|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Rod Rivera & Johnny Bomma|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Rivera Bomma|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 65%|
|Running Time: 49:55|
Read any review of Infinite Journey Of Soul, the January of 2013 Retroactive Records third full length album from New Jersey based Rivera Bomma, and you will see the same list of compliments and complaints: Strong songwriting and first-rate band performance, but production leaves much to be desired. Yes, some variations thereof will be found - at least dependant upon the reviewer - but after repeat listen I cannot help but share similar sentiments.
Rivera Bomma, consisting of guitarist extraordinaire Rod Rivera and professional vocalist Johnny Bomma, maintain their penchant for American power metal and traditional heavy metal merged with the occasional progressive overtone. The two present with a couple of calmer, ballad-like moments as well. It adds up to a musical continuation of the group’s 2006 sophomore album I Am God but with the variety of its 2001 debut Invisible Force mixed in.
The heavier Infinite Journey Of Soul material touches upon its better I Am God counterparts. Remember the albums anthem-like title track (with its panoramic view of creation and the Creator), stunning “Help” (and its exciting, falsetto driven refrain) and “Revelation/Midnight Sunlight” (ranking with the best ever songs about the Second Coming)? This is the type of quality delivered by “Empty Desire”, joining of the bottom heavy with full on energy, “Angel And Demons”, a heavy hitter hinting of classic metal, and “Infinite Journey Of Soul”, highlighting a symphonic and epic based presence. The same holds true of the ominous doom-ish tinctures to “The Maker” and progressiveness of seven minute pieces “In Blood” and “Horizon’s End” with their intricate time signatures.
It is the albums four remaining tracks in that that previously referenced variety comes into play. In addition to “intro” and “outro” pieces “I.J.O.S. Intro” and “Before The End”, you will also encounter ballads “Via Dolorosa” and “The Maker”. The former, a Sandi Patty cover (off the 1984 album Songs From The Heart), brings a luxurious feel with a fitting edge of rhythm guitar, while the latter gives rise to a Latin flair not unlike some of the mellower moments to Invisible Force.
The Sandi Patty cover is far from bad, but I would much rather have Rivera Bomma pay tribute to the past by re-recording a song from one of their contemporaries instead. I’m sure you can agree a rousing cover of the Leviticus classic “The Suffering Servant” would have worked better. But that is not the point, particularly in light of the fact the album has just 8 full length songs and two are ballads I rate above average to good at best. The overall impression being that at least two additional quality heavier rocking pieces are required to produced the more well-rounded effort.
Rod Rivera and Johnny Bomma continue to represent one of the better guitar and vocalist combinations this side of Rob Rock and Chris Impellitteri.
Rivera remains a monster player, showcasing a style that brings to mind Richie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Yngwie Malmsteen Carl Johan Grimmark rolled into one. As with I Am God he literally steals the show with playing that can touch upon the neo-classical and hammer-on driven in one instance but make a transition to a more aggressive or bluesy direction the very next. At this point it must be reinforced that one aspect I appreciate about Rivera Bomma is how they are not afraid to extend a song into five to seven minute range by emphasizing their instrumental sound, as they do throughout the albums heavier material (and give Rivera the opportunity to unveil his delectable playing in the process).
Bomma continues to sing with heart, lungs, guts, power and projection in putting forth another dominant performance. I cannot say enough good things about his abilities in that he rates with my all time favorite vocalists. The best way to describe him would be versatile: He brings the commanding presence to fit the traditional metal mold but also the all out range (without overdoing it from a high end standpoint) to complement the power/progressive side of things.
Also of note is the excellent album artwork from Jan Yrlund, who has worked with other Retroactive artists such as David Benson, The Seventh Power and Liberty N’ Justice. Lyrics share the same forthright direction of past Rivera Bomma releases.
Production is the lone area that disappoints. Infinite Journey Of Soul has a demo-like feel with watery thin rhythm guitars, drums that lack presence, ill-defined guitar leads and almost non-existent bass. The upshot is that Rivera Bomma end up robbed of much of the trademark power and vitality that defines their sound (listen to I Am God and Infinite Journey Of Soul side by side and you will notice the difference).
I cannot help but think Rivera Bomma would benefit from following the examples of contemporaries that brought in some of the best in the business to help out on production with their latest releases. InnerSiege recruited Fredrik Nordstrom for the mix and mastering of its debut Kingdom Of Shadows, while Golden Resurrection hired Ronny Milianowicz to mix its most recent album One Voice For The Kingdom. Germán Pascual enlisted Thomas Plec Johansson for the mix and mastering of his debut solo release A New Beginning. I could go on and on in this area, but I am sure you get the point: Sometimes you have to dig a bit deep into your pockets - and bleed a bit in the process - in order to obtain professional quality production.
