|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Wales Road|
|Record Label: Spun Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Wales Road|
|Tracks: 9||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 42:39|
We forget so easily that in the spiritual life there must be the darkness of the night before there can be the radiance of the dawn. Before the life of resurrection can be known, there must be the death that ends the dominion of self. It is a serious but a blessed decision, this willingness to say, ‘I will follow Him no matter what the cost. I will take the cross no matter how it comes!’ - AW Tozer
Upon hearing for the first time Wounds & Whispers, the new album from Rochester, New York based Wales Road, I got excited. With good reason. It is not often in the modern hard music scene in which you encounter a talented artist grow and mature through the refinement process and deliver what amounts a career defining work, but such is what we have in Wounds & Whispers. Wales Road, self-described as ‘blues based metal with Christian frosting’, is the project of founding member Tommy Wales, who in addition to lead vocals contributes acoustic and electric guitars, harmonica and all songwriting duties. On Wounds & Whispers, Wales draws upon his vast experience, including 18 studio albums, 3 live albums and one DVD released over a 20 year period, to compose 8 equally good studio tracks all of which stand on their own and hold up under repeat play.
Previous Angelic Warlord reviews described Wales Road as, “(taking) a foundation of straightforward hard rock and (aligning) it with heavy doses of blues based and melodic hard rock. (Further add) 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.” Another reviewer that summed up Wales Road as, “...riff loaded heavy rock and power ballads to pop-esque ditties to acoustic /electric blues…” hit the nail on the head. I find it sufficient to label the group hard rock, keeping in mind Wounds & Whispers, a title inspired by a line from the HB song “Way” (off Frozen Inside from 2008), is by far the groups most consistently heavy release to date. In other words, Wales Road puts the metal in that previously noted ‘blues based metal with Christian frosting’ in no uncertain terms!
Said heaviness reveals itself on opening instrumental “Tears In A Bottle”. The song fades in to keyboards before moving its remaining distance to a dogged trade off between battering guitars and reverberant bass. Lone complaint is the songs all too brief minute and a half length; quality is such it deserves to be carried out another minute or two (minimum).
Albums title track proves a bottom heavy mauler. The song starts its first minute instrumentally to open air guitars that transition to melodic guitar harmonies, with impetus picking up exponentially as the rhythm section kicks in and underscores the acerbic scene. “Wounds & Whispers” sets a stalwart mid-paced tone moving ahead in maneuvering its fragmenting verses and nothing less an incisive refrain. Newcomer bassist Zane Knight provides the metal-laced lead guitar at the songs midway point (it is Wales’ work at the beginning). Note how the two trade off throughout the album, with Wales’ soloing lending a bluesy touch and that of Knight taking a more aggressive stance.
“Your Words Are Killing Me” is another scorcher. The song establishes the more upbeat heading, as a melodic bass presence leads the way and guitars range from intricate harmonies to crunchy hard rock flavorings. Wales handles lead guitar this time with a perfectly fluid stretch of soloing. An aggressive edge embodies itself in the artist’s newfound rawer and grittier vocal approach, which aligns perfectly with the heavier nature of the Wounds & Whispers material. Wales, otherwise, stays true to his varied vocal abilities that also touch upon the calmer and smoother and even some punk-like angst.
“She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” maintains the up-tempo proclivities, infectious with its understated commercial aspects while also upholding the trademark Wales Road backbone. An almost pop essence (in a positive sense) comes to the forefront. Interesting how the song makes a time change over its final minute to a calmer direction as the artist repeats the songs title in reflective fashion. Four songs into the album and the listener cannot help but notice the balanced production, which aligns forwardly mixed guitars and arresting bass with just enough vocal presence but not to a fault.
Albums lengthiest cut “Leaves Me Standing” takes a melodic hard rock heading. This one combines hints of the acoustic and reserved guitars with a big dose of low-end groove, almost mirthful with its lively mentality but also revealing a solemn if not pensive side at the same time. The song almost delivers a best of both worlds scenario in this regard. Album mellows further on “Why Does It Always Rain (On The Sad Days)?”, three minutes of tasteful acoustic rock with strong leanings towards the blues. Standing out is how Wales’ emotional vocal delivery lends to the heartfelt scene.
