|Musical Style: Metal/Hard Rock||Produced By: Nick Henson|
|Record Label: Silver Bullet||Country Of Origin: Australia|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Rowe Productions|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 41:11|
Reinvention. A word commonly used when describing a bands ongoing metamorphosis throughout its career. Some bands are able to constantly reinvent themselves; some only adopt (or change to reflect) the musical trends popular at the time; and others find a formula that works and never change in maintaining the same musical status quo. It happens within all hard music genres and reflects at best a bands interest in other ideas and at worst selling out or simply copying someone else’s originality.
Sometimes reinvention works. Bride proved successful when it transitioned from the metal-thrash of its eighties material to the bluesy hard rock it pursued during the early nineties. Deliverance followed suit when it went from the speed metal and thrash of its self-titled debut (1989) and Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990) to a more straight on metal based sound. In either case it was an example of a group widening its fan base while being recognized as innovators as opposed to imitators in the process.
Often, however, it does not. When a band intentionally changes its sound to reflect the currently musical fashion trends, it can become a parody of itself. Remember Bride’s attempt at “rap core” on Fist full Of Bees following the turn of the century? And what about all those eighties bands that “went modern” in order to appeal to a wider audience? Holy Soldier put out Promise Man (1995) and Stryper did Reborn (2005). Inevitably, the younger crowd turns its nose up at an eighties band (irregardless of style) while said group only serves to alienate its long term fan base.
Another example of reinvention can be found in Steve Rowe. Rowe, of course, is best known for his work in Mortification, the highly regarded extreme metal outfit that has released over 20 records since its early nineties inception. Mortification, obviously, needs no introduction and its impact and influence on the scene cannot be understated.
That being said, perhaps due to a creative rut or need to brand out musically, but Rowe recently joined forces with former Mortification guitarist Lincoln Bowen and formed a new project under the name Wonrowe Vision. Now, this is where that reinvention in question comes into play in that Rowe breaks from his extreme metal past and heads in a “heavy edge rock n’ roll direction” (artists own words) on Wonrowe Vision’s 2011 debut Mission Invincible.
What am I hearing? A joining of old school metal and hard rock backed by some punk based angst and attitude. When considering the gruff and raw-edged vocals and half done (almost demo-ish) production, you cannot help but agree Wonrowe Vision wears its influences on its sleeves in no uncertain terms: Namely, Motorhead, Tank, Resurrection Band, G.B.H., Altar Boys and The Crucified.
Needless to say it works, although I was prepared to write the mother of all negative reviews after hearing the unpolished online samples. The group, nevertheless, won me over big time upon first listen to the CD in that the immediate catchy hooks and unremitting energy prove infectious. It was a classic example of giving the group the time and opportunity it deserves and being richly rewarded as a result.
Yes, songwriting has been “toned down” - you could describe it as of the basic verse-chorus-verse-variety - but that is where the brilliance of the project lies. In other words, sometimes the best things in life are simple- and such is the case here. To understand my point, check out the foundation of energy driven rockers in which Mission Invincible is based - “The Spirit Of The Rock”, ‘Vaporizer” and “Radical Parrott” - in addition to the punk influences of “Mission Invincible”, “The White Rock” and “I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark”. But Wonrowe Vision can deliver some variety as well, as can be found in the ominously doom-like “Resident Spider” and bluesy “Smile Your Way Through Life”. When the group calms things down and takes a more mid-paced heading, such as on “Run In Circles” and “Wreath The Passion Of My Fire”, it proves every bit relevant.
The overall impression left is that Mission Invincible was not thrown together haphazardly but rather meticulously planned from the get go. The artist knew, for instance, that vocals are on the raw side of things so he backed off production accordingly; and by lessening production he anticipated the bands inherit energy would stand out even further. So if the project has some rough edges it is by design and not necessarily sloppiness on the bands part.
Vocals, capably handled by Rowe, are an acquired taste, but I grew to appreciate them for what they are: raspy, gravelly and scratchy but perfectly in tune with the musical happenings at hand. And while not what you might call “technically proficient”, the vocal performance here cannot help but add to the albums charm at the same time.
Wonrowe Vision is backed by capable musicianship. Rowe, of course, is spot on with his trademark distinct bass lines, but it is Bowen that steals the show on guitar. Yes, he is ever present riff wise with an abundance of bristling and biting edge; he also displays surprising skill on lead guitar with his sometimes shredding and at others bluesy soloing abilities.
One final word of caution before moving on to the track by track: If you insist on clean and crystal clear production and every bit as much refined vocals, then Wonrowe Vision might not be up your alley. Still, my advice would be to approach the group with an open mind; by doing so, like me, you could end up very pleasantly surprised in the end.
