|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Wales Road|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website: Wales Road|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 33:04|
Hard rock, similar to the metal and progressive genres, comes in so many differing variations that it can be challenging to commit to just one. One need consider the myriad choices at hand: Classic and straightforward hard rock, blues based hard rock, melodic hard rock and progressive hard rock among others. Further complicating matters is the number of bands that transcend style classifications within the various categories at hand.
Rochester, New York based Wales Road is one such act. Founded in the mid-nineties by front man Tommy Wales, Wales Road has produced 16 studio albums, 3 live albums and one DVD over an eighteen year span- and counting! Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt, the most recent from the group, takes a foundation of straightforward hard rock and aligns it with heavy doses of blues based and melodic hard rock. Throw in the occasional traditional blues and progressive aspect and the upshot is a band in which a lot is going on musically and that is difficult to pigeonhole as a result.
One reviewer that described Wales Road as: "...riff loaded heavy rock and power ballads to pop-esque ditties to acoustic /electric blues…” had the right idea. I find it sufficient to label the group “hard rock”, keeping in mind again the diversity of styles at hand. Regardless, those whose tastes range from Resurrection Band to Stevie & The Saints to Glenn Kaiser Band are going to find a lot to like here.
Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt opens to three equally good upbeat hard rockers. “Take My Life” slugs and mauls its distance to astringent riffs galore, while “Super Heroes” is a non-stop two and a half minute energy burst. “Time Will Tell”, the heaviest of the three, will pull you in with its catchy affinity and display of instrumental prowess.
“I Need You” represents inspired bluesy hard rock heaven and “Finnish What You Started” a varied landscape that touches upon the progressive (what the two have in common is a delectable joining of mellower and heavier moments). An acoustic rock direction is taken on “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Turn Your Eyes On Jesus”, with the former playing up the slower more blues driven flavorings and latter a spirited melodic heavy rock approach.
Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt almost approaches EP territory in featuring just 7 studio tracks. Very well done acoustic versions of “Super Hero” and “I Need You”, recorded live on the radio (98.9 the Buzz in Rochester to be exact), were added to round things out into full length territory.
What impresses most about the album is the artist’s deft songwriting touch. Whether it is those reflecting a heavier rocking feel or penchant for the mellower, each pieces stands on its own with an equal joining of creative finesse and catchy hooks that would allow it to hold up under repeat play. The result being the quality to the albums material reflecting that previously referenced 18 years experience Wales brings to the table.
Also of note is how Wales Road takes the lyrics to several classic hymns (“Take My Life”, “Turn You Eyes On Jesus” and “The Old Rugged Cross”) and sets them to a musical framework that, obviously, is much more contemporary and up to date.
Wales Road actually represents a power trio, with Tommy Wales handing vocals and guitars, Steve Rousseau bass and keyboards and Skip Cleveland drums. Wales takes a varied approach vocally, trending towards a softer and more even mid-ranged register on the more even material but settling into a grittier and decidedly robust groove on that taking the heavier heading- and reflecting some punk/wave elements in the process, which makes for an interesting combination.
He is no slouch on guitar either with some quality soloing that would do blues guitarist such as Glenn Kaiser (Rez Band) and Troy Thompson (Bride) proud. The brazen leads on “Take My Life” and at the start of “Super Heroes” find him at his best, as does the ample instrumental portions to “Time Will Tell”. An emotional bluesy side to his playing can be found on “I Need You”.
Rousseau and Cleveland prove competent players in complementing the diverse Wales Road sound with punctual bass lines and spot-on timekeeping.