Wounds & Whispers comes to a satisfying hard rocking conclusion on final tracks “This Side Of Eternity” and “Tomorrow ‘N’ Today”. Former opens to a concise bass solo before crunching the rest of its way, decisive with its incessant impetus (verses strike hard as it gets) but not forsaking melody in the process (as can be found in the lighter textures to the poignant chorus). Wales authors the bluesy stretch of lead guitar. Latter proves heavier but slower, metal edged front to back with its persuasive milieu but also able to temper for calmer passages in which a more relaxed demeanor holds sway. Knights unleashes the jaw dropping soloing that adorns the songs final minute.
A ten minute bonus track entitled “The Shakedown Sessions Volume II” features acoustic renderings of the tracks “Pieces Of Poetry” and “Cold Photographs” recorded live on secular radio (from the Sunday Night Shakedown Show on WBZA 98.9 FM).
Packaging shines for an independent release. It starts with the eye-catching (almost Medieval tinctured) album artwork (courtesy of former Wales Road bassist Thomas Sluberski) but also includes liner notes that feature quotes from Amy Lee (Evanescence) Johnny Cash, Charlie Chaplin, A.W. Tozer and others.
Wales describes Wounds & Whispers as ‘9 songs of healing art on audio canvas’. This manifests itself from how (in the words of the artist) 'many of these gut wrenching songs were inspired by a very precious relationship that slipped through my fingers- my bride of 5 years dumped me for another person. The ensuing emotional, mental and spiritual turmoil influenced at least half the songs on this album.' He sums things up best in this regard by stating ‘the best songs come out of the worst experiences’. This would be the most accurate way describe “Leave Me Standing” -
When I said that I love you
Didn’t mean that I’d want you to leave
I always thought I’d be with you
I’m crying so hard I can’t breathe
Since you lost your own way
There’s really not much to say
Did you ever, ever care?
How could you leave me standing there?
- and “She Love Me, She Loves Me Not”:
She was here but now is gone
I pen the words to this sad song
Our vows turned into lies
I’m alone again
Why am I surprised?
Oh to hold you, oh to have you
Oh to love you, how I loved you
“Why Does It Rain (On The Sad Days)?” builds upon a similar theme in pointing towards hope:
Her and I are over
She made that plain to see
The world we once shared
Is now a land of make believe
Though I am hurting
Though I am scared
There is no greater hope
Than the fact that Jesus cares
As does “This Side Of Eternity”:
Where do I go where my world falls down?
Those that I love turn away
I lay my burdens down at Your nail scarred feet
As the tears flow from my eyes
I lay my burdens down at Your nail scarred feet
As the prayers rise from my lips
“Tomorrow ‘N’ Today” sums up the albums theme succinctly:
Where can I find refuge from this world I’m in?
I will seek and find You when I seek with all my heart
Your love, Your grace
Your mercy, Lord, I seek Your face
I call Your name
I’m on my knees I pray
Your have plans for me
Tomorrow and today
If the best art comes from the deepest pain then Wounds & Whispers comes aptly entitled as ‘nine songs of healing art on audio canvas, both musically and lyrically. Fans of straightforward hard rock with strong leanings towards blues and metal will certainly take delight in what the album offers accordingly. Lone complaint is how Wounds & Whispers is a bit short in featuring eight studio tracks that combine for just over 30 minutes, which almost places it in EP territory. Still, credit the artist for going with his best material in that you will encounter no ‘leftover’ or ‘filler’ tracks. In looking forward, I cannot help but see the momentum behind Wounds & Whispers propelling Wales Road to things even bigger and better.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Tears In A Bottle” (1:20), “Wounds & Whispers” (5:13), “Your Words Are Killing Me” (4:15), “She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not” (4:08), “Leave Me Standing” (5:23), “Why Does It Rain (On The Sad Days)?” (3:02), “This Side Of Eternity” (3:51), “Tomorrow ‘N’ Today” (4:34), “The Shakedown Sessions Volume II” (10:53)
Tommy Wales – Lead Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars, Wah Pedal & Harmonica
Zane Knight – Bass, Guitars, Keyboards & Vibra Slap
Al Dinoto – Drums& Cowbell