|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Ken Young, Rob Rock & CJ Grimmark|
|Record Label: AFM||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website: Rob Rock|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 59:06|
Vocalist Rob Rock has been around for three decades now. Getting his start with M.A.R.S. and its Project: Driver release from 1986 but also known for his work with Joshua (Intense Defense from 1988) and Angelica (self-titled from 1989), Rob hit his stride in the nineties while a member of Impellitteri on critically acclaimed albums Answer To The Master (1994), Screaming Symphony (1996) and Eye Of The Hurricane (1998). The turn of the century found the artist pursuing a solo career by releasing the melodic power metal of Rage Of Creation from 2000. Following up with the same musical direction on Eyes Of Eternity three years later, Rob recorded the dark and driving sounds of Holy Hell (2005) before putting out the joining of the melodic and heavy that is Garden Of Chaos (2007).
On September 27, 2008 Rob and his backing band performed on Center Stage at the ProgPower USA IX Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. The performance was recorded and filmed for a live DVD/CD release entitled, appropriately, The Voice Of Melodic Metal – Live In Atlanta. Of note, this is the first official DVD release from Rob and in addition to featuring 11 songs from the four solo albums includes bonus material in the form of a detailed discography, live footage from European Festival 2000, a 1996 Japan promotion, New England Night Club home video footage and a Los Angeles rehearsal with Joshua from 1987.
The most accurate way to describe The Voice Of Melodic Metal – Live In Atlanta would be a “best of” retrospective of his solo material performed live. Yes, there is a heavy slant towards his two most recent albums, three and five songs each from Holy Hell and Garden Of Chaos respectively, but Rage Of Creation (two songs) and Eyes Of Eternity (one song) are represented as well. The only critical comment regarding the song selection process is the choice to include just one from Eyes Of Eternity, my favorite of the solo projects. That said, the set list flows with good continuity in that all the material here translates well performed live.
The performance of Rob and his backing band, for a lack of better words, is spot on. It sounds as if the group had been rehearsing steadily the past month when in fact they only performed just two live “warm up” shows in Florida.
Rob, of course, is not known as the “voice of melodic metal” for nothing. Of particular note, he translates the same high level of performance from the studio releases to a live setting. So in case you are wondering- yes, he can hit the high notes and falsettos with ease on stage while maintaining his trademark smooth sounding and melodic presence.
Backing Rob is the “Narnia duo” of guitarist CJ Grimmark and bassist Andreas Passmark. A second guitarist, Peter Hallgren, and drummer Tracy Shell round things out.
Grimmark and Hallgren, who lent their abilities to Garden Of Chaos, form quite the exciting guitar team. The live performance finds the two frequently trading off, letting loose with their adept duel lead work on “Rock The Earth”, “I’m A Warrior” and “Only A Matter Of Time”, which is turned into an eight minute jam session. It also must be noted the heavy hitting drum sound of Tracy Shell and Andreas Passmark’s steady presence on bass.
The editing of the DVD is top notch. Thankfully, this is not a simplistic “three cameras and a cloud of dust” live recording but, rather, is given the full budget production with multiple (and well planned) camera angles, complementary lighting and fantastic sound quality. The mix, for instance, provides for a full rhythm guitar driven while allowing the guitar leads, drums and vocals to equally stand out.
Of the bonus material, the live version of “Forever” - as fine a power ballad you will find off Rage Of Creation – is especially notable with Rob exhibiting the full range to his voice and Rick Renstrum cutting loose with several stretches of scintillating lead guitar.
You will also find a live acoustic version of the Joshua track “Remembering You” (originally appearing on Intense Defense) performed by Driver in a New England nightclub and Joshua rehearsing “Only Yesterday” (another Intense Defense track) live in Los Angeles.
What better way to open a live album than the title track to the artist’s most recent solo project, Garden Of Chaos. Fast, heavy, up-tempo and melodic, “Garden Of Chaos” brings everything you want (and expect) from a Rob Rock song. And all these elements make their presence felt live, particularly the periodic outbursts of double bass – which enhance the energy level – and the wall of crunchy rhythm guitar underscoring the chaotic scene.
“First Winds Of The End Of Time”, off Holy Hell, proves a riff driven monster live. If anything, this one comes across even darker and heavier than the studio version, galloping its distance to a face full of rhythm guitar but establishing a melodic foundation in the process. Rob’s backing band, warmed up and kicking into high gear, sounds in top form.
As already mentioned, “Rock The Earth” is the lone offering from Eyes Of Eternity, but If I were to choose one song off the album this would be it. From the militant riffing driving its opening to the prodigious hook in its chorus, “Rock The Earth” proves a “natural” live, but what sets it apart is the instrumental interlude, which still opens to a harmony solo before diving into a riveting duel lead guitar trade off.
The semi-ballad “In The Night”, the first of two from Rage Of Creation, comes into its own live. While the studio version is quite good, the song now gives rise to that much more energy, particularly as it abruptly picks up the pace after its quietly played opening and instrumental excursions helping to carry things past six minutes. Rob also hints at a lower key to his delivery while adding some trademark falsettos for contrast.
“Slayer Of Souls”, similar to “First Winds Of The End Of Time”, is a riff driven monster. This one combines the best elements of all out speed and muscle with a hook certain to remain with you for some time. The lead work – fast, aggressive and furious – aligns itself with the bristling milieu. My overall feeling is that this one was written with being played live in mind.
The second of the Rage Of Creation tracks, “Judgment Day is about as subtle as a punch in the jaw. With its bottom heavy milieu and perseverant guitar sound, the song translates well live as the bands natural raw energy – another generous instrumental section combined with time changes galore – and interplay with Rob and the audience at the end put it over the top.
“Only A Matter Of Time” is the first of four straight off Garden Of Chaos. Rob and company turn this one – a dark and weighty mid-tempo piece – into an eight minute jam session in which the group heads into an instrumental excursion that finds CJ and Hallgren with an extended lead guitar trade off. As things wind down, Rob also takes the opportunity to introduce each member of the band to the audience.
“This Is The Last Time” is the only track whose presence I potentially question. No, by all means a fine song but, at the same time, not quite the albums best either. If given a choice I might have gone with the melodic “Spirit In the Sky” or neo-classically influenced “Millennial Reign” instead. Musically, this is one of the artist’s more somber numbers and, as a result, a more up-tempo piece might have better followed the low key “Only A Matter Of Time”.
“Savior’s Call” still brings its immaculate presence. Fast paced and driven its distance by a relentless guitar riff, this one showcases quite the pronounced melody to create an atmosphere bordering on the mesmerizing. Rob stands out as well in exhibiting the full range to his voice, including one of his trademark falsettos. At the end of the song he asks the audience, word for word, “Are you metal heads tonight?” to create the perfect segue to “Metal Breed”.
Ranking with the heaviest songs in the artists repertoire, “Metal Breed” represents four minutes of pure aggression as a driving wall of rhythm guitar strikes the perfect balance with a battering drum sound (Tracy Shell puts on quite the technical performance here). The song, at the same time, proves surprisingly melodic as a result of the catchy hook in its chorus. This one was meant to be played live.
What better way to end a Rob Rock live album than “I’m A Warrior”. Yes, this one has been “around the block” in having already been recorded by Driver, Impellitteri and the artist on Holy Hell, but it stands the test of time live as the perfect metal anthem with its commanding chorus (backed by vocal harmonies) and distorted stretch of lead guitar.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Garden Of Chaos” (4:53), “First Winds Of The End Of Time” (4:53), “ Rock The Earth” (5:30), “In The Night” (6:05), “Slayer Of Souls” (3:44), “Judgment Day” (6:26), “Only A Matter Of Time” (7:58), “This Is The Last Time” (4:48), “Savior’s Call” (5:51), “Metal Breed” (4:18), “I’m A Warrior” (5:41)
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
CJ Grimmark – Guitars
Peter Hallgren – Guitars
Andreas Passmark – Bass
Tracy Shell - Drums