Production comes across solid with a forward mix of crunchy guitars and backdrop adorned by distinct bass lines. Lone complaint revolves around drums, which at times get buried by the instrumentation. Also, vocals at times are a bit “hot” in the mix, particularly during the peak moments on the albums heavier tracks
It is surprising we have not heard more from Wales Road in the past when factoring the group’s extensive background and experience and quality to music at hand. Certainly I hope this talented power trio remains productive moving forward, and not just because I have a soft spot in my heart for blues based hard rock but because, again, for the Wales Road proclivity for coming up with such good songs. Lone drawbacks are some production misgivings and I would have liked a couple more studio tracks, but otherwise you would be well served to check out Beyond The Shadow Of a Doubt.
Track By Track
The distorted guitars at the start of “Take My Life” prove a good indicator of what is to follow: Driving hard rock riffs, churning bass lines and battering drums combine to establish a setting on the unequivocal side of things. Melodic guitar harmonies open an instrumental stretch carried by searing lead guitar. Rez Band could not have done it any better.
“Super Heroes” represents another fiery hard rock attack. High energy all the way, this one delivers the rollicking propensity and hook driven basis to pull you in on first listen. In other words, heavy and aggressive in form but listenable at the same time. More blistering leads round things out. Lyric snippet:
Iron Man killed Captain America
I hate it when my heroes fade
I need Some One
Some One to save me
Sweep on down
On from the sky
Not a politician or the government
Not Wonder Woman in a jet
Not a man with bionic hand
I need a Savior who’ll forgive my debt
“Time Will Tell” starts its first minute to guitar feedback, harrowing bass lines and eerie keyboards. We are off at that point as the song abruptly turns into a full bore rocker with decisive riffs galore, more catchy hooks and cool guitar and bass interplay. The final minute and a half is also instrumental as the group dives into some tasteful jam based flavorings. Lyric snippet:
Thief in the night
Rumors of war
The signs don’t ignore
Your dark heart
Let Christ dwell
Saved from hell
Blues heavy rock territory is traversed on “I Need You”. The song starts slowly to a stretch of quietly played guitar prior to initiative picking up to the more decisive tempo that takes hold the rest of the way. In between you will encounter passages abounding of warmth and emotion and others in which the more grit laden heading is taken. A bluesy and jazzy instrumental guitar interlude rounds things out. Lyric snippet:
When the storms of life are blowin’ my way
When I’m hurt by things that they say
When I’ve said and done all I can
When I can’t seem to find my way
I need You
When the rive of life seems to run dry
When the sands of time are so low
When all the love for me is all gone
When all around me seems so barren
I need You…
“Turn You Eyes On Jesus” highlights an acoustic rock direction. Starting to drum and bass solos that gradually build impetus, the song flows ahead at an upbeat (almost frenetic) tempo while giving rise to some bluesy and worshipful underpinnings. Yes, a bit different but good nonetheless.
The acoustic emphasis is sustained on “The Old Rugged Cross” albeit giving rise to the more relaxed and all around laid back feel. Impetus moves at a near crawl while keyboards play a highlighting role with the effect also on the worshipful side of things.
“Finish What You Started” starts ominously to keyboards and distorted guitars prior too moving forward acoustically after a minute and a half. The song continues to flow forward in acoustic fashion the next two minutes - upholding a pleasing melody in the process - until abruptly kicking in as a full bore rocker. With heavy set guitars and momentum to match taking over, the song just as suddenly descends back into an acoustic direction for its close. Brilliant. Lyric snippet:
Through all my trials and troubles and tears
You’re by my side all of these years
Hold me in the palm of Your hand
Finish, what you started…
You are so faithful- faithful to me
Forgive all my sin- You set me free
I worship You- You alone
I worship You Jesus- You alone
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Take My Life” (3:13), “Super Heroes” (2:27), “Time Will Tell” (4:49), “I Need You” (4:40), “Turn Your Eyes On Jesus” (2:53), “The Old Rugged Cross” (3:48), “Finish What You Started” (5:58), “Super Hero” (Acoustic) (2:36), “I Need You” (Acoustic) (2:44)
Tommy Wales - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Steve Rousseau - Bass, Keyboards & String Arrangements
Skip Cleveland - Drums & Percussion