|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Roy Z|
|Record Label: AFM||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Rob Rock|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 46:45|
My first exposure to Rob Rock’s renowned lead vocal abilities was Joshua’s 1988 melodic metal masterpiece Intense Defense. Parting ways with Joshua soon after the release of Intense Defense, Rock went on to form Driver with guitarist Roy Z.; while Driver was never able to land a recording contract, it did put together a very fine professional sounding five song demo. After contributing lead vocals to Angelica's hard rocking self-titled debut in 1989, the nineties saw Rock join forces with guitarist extraordinaire Chris Impellitteri, the two recording three albums during the decade that are now considered mainstays in the Christian hard music community: Answer To The Master, Screaming Symphony and Eye Of The Hurricane. Rock parted ways with Impellitteri, however, following the release of its 2000 effort Crunch and pursued a solo career. His debut solo release, Rage Of Creation, moved in a straightforward melodic metal/hard rock direction, while in 2003 he followed up with the heavier and more guitar driven melodic power metal of Eyes Of Eternity. Rock's first two solo albums moved in a progressively heavier musical direction, and he maintains that trend with his latest outing Holy Hell, an album showcasing some of the darkest and heaviest musical moments of his career.
Rock remains in top form on lead vocals with his smooth sounding and melodic classic tenor voice. Producer Roy Z. and Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia) combine to contribute the majority of the albums rhythm and lead guitar work; however, Bob Rossi and Rick Renstrum of Rock's touring band Rage Of Creation furnish their talents on the album as well. Roy Z. and Andreas Olsson (also Narnia) bestow the albums steady bass lines, while the incredible Bobby Jarzombek (Halford) puts in a stellar performance on drums. Mistheria does an impeccable job rounding out the project on keyboards. To say that Rock has surrounded himself with a number of talented musicians would be an understatement. ("All star cast" or "dream team" might be the more accurate terms that apply here!)
Production values showcase just the right amount of polish but not so much as to take away from the all out raw energy generated by Rock and company. The albums low end comes across huge in combining a plethora of heavy duty bass lines with a powerful drum sound. The rhythm guitar - crisp and edgy and right upfront in the mix - is produced to near perfection and stands alongside a clean sounding mix of lead guitar.
Please note that the Japanese version of Holy Hell includes two bonus tracks in “Ride The Wind” and “Lost In A World” in addition to re-mixed versions of “I’m A Warrior” and “First Winds Of The End Of Time”.
It is also worth pointing out the albums excellent artwork, displaying a castle besieged by a demonic force while an angelic army pours forth to come to the defense.
Album opener "Slayer Of Souls" is a 3:32 slugfest. Kicking in to an avalanche of fast paced rhythm guitar and hammering double bass, the two take the song at breakneck speed to a chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. Several seconds of lightning fast riffing aligns itself with the songs aggressive aura. "Slayer Of Souls" is an acronym for Satan:
Unholy angel cast down from the sky
Taking out his vengeance on mankind
Ancient defier that leads the world astray
The dragon and his angels on a rampage
Every knee shall bow
Every tongue confess
Slayer of Souls
The serpent of old
The Slayer, The Slayer of Souls
After a choppy rhythm guitar propels "First Winds Of The End Of Time" forward at a driving mid-tempo pace, it gains further momentum for an infectious chorus in which Rock displays the abundant range to his voice. A very well done melodic flavored guitar solo carries the sweeping instrumental passage that follows. "First Winds Of The End Of Time" is about exactly that:
Shining stars, fall from the sky
The sun and the moon will not give their light
The earth will shake, it can’t' be denied
Face to face as he opens the scroll
Lamb of God, the One foretold
At the end of time, many will call
On His name, at the end of time
Holy Hell moves in a more melodic flavored metal direction on the upbeat "Calling Angels". Progressing through its first verse to a crisp rhythm guitar accentuated by keyboards, "Calling Angels" culminates for a non-stop hook filled chorus backed by vocal harmonies. Roy Z. is right on target with forty-five seconds of exquisite lead guitar work.
The massive wall of rhythm guitar at the start of "Holy Hell" brings to mind the powerful introduction to "Conqueror's Hymn" (from Eyes Of Eternity). The song projects a dark and heavy feel as a double bass driven guitar riff impels it to a resounding chorus in which Rock wails "Holy hell!" at its end. Renstrum contributes just under a minute of blistering lead guitar work to a track touching upon the issues of temptation and spiritual warfare:
Over and over and over again
The spirit and flesh, the conflict within
Temptation, desire, the fight to be pure
The lust of the eyes, so hard to endure
Testing your weakness, enticement to sin
The master of lies is at it again
Weapons of our warfare and schemes of deceit
The moment is now, the flesh is so week
"Lion Of Judah" ranks among the albums stronger tracks. Beginning to an upfront mix of driving rhythm guitar, the song advances in an intense manner until it explodes with a ton of energy for a powerfully delivered chorus underscored by double bass. Grimmark's solo gradually slows to a near bluesy tempo before he elevates the energy level with several seconds of fiery riffing. Jarzombek really shines in this track with an ardent performance on drums.
"I'm A Warrior" made its first appearance on Driver's five song demo (under the title "Warrior") only to return on Impellitteri's 1994 release Answer To The Master (also under the name "Warrior"). The first two versions of the song moved in a melodic metal direction, with the Impellitteri rendition even being backed by vocal harmonies (which were very well done).
On Holy Hell, on the other hand, "I'm A Warrior" comes to life as a result of a stronger rhythm guitar sound and a low end with a more pronounced and heavy feel. Introduced as the rhythm guitar bounces between the left and right channel, a crunchy rhythm guitar urges the song through its first verse until it gains impetus for a good energetically driven chorus. The beautiful melodic flavored guitar solo gracing the songs instrumental passage proves more than a match for Chris Impellitteri's lightning like-leads from Answer To The Master.
'I'll Be Waiting For You" is the first of the albums two ballads. Moving in a catchy melodic rock direction, several seconds of bluesy lead guitar opens the song until it slows to a near crawl as an acoustic guitar reinforces its first verse. After picking up in pace, “I'll Be Waiting For You" moves on to a stylish chorus with a good radio friendly hook. The bluesy lead guitar returns to carry a thirty second instrumental passage. Very nice song.
An anthem-like riff backed by pounding drums opens "When Darkness Reigns", a near heavy handed rhythm guitar sound pushing the song forward until it transitions to a deep sounding chorus giving rise to a portentous ambience. Rossi is right on target in delivering over a minute of high quality metallic lead guitar work. The songs message is as dark and heavy as its music:
When darkness reigns, you'll feel the agony
The price is paid, if only eyes could see
When darkness reigns, you'll face the enemy
Saving grace, from the hand of destiny
fight to survive, you'll stand or fall
You're dead or alive inside this war
Taking off fast and heavy, the superlative "The Revelation" slows for its first verse before a choppy rhythm guitar urges it to a chorus bolstered by just the right amount of catchy vocal harmonies. Rossi contributes a minute of fast fingered lead guitar work that at its end is carried over a pounding riff.
"Move On", the albums second ballad, advances in an acoustic based melodic rock direction similar to "I'll Be Waiting For You" but at a more upbeat tempo. It is worth pointing out that this is the second song by Abba covered by Rock, "Eagle" from Rage Of Creation being his first. The talented Tobias Sammet (Edguy) makes a guest appearance on lead vocals, handling the songs first verse with his warm and smooth sounding voice before singing in harmony with Rock during its melodic flavored chorus. Rock takes the second verse, while the two again sing in harmony upon reaching its third.
Holy Hell showcases some of the finest moments of Rock's three solo album career, tracks such as "Slayer Of Souls", "First Winds Of The End Of Time", "Holy Hell", "When Darkness Reigns" and "The Revelation" all standing out with first rate melodies and an abundance of guitar driven energy. The two radio friendly ballads, "I'll Be Waiting For You" and "Move On", only add to the albums appeal. In closing, I really enjoy the darker and heavier musical direction Rock takes on Holy Hell; I cannot help but encourage him to continue with this trend on his follow up effort.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Slayer Of Souls" (3:32), "First Winds Of The End Of Time" (4:38), "Calling Angels" (4:40), "Holy Hell" (4:03), "Lion Of Judah" (5:09)," I’m A Warrior" (4:20), "I’ll Be Waiting For You" (4:49), "When Darkness Reigns" (5:48), "The Revelation" (4:19), "Move On" (5:12)
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
Roy Z., Carl Johan Grimmark, The Warlock, Bob Rossi & Rick Renstrum – Guitars
Roy Z. & Andreas Olsson – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek, Butch Carlson & Dave Moreno – Drums
Mistheria & Liza Shekhter – Keyboards
Tobias Sammet – Lead Vocals