|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Mika & Vex|
|Record Label: Oxigenio||Country Of Origin: Brazil|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 51:45|
Goiania, Brazil based Sunroad initially came together in the mid-nineties but did not put out its full length debut Heat From The Road until 1999. A promotional CD, SR 2001, recorded in 2001 caught the attention of Golden Music Records, which later the same year released an EP entitled Light Up The Sky made up of material from both SR 2001 and Heat From The Road. Sunroad – despite an ever revolving line-up – returned to the studio in 2003 to record its sophomore album Arena Of Aliens prior to following up with Flying N’ Floating three years later.
Sunroad returns in late 2009 with its fourth full length studio effort, Long Gone. The album finds the group continuing to meld hard rock with the occasional groove and blues based influence but stepping it up in the songwriting department and delivering some of the finest compositions of its career.
Long Gone is based upon a foundation of mid-paced hard rockers - “Fast For Me”, “Speedway Sun”, “Walk With Me” and “Getting Free” – but can also deliver an anthem-like number, “Feedback”, and a bluesy metal piece, “Slow Down (All I Need)”. Up-tempo tracks “Long Gone” and “Finding Our Reason” join with the albums acoustic based moments: the ballads “We Still Believe” and “Looking For A Trace” and the ethereal “Sadness Of Days”.
When compared to the bands earlier material, Long Gone proves the more consistent effort in showcasing songs with meatier riffs and stronger hooks that hold up better under repeated play. It all comes down to lasting value, a particular missing from Heat From The Road and Flying N’ Floating (two albums I end up hitting the skip button too many times).
Personnel wise, Sunroad continues to experience a high degree of turnover. Vocalist Leo Yanes, guitarist Rafael Milhomem and bassist Enilson Macedo, who participated on Flying N’ Floating, are all “long gone” (no pun intended). Vocalist Jordan Faria and the guitar team of Anderson Lemmy and Thiago Tsuruda were recruited in their place. The lone holdovers remain drummer Fred Mika and bassist Akasio Angels, the former appearing on all three studio releases and the latter the previous two.
I might describe vocalist Jordan Faria as solid but unremarkable. He brings a smooth sounding mid-ranged presence (that aligns well with the music at hand) but can reach down and add some grit to his delivery when need calls for it. While he displays the occasional shaky and strained moment, his performance does not deter me from the project altogether (something the vocalists on albums from several Brazil based bands have done in the past). In the end, I cannot help but think the project would have improved with a vocalist along the lines of Dale Thompson (Bride) or Jamie Rowe (Guardian).
The strength to Sunroad resides in guitarists Anderson Lemmy and Thiago Tsuruda. The two help give the group a heavier and more muscular sound in bestowing riffs that at times border all out metal. The work of the duo (along with strengthened songwriting) is one of the factors allowing Sunroad to rise above the run-of-the-mill feel of its earlier material.
Tsuruda proves a particularly accomplished musician with his incredible soloing abilities, cutting loose with extended lead guitar jams throughout “We Still Believe”, “Walk With Me” and “Getting Free”. Sometimes metal laced and at others blues edged, his playing reminds me somewhat of Slav Simanic or Rex Carroll (Whitecross). Trust me- the guy is that good and his performance is worth the price of the album alone. Lemmy is no slouch either, as demonstrated in his bluesy playing closing out the final minutes to “Sadness Days”.
Mika and Angels, as always, form a capable rhythm section.
While production values get the job done, allowing for plenty of upfront rhythm guitar and cleanly mixed leads, there is a slight thinness permeating the project. Vocals are mixed a bit high as well. No, nothing that is significantly detracting but noticeable nonetheless.
Album opener “Fast For Me” introduces the new, improved and heavier Sunroad. An unyielding rhythm guitar drives the song, bouncing in and out of the mix during its verses while establishing itself a fixed presence for its strapping chorus. All the while a pronounced bass line proves the glue that holds everything together.
“Speedway Sun” is even heavier. With its riff driven proclivity, the song approaches metal territory but can settle down at its halfway point for a passage carried in the calmer and more tranquil sounding manner. A touch of groove is delivered in the process.
Things kick into high gear with “Walk With Me”. This one crosses the line of metal, proving the albums heaviest with walls of storm-like guitars and shouted vocal harmonies bolstering its chunky chorus. “Walk With Me” is also the first song in which Tsuruda really cuts loose, laying down a bristling stretch of lead guitar.
The power ballad “We Still Believe” brings a Scorpions touch. An acoustic guitar evenly carries the song through its verses, initiative not picking up until the rhythm guitar steps forward to underscore its heartrending chorus. Tsuruda decorates things with his blues driven playing. Beautiful song.
Returning the album to its hard rocking ways, “Getting Free” snarls its distance in showcasing an element of groove but also proves quite catchy with its hook driven chorus and gritty vocal approach of Faria. Another adept stretch of lead guitar from Tsuruda (his solo starts slow and bluesy only to morph into full on metal at the end).
“Looking For A Trace”, the albums second ballad, flows from start to finish in acoustic based fashion with an organ and bluesy lead guitar decorating the backdrop. The rhythm guitar crunches in to drive its sublime chorus.
“Feedback” starts to a drum solo before a bouncing rhythm guitar takes over and leads the way. The song proves anthem-like in capacity, highlighting a big background vocal driven chorus and groove based feel certain to have you coming back for more. The only complaint is that the backing vocals come across a bit overdone (almost to the point of cheesy) but still a good effort.
The scratchy blues metal of “Slow Down (All I Need) stands out with its unrelenting impetus. With a bristling guitar riff leading the way, the song insolently grinds its way ahead only to culminate for a catchy chorus aligning itself with the harsh and biting scene. I can see early 90’s Bride doing something like this.
“Long Gone” brings some of the albums more up-tempo moments. This one kicks up quite the storm as it moves forward, mixing in occasional hints of cowbell with another fantastic run of lead guitar from Tsuruda. The chorus is punch-driven and features quite the notable hook.
“Finding Our Reason”, the albums shortest at just three and a half minutes, is a fast and edgy scorcher in which the bands all out raw energy makes its presence felt. The song, in contrast, reflects some doom-like moments at the start of an instrumental interlude carried by a guitar solo that would turn the head of Rex Carroll.
Closing things out is “Sadness Days”, an ethereal number that moves the majority of its way acoustically but with occasional outbursts of rhythm guitar, particularly during its authoritative chorus. Anderson Lemmy exhibits his bluesy lead work throughout the instrumental moments covering the songs final minutes.
Long Gone represents a significant step forward for Sunroad. The album brings improvements in the key areas of songwriting and musicianship, reflected in stronger chorus hooks throughout and the talented guitar team of Tsuruda and Lemming. My main concern is that the band is able to avoid the turnover of its past and maintain its new line up for any project it records in the future. The only complaints are few, revolving around inconsistencies in the areas of lead vocals and production (I see both areas working themselves out if the turnover in question can be held in check). Otherwise, unlike past Sunroad projects I anticipate giving Long Gone the occasional listen.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Fast For Me” (5:51), “Speedway Sun” (4:18), “Walk With Me” (4:35), “We Still Believe” (4:28), “Getting Free (Escaping From Slavery)” (4:18), “Looking For A Trace” (5:01), “Feedback” (4:07), “Slow Down (All I Need)” (4:39), “Long Gone” (5:10), “Finding Our Reason” (3:30), “Sadness Days” (6:04)
Jordan Faria – Lead Vocals
Thiago Tsuruda – Guitars
Anderson Lemmy – Guitars
Akasio Angels - Bass
Fred Mika – Drums & Percussions
Alexandre Fortkamp - Guitars