Track By Track
“The Spirit Of The Rock”, with its pointed energy and immediately catchy hook, represents quintessential Wonrowe Vision. Guitar work is blistering and chorus bordering on the anthem-like to create quite the rollicking listening experience. Lyric snippet:
Find your way in the light
The truth is perfect for all
No more insecurity
About your eternal soul
Living in a faith filled hope
What can be your loss?
With your hope in heaven
Salvation of the cross
The albums title track introduces some punk-like angst. It starts with the low-end, churning, boisterous and carried by a happening bass line, but culminates with the youthful energy that upholds the song its distance. Things taper at the halfway point for a surprisingly melodic instrumental passage. Lyric snippet:
Of life, and in death, see the way to be saved
Now, can you see, life is short, God or hell for eternity
Standing up tall
I’m not ashamed, to speak of the faith
You can be free
To see the way, free of the pain
“Resident Spider” slows things to an almost doom-ish romp. The song proves haunting and ominous as Rowe sings at his menacing best while the scrappy lead guitar work adds to the disjointed scene. I am almost reminded of Babylon Mystery Orchestra as a result.
“Vaporizer” takes an in your face hard rock approach. Yes, this one might bring unremitting spirit and verve but fails to come across overbearing in that quite the catchy hook plays every bit a leading role. Topping things off is a shredding run of lead guitar. Lyric snippet:
Heavenly minded but earthy good?
Find that touch but pass it on
No use up there in the clouds
If you don’t bring that message down
Your feet firmly on the ground
Find that touch but pass it on
No use to keep it for yourself
Mankind needs you reaching out
“Run In Circles” represents the albums calmest and most tempered. Light and airy, the song introduces gentle touches of acoustic and electric guitar and joins them with a propensity for the melodic. The gravelly vocals work despite the more polished setting.
Despite the platitudes of its title, “The White Rock” is done to perfection. More punk influences make their presence felt, as elements of the disordered are highlighted along with a front to back high-spirited proclivity. Interestingly, the instrumental moments here descend into some bluesy soloing. Lyric snippet:
Inspire yourself, overcome
Laugh at things that come undone
Don’t look glum
Don’t look downhearted
Pick yourself up from the floor
God is with you through the blood
Of His Son that died for all
“Smile Your Way Through Life” hints of ZZ Top with its bluesy swagger. This one allows Bowen to stand out with his gutsy licks and chops, helping lend a dogged feel to one of the more muscular tracks here. Early nineties Bride and some of the blues heavy material from Rez Band deserve mention as well.
“I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark” might be the albums shortest at just over two minutes but certainly not lacks in fight. A return to a punk influence, the song bristles with edgy guitars in abundance and non-stop relentless momentum. Chorus is monstrous with the songs title continually repeated as “No! No!” backing vocals stand in support. Lyric snippet:
Your hear a song
Talking of faith
The darkness surrounds
But will you escape?
So shout out aloud and
Run to the Light
No more fear with
God on your side!
“Wreath The Passion Of My Fire” is another calmer piece, albeit with the heavier focus than “Run In Circles”. This can be found in the traces of rhythm guitar that stand out, particularly for quite the brusquely done chorus. Melody is notable and puts things over the top. Lyric snippet:
Whistling down that Narrow Road
Walking with a lighter load
Have a closer look at me
You may say I have no faith but
I am whole, I’ve killed my pain
I’m just here to pass my test
What is your thorn in Your flesh?
“Radical Parrott”, as no-nonsense a piece as you will find, sounds like an old Rez Band outtake. No, this might not be the catchiest but us powerful nonetheless with its massive low end and emphasis on the driven and steadfast. The flowing run of lead guitar is very impressive.
The “radio edit” of “Run In Circles” that closes things out is the same as original but only cut by a minute.
Good albums are made up of good songs and such is the case with Mission Invincible. But don’t let any rough edges in terms of production and vocals dissuade you in that they serve to bring out the best in the bands performance. In the end, Wonrowe Vision proves another example of an artist reinventing himself and getting it right in the process.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Spirit Of The Rock” (4:31), “Mission Invincible” (4:06), “Resident Spider” (3:51), “Vaporizer” (3:16), “Run In Circles” (4:47), “The White Rock” (2:58), “Smile Your Way Through Life” (4:08), “I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark”, (2:16), “Wreath The Passion Of My Fire” (4:39), “Radical Parrott” (3:07), “Run In Circles” (Radio Edit) (3:26)
Steve Rowe - Lead Vocals & Bass
Lincoln Bowen – Guitars
Andrew Esnouf - Drums