|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Carl Johan Grimmark|
|Record Label: Victor Entertainment||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Rob Rock|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 46:06|
Many of my favorite musical moments of the eighties revolve around project in which vocalist Rob Rock participated. Joshua’s 1988 release Intense Defense was one of the first to catch my attention, a melodic metal masterpiece showcasing top of the line production values and the superb playing of guitar virtuoso Joshua Perahia. Rob parted ways with Joshua following the release of Intense Defense and formed the commercial metal outfit Driver with guitarist Roy Z. While Driver never signed a deal with a label, it did put together a five song cassette only demo of a high professional quality. After joining forces with Canadian guitarist Dennis Cameron to record the melodic hard rock of Angelica’s 1989 self-titled debut, Rob teamed up with another accomplished guitarist, Chris Impellitteri. The nineties found Rob releasing four albums with Impellitteri that are now considered mainstays in the metal and hard rock community: Grin And Bear It (1992), Answer To The Master (1994), Screaming Symphony (1996) and Eye Of The Hurricane (1998). By the turn of the century, however, Rob recorded his final album with Impellitteri, Crunch, before departing the group and pursuing a solo career. His debut solo release, the 2000 effort Rage Of Creation, combined elements of melodic metal and hard rock while in 2003 he followed up with the more guitar driven melodic power metal of Eyes Of Eternity. Rob’s first two solo albums moved in a progressively heavier direction and he maintained that trend in 2005 with Holy Hell, a work featuring some of the darkest and most powerful musical moments of his career.
Returning two years later with his fourth solo outing Garden Of Chaos, Rob has put together a work taking the guitar driven heaviness characteristic to Holy Hell and imbuing it with the melodic sensibilities of Rage Of Creation and Eyes Of Eternity. Noteworthy hooks abound throughout the project, particularly on the catchy melodic metal of “Savior’s Call”, “This Is The Last Time” and “Spirit In The Sky”- three tracks heavily influenced by the eighties. If, on the other hand, you are looking for a more aggressive sound then check out “Garden Of Chaos” (a fast paced track backed by periodic outbursts of double bass), the bottom heavy “Satan’s Playground” and aptly entitled metal anthem “Metal Breed”. “Millennial Reign”, a sublime piece with a neo-classical feel, stands alongside the mid-tempo “Only A Matter Of Time” and straightforward hard rock of “Ride The Wind” (a Japan only release remixed version of a song that made its initial appearance as a bonus track to Holy Hell). You will also find two very well done acoustic ballads in “Unconditional” and “Ode To Alexander”.
Rob, as one would expect, remains at the top of his game on lead vocals. (He is not called the Voice of Melodic Metal for nothing!). Continuing to display a smooth sounding and melodic based vocal style with copious range, he has never sounded better on “Satan’s Playground” and “Spirit In The Sky”, two tracks in which he really cuts loose. “Only A Matter Of Time” and “Metal Breed”, however, find the artist mixing in occasional elements of low key grit to his vocal delivery.
To say that the guitar playing here is incredible would be an understatement (particularly when considering the talent Rob recruited to participate on the project). Narnia guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark handles the majority of the lead work on Garden Of Chaos – cutting loose best on “Only A Matter Of Time” – but Gus G. (Firewind), Roy Z., Bob Rossi and Peter Hallgren lend their abilities to the album as well. As a matter of fact, fans of dual lead guitar would do themselves a favor by checking out the trade off taking place between Hallgren and Grimmark on “Savior’s Call” and “Millennial Reign”.
The Narnia rhythm section of drummer Andreas Johansson and bassist Andreas Olsson also perform on the album. It must be noted the aggressive drumming of Johansson on “Garden Of Chaos” and “Savior’s Call” helps put both pieces over the top. Drummer Bobby Jarzombek furnishes his tight playing to two of the albums tracks while Mistheria provides added touch on keyboards.
Production wise, Garden Of Chaos maintains the same high standards found on the artists three previous solo outings.
Fast paced, up-tempo and catchy, the albums title track proves a four minute explosion of energy featuring occasional passages driven by rapid double bass and a sweeping chorus allowing Rob to exhibit his abundant vocal abilities. Grimmark lays down the law with a stretch of torrid soloing. “Garden Of Chaos” proves a choice opening number in that it represents all that works here both musically and lyrically:
In the garden it was right
And now we pay the price for leaving it behind
Building temples to the sky
With a heart of stone we’re shutting out the light
Conquer the evil, the shadows of war
When is the end going to come?
The Garden of Chaos has no peace at all
Who then can say that they’ve won
“Satan’s Playground”, a bottom heavy slab of classic metal, brings to mind the Rage Of Creation track “Judgment Day”. The open air rhythm guitar at the start of the song gives way to a riff of a stalwart variety, the fixed setting maintained on the way to a hook-driven chorus standing out as a result of its swarthy ambience. Grimmark puts on another display of his riveting soloing abilities. “Satan’s Playground” looks at the deceptions behind Islamic extremism:
He is coveting the action
The hero for the cause
Tainted by obsession
The holy war Jihad
When it’s built upon aggression
The martyrs will arise
Virgins wait in heaven
The infidel must die
Taken by the hand of pride
Blinded by the lust inside
Just a child in Satan’s playground
The melodic based “Savior’s Call” delivers one of the albums catchiest hooks. The keyboard solo introducing the song soon joins with a crisp rhythm guitar. “Savior’s Call” proceeds to gain impetus to a crescendo of hard hitting riffs and drums, chopping its way ahead until culminating for an infectious chorus pointing the way to the true meaning of life:
Life will bring you to your knees
You will search but you won’t see
You’ll never find what you’re looking for
Until you hear the Savior’s call
Hallgren trades off with Grimmark throughout a spirited instrumental section. Great song with an abundance of melody that will pull you in on first listen.
