|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: Varies|
|Year Released: 2017||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 38:13|
The wait is over- the highly anticipated debut full length of multinational hard rock act Rainforce, Lion’s Den, has arrived! Multinational in terms of how founding member and guitarist/composer Andy La Morte has aligned himself with Swiss bassist Matt Brand (Pÿlon), Maltese vocalist Jordan Cutajar ((Nomad Son, ex-Pÿlon) and German drummer/keyboardist Benjamin Mann (Power Of God). Hard rock when factoring the manner in which Rainforce draws upon a sound heavily influenced by the seventies and eighties in walking a fine line between straightforward hard rock (sort of like Rez Band), blues based hard rock (somewhat akin to prime Bride) and high energy hard rock (do I day say X-Sinner or AC/DC?). All the needed ingredients are at hand: fiery guitars, driving low end, unabashed vocals and keyboards that, when used, highlight but not to a fault.
Rainforce arose out of the vision La Morte had of founding a band with musician friends that draws upon the hard rocking spirit of the seventies and eighties while accompanied by faith-based lyrics. Over the years the Lion’s Den songs and lyrics began to develop until, following a year long recovery from an illness, La Morte played his first demo recordings to Brand, whom offered his full support for the project. Mann came onboard in 2015, while drumming legend Jayson Sherlock (Mortification) later conceived both the Rainforce name and logo. The search for a vocalist was short lived in that soon following the start of recording sessions in February of 2016, the band settled on Cutajar after he lent his signatures raspy vocals to a test version of “Feed Me (I’m Hungry)”. Lion’s Den is scheduled for release on April 14, 2017 via Roxx Records.
Outside of its multinational propensities, Rainforce also presents with significant star-studded appeal in terms of its numerous guest appearances. No, I hesitate to use the term ‘all star project’ in that Rainforce is a band in the truest sense of the word, as opposed to true ‘all star’ projects such as Liberty N’ Justice and Vox Heaven. That said, Lion’s Den does feature such a wide array of guest performers as to represents a ‘who’s who’ within Christian metal and hard rock circles: guitarist Rex Carroll (Whitecross, King James) and bassist Jim LaVerde (Barren Cross) in addition to vocalists Rex Scott (GX Project, X-Sinner) and Kevin Wright (ex-Jacobs Dream). Other contributions attribute to vocalist Philipp Rölli (High/Low City) and guitarists Hämu Plüss (Bluesaholics) and Olvier Schneider (Exile Rd, Pÿlon, Minsk Security).
Albums ironclad opening title track allows all the aforementioned pieces to assert themselves: La Morte leads the up-tempo way with his hard charging riff penchant; Cutajar’s blues soaked vocals provide the soulful essence; Mann sets the composite tone from his unfaltering timekeeping abilities. All the while, the melodic vocal harmonies of Philipp Rölli help lighten the backdrop.
“My Rock” represents a short but curt fast-paced barnburner. With its no-frills and no-nonsense approach, the song leaves impression of basic but not simplistic with hooks of a moderate quality and double kick drum setting the boisterous tone. Cutajar and Rex Scott combine for quite the effective gravel based duet.
“Feed Me (I’m Hungry)” might not present with the exuberance of “My Rock”, but it delivers a forthright blow nonetheless. The song pins impudent guitars to the front of the mix while upping the bluesy qualities, with the upshot a cool X-Sinner meets AC/DC classic hard rocking vibe. La Morte stands out with his every bit as rugged soloing abilities.
“I Am Yours” reasserts the mid-paced parameters in taking the blues based accent to the next level. Shuffling bass courtesy of Brand plays a lead role, as does an abrading guitar swagger, which the ever present shredding of Rex Carroll helps magnify (it has always been my opinion blues is his natural element). Topping off one of this reviewers choice tracks are some start and stop time signatures that remind of classic Bride track “Troubled Times” (off Kinetic Faith).
Melodic instrumental “Speechless” will leave you exactly that with its mirthful qualities. The song hints of the medieval from the classical guitars and animated bass that open it, with the charging guitar riffs that soon step forward pushing things into satisfying heavier rocking territory. Philipp Rölli returns with more light vocal harmonies on the backend.
Album begins to hit its stride with “New Jerusalem”, another top of the line bluesy hard rocker. A weighty mid-paced foundation sustained by an expansive low end defines the song, which occasionally moderates for the grainy slide guitars of Hämu Plüss. Overall feel is a heavier rocking version to Glenn Kaiser Band.
Rez Band comes to mind on “Desert Sand”, a bare bones mauler in which Jim LaVerde guests. Mid-paced impetus again prevails, as do walls of freight train guitars and Cutajar’s every present lower register and gritty snarls. Understated does of pleasing melody comes in the form of the harmony driven instrumental moments.
“The Gods Have Failed” stands out as the albums darkest and most pensive. The song features some interesting variances, including atmospheric verses instilled with Brand’s distorted bass and commanding refrain that takes the more decided heading. Lending to the chaotic scene are distant hints of extreme vocals.
A return to up-tempo territory on “He Came To Set The Captives Free”, a cut set apart by its melodic hard rock aptitude. Keyboards take a forward role in comparison to some here with guitars on the reserved side of things, albeit still distinctive. The melodic lead guitar work of Oliver Schneider rates with albums best.
Lion’s Den closes to its most straightforward track “Shine A Light”, which consists of Cutajar’s dusty vocals backed by acoustic guitar. Impetus picks up over the final minute as percussion and bass step forward. Kevin Wright provides the contrastingly melodic backing vocals.
Impression left is the slightly raw even underdone feel to production was the bands intent. In pursuing an overriding hard rock sound, Rainforce, obviously, was not attempting to capture a great deal of polish to begin with. It works in light of the generous mix afforded guitars and drums with adequate bass to taste, although vocals end up placed a bit forward at times.
Lion’s Den equates to a musically consistent album within the hard rock genre, whether it be straightforward, blues based or high-energy hard rock (and all things in between). Production is solid as is the performance of the individual Rainforce members not to mention the numerous guest musicians. With its emphasis on the multinational and the star-studded, I see Rainforce remaining a strong contender within hard music circles for years to come with any follow up release highly anticipated. Fans of Bride, X-Sinner, AC/DC and Rez Band are strongly encouraged to check Rainforce and its fine debut Lion’s Den out.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Lion’s Den” (4:08), “My Rock” (3:16), “Feed Me (I’m Hungry)” (3:55), “I Am Yours” (3:39), “Speechless” (2:58), “New Jerusalem” (3:50), “Desert Sand” (4:17), “The Gods Have Failed” (3:02), “He Came to Set The Captives Free” (4:41), “Shine A Light” (4:09)
Jordan Cutajar - Lead Vocals
Andy La Morte – Guitars
Matt Brand - Bass
Benjamin Mann - Drums
Rex Scott - Vocals
Philipp Rölli - Vocals
Kevin Wright - Vocals
Rex Carroll - Guitars
Hämu Plüss - Guitars
Oliver Schneider - Guitars
Jim LaVerde - Bass