Infinite Journey Of Soul adds up to an uneven effort from a talented band I was expecting a bit more from after a seven year wait between albums. Songwriting shines (at least on the albums heavier material) as do the duo of Rod Rivera and Johnny Bomman. Production proves the lone area to fall short. In the end what I feel I am dealing with in Rivera Bomma is a talented professional sports team with the potential to win a championship but lacks the acumen to even make it to the post season. And as the most recent NFL season can attest, sometimes the most talented team does not always win the Super Bowl (with no apologies to the Baltimore Ravens and its fans) but rather the one that knows how to perform smart and minimize (if not eliminate) unnecessary mistakes. I know Rivera Bomma have another great album in them- it is a matter of executing in the studio to produce such results.
Track By Track
“I.J.O.S. Intro” segues its short distance (1:40) between offbeat sound effects, female narration and guitar pyrotechnics.
The albums title track is where the fun starts. Classic Rivera Bomma all the way, “Infinite Journey Of Soul” makes a dominant statement with its brazen riffing, ascendant presence and scripture voice over covering the final minute. Choir-like vocals step forward to interweave with the ethereally done chorus. Lyric snippet:
End of time
It’s raining fire in the sky
Good and evil hand in hand
Infinite journey of souls
It’s in stone Gods ten commands
Infinite journey of souls
Life no more in earth and land
Infinite journey of souls
Momentum picks up with “Empty Desire”, a razor edged barn burner that Rivera turns into a personal shred fest: Including the opening seconds that feature some enticing open air guitar and lengthy instrumental interlude driven by quite the pulsating stretch of soloing. The song, otherwise, brings a dark, bottom heavy mentality with preeminent vocals and some of the albums heavier moments holding sway.
“In Blood” delivers its share of variety. The song opens the first of its seven minutes instrumentally with romping double bass and organ holding sway, establishing quite the weighty backdrop its remaining distance, only occasionally descending into a slower passage upheld by quietly done guitar. Chorus runs the gamut from the uplifting (at the start) to decisive (for the end). Again, Rivera cuts loose throughout a skillfully done instrumental section. Lyric snippet:
Do you hear me?
Do you know who I am?
Do you fear me?
I’m the voice in year head?
I’m the blind man
Who can see fantasy
Please embrace me
In a dream I’m faced with myself
With His love
I’m dying, I’m dying
Rivera Bomma do the Sandi Patti cover “Via Dolorosa” justice. The song proves lushly done, highlighting Bomma’s emotional vocal edge in moving front to back to back in keyboard driven fashion. When impetus builds a pleasing edge of rhythm guitar cuts in to add to the momentous scene.
“Angel And Demons” captures Rivera Bomma at its most powerful. The song is characterized by its heavy hitting action, approaching classic metal as a result, but can also, contrasting, temper the pace for the palatial aspect that is its sweeping chorus. Topping everything off is another exciting run of lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
Lately I’ve been on my knees
Lonely fighting this disease
Inside of your love, I miss you the most
Inside your window, what do you hide?
Do you feel evil?
There’s someone above looking on
Inside your window, what demons you hide?
Do you feel evil?
There’s God up above looking on…
“Horizons End” charges out of the gate at a furious tempo with distorted guitars and blazing leads to match. The song maintains a distinguished feel in moving forward, delivering a wallop with the guitar based impetus but also evening out for its deeply resonant chorus. Just past the halfway point the pace dips for a quieter passage that gives way to a lush run of soloing. Interestingly, a sitar closes out the final seconds.
A Latin flair is delivered in “In My Dream”. Yes, it works in that a generous melody and some tasteful acoustic flavorings are allowed to come to the forefront. A fitting Spanish guitar solo rounds things out. Lyric snippet:
Fingers are pointing
Fists are shaking
Blaze the rage within
Hate them and kill them
For the color of their skin
Love one another
Like God loves us all
Sisters and brothers
Children of the Lord
Weighty, ominous and doom-ish, “The Maker” allows for a pulverizing metal statement. A lengthy instrumental opening made up of gentle open air guitars and haunting riff action gets the song going. Things take a pronounced hulking tone the rest of the way, with sledgehammer guitars, romping low end and shouting backing vocals setting the tone but with a stately chorus serving to tie everything together. A decisive feel can be found in the apocalyptic soloing.
Closing things out is two minute open air guitar solo “Before The End - MMXIII”, which allows Rod Rivera to highlight his abundant abilities (in a similar vein as the Rex Carroll lead guitar pieces during his Whitecross days.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track List: “I.J.O.S. Intro” (1:40), “Infinite Journey Of Soul” (4:51), “Empty Desire” (5:39), “In Blood” (7:02), “Via Dolorosa” (4:55), “Angel And Demons” (5:23), “Horizons End” (7:12), “In My Dream” (4:36), “The Maker” (6:32), “Before The End - MMXIII” (2:00)
Johnny Bomma - Lead Vocals
Rod Rivera - Guitars
Mike LePond - Bass
Edward Faust - Drums