|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Fred Mika & Harion Vex|
|Record Label: Avantage||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 55%|
|Running Time: 42:46|
Brazil's Sunroad came together in 1996 but did not release its full length debut, appropriately entitled Heat From The Road, until 1999. Following up in 2003 with an erratic sophomore effort in Arena Of Aliens, Sunroad moves primarily in a straightforward hard rock direction while adding an occasional element of the blues or even a few funky groove-flavored moments as well. A certain amount of diversity is reflected in several instrumental tracks and another that is acoustically driven.
Harion Vex contributes a gritty and scratchy mid-octave ranged lead vocal style and, despite a few rough and unrefined moments, puts in an all around solid performance. Guitarist Alberto Conde is by far the bands most talented musician, cutting loose with plenty of blistering lead guitar work that at its best brings to mind Eduardo Parronchi (Destra). Bassist Akasio Angels and drummer Fred Mike round out the rhythm section.
It is worth pointing out that the albums lyrics are not particularly well written, often coming across ambiguous if not simplistic in their approach.
Production values, while certainly not bad, sound slightly thin and flat and with a periodic hint of muddiness. A certain amount of big budget polish would be necessary to beef things up here.
"Einleitung (Master Light)" is a pointless minute long album opener in which narration is carried over a combination of keyboards and medieval style vocal harmonies.
The catchy melodic hard rock of "Light Up The Sky" moves forward in an upbeat manner to a blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards, the song showcasing a strong chorus that is only held back by the lackluster vocal harmonies reinforcing it. Conde, on the other hand, ends the song with a nice extended lead guitar break underscored by pounding double bass. The problems revolving around the albums lyrics are showcased on "Light Up The Sky":
I hear somebody screaming: "We all can win
if you really want it, forget all your sins!"
But isn't simple like it, actions during existence
Action means reactions
With all their consequences
"Chains Must Be Hard" is by far the albums strongest track. Once the song gets started to several seconds of blues based riffing, Vex takes over with his raspy voice and helps lead the way to a catchy groove flavored chorus. I like how "Chains Must Be Hard" slows to a quietly played guitar line before Conde closes out its last several minutes to more of his bluesy work on lead guitar.
The instrumental "The Amadeus Journey" begins to two minutes of sweeping synthesizers before slowing as a piano carries its final minute. Anti-climatic is the overall feel I get from the song. Perhaps if a bit of rhythm and lead guitar had been thrown in it might hold up in a more noteworthy manner.
After an acoustic guitar carries the lackluster semi-ballad "Livin' And Lovin'" during its first and second verse, the rhythm guitar kicks in to drive a chorus backed by an embarrassingly bad mix of vocal harmonies. Several seconds of well played bluesy lead guitar work is not enough to put the song over the top. Next.
The albums title track advances through its verse portions in hard rocking fashion until it gains momentum for an energetically delivered chorus driven by hard hitting double bass. Conde nails a nice lead guitar break bolstered by more double bass. While certainly not bad musically, the only factor detracting from "Arena Of Aliens" is a vocal performance from Vex that can come across on the abrasive side.
Introduced to a drum solo, "Midwest Sand" begins to a minute of upbeat rhythm guitar and keyboards before the rhythm guitar takes a backseat in the mix upon reaching its first verse. As the song picks up in pace, the rhythm guitar returns to provide the needed crunch as it fortifies a quickly moving non-stop hook filled chorus. Conde delivers the goods on lead guitar throughout a minute long instrumental passage. The lyrics to “Midwest Sand” also come across ambiguous:
In all mankind condictions
Some questions are inherents
Rationalize it can bring confusion
Don’t be just a Midwest sand
Please note that the spelling errors are not mine…
Opening to a blend of choppy rhythm guitar and keyboards underlined by double bass, "Earthships To Infinity" settles down to an even mid-tempo pace for its first verse. A catchy chorus with an anthem-like feel helps to place the song among the albums stronger tracks. Conde is right on target with a brief but well done guitar solo. "Earthships To Infinity" features some of the albums better lyrics:
Theoricals ways don't prove it
They can't explain the great mystery
Only with your faith you must answer it
We all must be earthships to infinity
Plato philosophied, Kant tried
Michelangelo painted and Sagan died
The track listing on the back of the jewel case describes "The Rising Star" as an "acoustic version". Acoustic version? Please note that this is the only version of the song appearing here. Did Sunroad record a non-acoustic version of "The Rising Star" that did not make the final cut? I'm confused. Irregardless, "The Rising Star" is a pretty good acoustic based number coming across in a haunting manner as it moves forward to a very fine chorus backed by vocal harmonies.
The album closes to a good jazz-fusion and blues flavored instrumental entitled "Nachpiel". The song is driven from start to finish at an acoustic laced mid-tempo pace, while Conde cuts loose and displays his compelling blues influenced lead guitar work. Very nice display by the band of its instrumental sound.
Arena Of Aliens proves an all around inconsistent effort: For every standout track like "Chains Must Be Hard" and "Earthships To Infinity" there is a "Livin' And Lovin'" and "The Amadeus Journey" that forces me to hit the skip button. That being said, Sunroad does not lack for talent, and with the right amount of hard work, focus and determination it has the potential to one day rank with other top notch Brazilian bands such as Destra, Shining Star and Dynasty.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Einleitung (Master Light)" (1:06), "Light Up The Sky" (4:26), "Chains Must Be Hard" (6:12), "The Amadeus Journey" (3:17), "Livin’ And Lovin’" (5:08), "Arena Of Aliens" (3:48), "Midwest Sand" (4:53), "Earthships To Infinity" (5:07), "The Rising Star" (Acoustic Version) (3:20), "Nachpiel" (5:29)
Harion Vex – Lead Vocals
Alberto Conde – Guitars
Akasio Angels – Bass
Fred Mika – Drums & Percussions
Also Reviewed: Sunroad - Flying N' Floating