A melodic hard rock sound firmly rooted in the eighties is showcased on “This Is The Last Time”. Openly quietly before an intent swell of rhythm guitar kicks in, the song steadily toils through its first verse only to pick up in pace as it acquires a chorus giving rise to a plethora of stylish appeal. The message here revolves around lost love and betrayal:
So hard to believe when you’ve been cut and torn
I’ve waited so long just to walk through this door
Now my heart is in your hands
We must realize the sacred plan
This is the last time
I will give my heart away
This is the last time
I will ever trust again
The slower and driving “Only A Matter Of Time” can easily be compared to “When Darkness Reigns” (from Holy Hell) or “Fields Of Fire” (off Eyes Of Eternity). The song puts in place a mid-tempo environment as a gritty rhythm guitar carries its full distance, amalgamating a deep and resounding chorus with one of the albums finest runs of lead guitar. Every bit as heavy as it is catchy, “Only A Matter Of Time” talks about the end times:
Will you be ready for the coming of the Lord?
Beyond the sun it’s set in stone
Too busy to believe in such an awful fate
Still waiting for the day to come
Does the mind see, what it wants to fear?
You want your remedy, it’s only a matter of time
When the curtain falls, believe the ancient scrolls
Body, mind and soul, it’s only a matter of time
The pace picks up with the polished melodic metal of “Spirit In The Sky”. The song immediately begins to an even blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards before settling down to a striking guitar riff for its first verse. Holding on to the resolute momentum, “Spirit In The Sky” makes an even transition to an immaculate chorus in which keyboards play a perfect highlighting role. Double bass steps forward at the start of an instrumental section shored up by more brazen lead guitar. The lyrics here are every bit as beautiful as the music:
I, I’m going to fly, never want to die
Spirit in the sky
I, I will arrive on the other side
Spirit in the sky
“Metal Breed” pulls no punches. Another number showcasing a prodigious hook, the song takes off to an excess of hard hitting fortitude, plowing its way ahead until breaking out for a muscular chorus reinforced by an impenetrable wall of rhythm guitar. The gritty feel to Rob’s vocal delivery stands in perfect complement to Rossi’s lightning-like soloing. “Metal Breed” comes across in the form of a metal anthem:
Revolution that is still evolving
Standing tall the metal breed
Generations of the anvil pounding
You can’t kill the metal breed
“Millennial Reign” can best be described as neo-classical metal (similar to Seventh Seal). The song opens in exalted fashion to a pulsating rhythm guitar, a grand environment established as the song quickly races ahead only to gain further initiative for a poignant chorus discussing the “millennial reign” in question:
For 1000 years, the throne of grace
For 1000 years, no suffering pain
For 1000 years, Millennial reign
Hallgren and Grimmark again trade off on lead guitar. In the end, “Millennial Reign” proves aptly entitled:
King of Kings, with all power and majesty
And with justice He alone judges and makes war
Lord of Lords, His eyes blazing like fire
On His head are many crowns, wears a robe dipped in blood
An acoustic guitar holds sway over the emotional ballad “Unconditional”, delicately underlining its first and second verse and the melodic based chorus that follows. A very well done acoustic guitar solo adds to the temperate scene. If you enjoyed the ballads I’ll Be Waiting For You” and “Move on” from Holy Hell then I can see you also getting into this one. As far as ballads go, “Unconditional” proves a find number, but I cannot help but think it would have improved if made into a hard rock power ballad instead. In other words, why not throw in some rhythm guitar and let Grimmark cut loose on lead guitar?
A solid example of straightforward hard rock, “Ride The Wind” opens to an edgy rhythm guitar before picking up in pace throughout its first verse. A smooth changeover is made to a decisive chorus ending to a flurry of up-tempo momentum. Gus G. adds a fluid guitar solo to a song delivering a message apocalyptic in nature:
No peace in our lifetime, destruction of man
The course of a nation you never can plan
Tyrants and rulers with blood on their hands
Only the strong are making a stand
I’ve never seen the signs before,
Caught up in the race
Evil lies behind the door, I’m gone without a trace
The album closes with the acoustic based “Ode To Alexander”, a very classy piece written in tribune to the latest addition to Rob’s family, his son Alexander.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Garden Of Chaos” (3:49), “Satan’s Playground” (4:36), “Savior’s Call” (3:46), “This Time Is The Last Time” (4:46), “Only A Matter Of Time” (4:24), “Spirit In The Sky” (4:07), “Metal Breed” (3:57), “Millennial Reign” (4:30), “Unconditional” (4:56), “Ride The Wind” (3:52), “Ode To Alexander” (3:19)
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
Carl Johan Grimmark – Guitars
Andreas Olsson – Bass
Andreas Johansson – Drums
Roy Z. – Guitars, Percussions, Bass & Keyboards
Gus G. – Guitars
Bob Rossi – Guitars
Peter Hallgren - Guitars
Mistheria – Keyboards
Liza Rock – Keyboards
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums