|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Acoustic||Produced By: Tommy Wales|
|Record Label: Spun Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Wales Road|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 36:01|
Rock praise albums have been done to death. Those in doubt need consider the number released since the early nineties, starting with the three volume Rock Power Praise series, The Hymns (1990), Christmas Hymns (1991) and Gospel Hymns (1992), but also including Metal Praise (1992) and Scandinavian Metal Praise (2008). While the previously referenced are compilation albums that feature the contributions from a variety of vocalists and musicians, rock praise projects also come in the form of band based releases and solo projects. The most noteworthy can be attributed to Petra, encompassing but not limited to Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out (1989) and Petra Praise 2: We Need Jesus (1997), and former Neon Cross guitarist PK Mitchell, All Hail The Power (1994) and All Hail The Power II (2013).
The latest to get in on the rock praise bandwagon is Rochester, New York based Wales Road and its fall of 2013 and 17th album overall in Radio Scripture. Wales Road follows the tried and true method of taking traditional hymns and contemporary praise songs and setting them to a musical framework that is much more current and up to date. Where Wales Road breaks the mold is musical direction, bypassing the melodic rock and metal of its rock praise predecessors and taking a straightforward hard rock heading with heavy elements of acoustic blues. 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 (and hit the nail on the head in terms of what is going on here musically).
The Angelic Warlord review (75%) of the previous Wales Road album from 2011, Beyond The Shadow Of A Doubt, summed things up in similar fashion: “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.” After the passing of two years, I might add Mission Of One to the list as well. What sets B.T.S.O.A.D. apart is how it provides foreshadowing for Radio Scripture by also including covers of several classic hymns in “Take My Life”, “Turn You Eyes On Jesus” and “The Old Rugged Cross”. Wales Road takes this momentum and runs with it on Radio Scripture.
The album opens to its heaviest material. My favorite is “Christ The Solid Rock”, a trademark Wales Road hard rocker with all the necessary ingredients: driving riffs, power chords to spare, churning bass lines and immediately recognizable melody. Also good is “Trust” (an adaptation to “Tis So Sweet To Trust In Jesus”), maintaining the heavier penchant but exuding some metallic punk-like angst. Taking a straight on rock approach is “Thee Will I Love” (an adaptation to “Fairest Lord Jesus”), more tempered than the aforementioned two with its uplifting disposition, and “Sing Low, Sweet Chariot”, gritty and grinding in backed by blues driven licks and chops throughout. “I Surrender All” moves forward acoustically until a hard rocking rhythm guitar cuts in over the final minute.
An acoustic blues mentality defines the tracks that follow. Such is what we have in “Early In The Mornin’” (adaptation to “Holy, Holy, Holy”),slow and raw with complementary doses of slide guitar, and “Amazing Grace”, effortlessly driven by harmonica, pumping bass and a steel guitar solo. A straightforward but effective demeanor characterizes “O Lamb Of God, I Come” (adaptation to “Just As I Am”) and “Hallelujah”, both acoustic but with former light and airy with orchestration in the backdrop and latter featuring touches of electric guitar for its moving chorus.
One of the highlights to Wales Road is the multi-faceted vocal abilities of founding member Tommy Wales. The albums heavier moments find him adding some tough backbone to his delivery, decidedly mid-ranged in focus but also able to reach for a high note with ease. That which is calmer allows him to smooth things out in straining towards a lower-register, at times even touching upon the baritone (as he does on “Oh Lamb Of God, I Come”).
Musicianship remains a Wales Road strength. Wales handles all guitar duties, with his every present rhythm guitar adding the needed aggressive edge and acoustic flavorings reinforcing the group’s bluesy aspect (the albums clean production provides solid support here). Bassist Marty Volk stands out equally (again, the transparent production finds his bass literally breathing in the backdrop).
Lone complaint is the album is a bit short in featuring ten vocal cuts that add up to just under 30 minutes of music (the eleventh being a bonus track in the form of a cool radio interview with the artist). The problem is that out of the ten, one is a minute long interlude piece (featuring the chorus to “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”) and four come in between two to two and a half minutes each. The issue with songs in the two-minute range, of course, is that they can come across “half done” and often end before having the opportunity to build and peak (at least that is my experience). While the shorter tracks are far from bad (and certainly not skip button worthy), I cannot help but think they would have improved if extended an extra minute or two.
I also would have liked the artist to include one additional hard rocking number along the lines of “Christ The Solid Rock” (perhaps using it as a closing piece to tie everything together in the process). I do not wish to be unfair either in that Radio Scripture shines during its acoustic moments, with “Early In The Mornin’” and “Amazing Grace” ranking with this reviewers favorites. The albums main strength deserves mention (again) as a result: Providing a different musical take on the rock praise genre by circumventing the typical melodic rock and metal associated therein and exploring hard rock and acoustic territory instead.
Fans of rock praise albums have found themselves a solid release in Radio Scripture. The Wales Road interpretations of traditional hymns and praise and worship classics remain respectful to the originals while adding an element of signature grit and punch at the same time. Helping make this package that much better are strengths in the areas of vocals, musicianship and production. I look forward to hearing more from Wales Road in the future.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Christ The Solid Rock” (4:22), “Thee Will I Love” (3:18), “Thee Will I Love” (1:58), “I Surrender All” (3:43), “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (2:27), “Early In The Mornin’” (2:12), “Amazing Grace” (4:19), “O Lamb Of God, I Come” (2:39), “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” (:59), “Hallelujah” (3:48), “The Shakedown Sessions” (6:16)
Tommy Wales - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Marty Volk - Bass
Drums - Robert T. Blackburn