive its second chorus in a more poignant and moving manner. This one brings to mind Stryper ballads such as “Honestly” and “Together As One”.
The album returns to its hard rocking ways on “Sun”. The song gets underway strong and steady, crunching through its verse portions and bridge before acquiring an extensive chorus giving rise to just the right amount of melodic resonance. A blend of tight sounding guitar harmony and euphonic lead work shores up a well timed instrumental section.
“Homeless” embarks to a punchy bass line that is soon joined by an edgy rhythm guitar. Tapering off at the start of its first verse, a bluesy vibe is reflected as the song grits its way to a hook-driven chorus discussing how we are literally “homeless” without God:
We are all homeless, in a certain way
We are all homeless
That’s the price we have to pay
We are all homeless
Even if you think you’re not
We are all homeless
Unless we… believe in God
A blend of hard rocking rhythm guitar and pounding drums initiates “Raise Your Voice”. Stomping ahead in driving fashion, the song transitions through its bridge to a resounding chorus in which Voss is allowed to showcase his grit-laden vocal abilities. This is an anthem-like number that ranks with the albums heavier and better tracks. You will be singing along in no time to the bands positive message:
Up from above
You’re struck by His love
He is the one of a kind
Answer His call
Don’t wait ‘til you fall
Yesterday’s never too late
“Upon My Soul” opens to some bluesy guitar licks before taking off at an upbeat tempo, a forward swell of rhythm guitar leading the way until the environment evens out upon obtaining its refined bridge. The energetically delivered chorus that follows is guaranteed to gain your full and lasting attention. A gritty guitar solo is added to a song with a faith based message:
When the world comes down on me
It is Judgement Day
I’m here to stay, believe what You say
‘til the end
Undercover, under rope
A 70s influenced hard rock direction is taken on “Bad Day In Heaven”. A blend of keyboards, acoustic guitar and guitar harmony gets things going before the song moves ahead at a tasteful mid-tempo pace, not gaining momentum until an uplifting chorus highlighted by an organ is obtained. The message here is in line with the positive feel to the music:
We’re ready and willing
This is our time
If we don’t’ change it
Life aint worth a dime
A bad day in heaven
Is a good day in hell
Follow your Saviour
He’s breakin’ the spell
The albums title track is one of its more guitar driven pieces. Fading in to a keyboard solo, a crisp rhythm guitar takes over the mix and pushes the song forward hard and heavy. Tapering off to an even blend of guitar and keyboards for its first verse, “Night Of White Rock” briefly pauses for its bridge only to move on to a resounding chorus conveyed with just the right amount of determined impetus. I enjoy how the song slows for an instrumental passage highlighted by a tasteful mix of acoustic guitar and ethereal lead guitar.
Night Of White Rock closes to the short, acoustically driven instrumental “(Just A) Melody”.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “To Hell And Back Again” (3:21), “Losin’ It” (3:35), “Hope To See You” (4:16), “Unbelievable” (4:27), “Sun” (4:53), “Homeless” (4:55), “Raise Your Voice” (3:16), “Upon My Soul” (3:50), “Bad Day In Heaven” (4:40), “Night Of White Rock” (5:28), “(Just A) Melody” (1:28)
Michael Voss – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Juergen Breforth – Guitars
Roland Bergmann – Bass
Axel Kruse - Drums
Also Reviewed: Mad Max - White Sands