|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Straightway|
|Record Label: Platinum||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 1989||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 65%|
|Running Time: 20:33|
Houston, Texas based Straightway came together in the late eighties and released several demo tapes prior to recording its 1989 six song debut EP Black Or White. Consisting of four full length tracks, one instrumental and a humorous rap-rock based number, the album moves primarily in a commercial melodic metal direction not unlike Stryper, Eternal Ryte, Holy Soldier, Dokken and a host of others. Lead vocalist David Walton brings a smooth sounding mid-octave ranged voice that brings to mind Phil St. Vincent (Eternal Ryte) or Michael Sweet (Stryper) singing in a lower key. Lead guitarist Doug Middleton is a very fine talent, possessing more than enough ability to compete with contemporaries like Jamie Cramer and Michael Cutting (both Holy Soldier), David Zaffiro (Bloodgood) and Tony Palacios (Guardian). Mike Locke rounds out the mix on rhythm guitar. The rhythm section of drummer Damon Tankersley and bassist Mark Walton puts in place a solid foundation for the bands sound.
While the production values to Black Or White are commendable for an independent release recorded on late eighties technology, a certain element of thinness permeates its sonics. The rhythm guitar, for example, could have been beefed up a bit. The bass sounds full and heavy but the drums, on the other hand, tend to get lost amidst the instrumentation.
After the albums title track opens to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, it advances in upbeat fashion until it reaches a strong chorus backed by smooth sounding vocal harmonies. Middleton graces a forty-five second instrumental section with his high quality lead guitar work. "Black Or White" focuses on making the correct eternal decision:
The question is so simple seems that everyone would see
The question is as we well know where will we spend eternity
Black or white
Wrong or right
Blind or sight
Choose what's right
"Come Back" moves in a heavier and more guitar driven direction when compared to "Black Or White". Introduced to several seconds of rhythm guitar harmony, the song builds and gains momentum until the bands trademark vocal harmonies lead the way to a brief but non stop hook filled chorus. I like how the pace slows to a piano at the start of an instrumental passage culminating in a flashy guitar solo. "Come Back" talks about the work of Christ on the cross:
But God loved us so much that He
Gave His own Son
To die on the cross so that the
Battle was won
Come back to Jesus...
The scream Walton cuts loose with at the end of the song would turn the head of Michael Sweet.
"Intro In C# Minor" is a brief (:36) classical keyboard driven instrumental introducing "Wounded Heart".
Beginning its first verse at a slower more mid-tempo pace, "Wounded Heart" gain impetus as the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix and bolsters a chorus carried by David Walton's emotional vocal delivery. The acoustic guitar underlining Middleton's melodic based lead guitar work fades away before he cuts loose in fiery fashion. "Wounded Heart" touches upon the issues of child abuse and neglect:
Children cry out behind locked doors
Looking up with tears filling their eyes
The love within their hearts is torn away
Daddy don't you hear their lonely cries
Now I lay me down to sleep
And pray the Lord my soul to keep
A wounded heart
Cries of pain may sound the same
A wounded heart
God hears all He's never far away
The hard rocking "Christ Is King" projects a cool Eternal Ryte-like vibe. The song commences to a combination of rhythm and lead guitar before slowing to a quietly played guitar line at the start of its first verse. Once the rhythm guitar returns to the front of the mix, "Christ Is King" proceeds to a chorus driven in a hard hitting manner by heavy duty gang style vocal harmonies. Middleton contributes a minute of the albums best lead guitar work. "Christ Is King" is about exactly that:
Put your faith in Christ the Savior, Jesus died for you
He is the One who is the life, the One who loved us so
He laid His life down on the cross - the pathway He will show
Christ is King
He is King
The King of Kings
Christ is still the King of Kings
"Don't Even Swerve" is a ridiculous but humorous rap-laden rock number that, as far as I can tell, the band threw in to fill space. No further comment is necessary other than to grin and bear it!
All in all, Black Or White is a very commendable effort from a talented young band that, unfortunately, was never heard from again. Put a top notch producer in their corner like David Zaffiro and add ten good songs and I can see these guys recording an excellent full length debut.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Black Or White" (4:33), "Come Back" (3:59), "Intro In C# Minor" (:36), "Wounded Heart" (4:42), "Christ Is King" (5:09), "Don’t Even Swerve" (1:31)
David Walton – Lead Vocals & Keyboards
Doug Middleton – Guitars
Mike Locke – Guitars
Mark Walton – Bass
Damon Tankersley - Drums