|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Rowe Productions||Country Of Origin: Australia|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Rowe Productions|
|Tracks: 16||Rating: No Quote|
|Running Time: 57:22|
It’s only fitting that Melbourne, Australia based Wonrowe Vision bears the name of its founder, vocalist and bassist Steve Rowe. After all, Rowe is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of the Christian metal scene, having cemented his legacy with his signature group Mortification but getting started in the mid-eighties as part of the lesser known but no less notable Lightforce. A band with two distinct eras in its brief history, Lightforce, in its initial form, pursued a melodic metal and hard rock direction on the two demos it put out in 1986 (a.k.a. ‘Blue Demo’ and ‘Yellow Demo’) prior to disbanding and reforming as a traditional metal act. The groups second incarnation went on to gain renowned after winning the 1987 Melbourne Heavy Metal Battle of the Bands competition in addition to releasing a seven song demo entitled Battlezone the same year. A deal with Pure Metal Records followed, which led to the 1988 full length debut Mystical Thieves.
Turnover in the Lightforce roster and a shift in musical direction, a heavier, thrash based bearing characterized the 1990 demo Break The Curse, led to the name change to Mortification. Mortification, obviously, needs no introduction as one of Christian extreme metals leading players, with 15 studio albums, 5 live albums, 2 compilations and 6 videos and 3 DVD’s to its name. But that is a story for another day.
Rowe, perhaps stuck in a creative rut or feeling the need to branch out musically, formed Wonrowe Vision with the idea of breaking from his extreme metal past and playing tribute to his mid-eighties metal and hard rock roots. And it works, particularly on the 2011 Wonrowe Vision debut Mission Invincible, which takes a “heavy edge rock n’ roll heading” (bands own words) in drawing upon the influences of Motorhead, Status Quo, Deep Purple, Resurrection Band, Jerusalem and 100% Proof . The Angelic Warlord review (85%) described it as “a joining of old school metal and hard rock backed by punk based angst and attitude” that “wears (those previously referenced) influences on its sleeves in no uncertain terms”.
Hence, the uniqueness that is Wonrowe Vision, toning down its songwriting - taking a basic verse-chorus-verse approach if you will (but in a positive sense) - while allowing for immediate catchy hooks and unremitting energy to play leading roles. Throw in Rowe’s trademark gruff and gravelly vocal style and every bit as fitting raw-edged production and the upshot is an artist reinventing himself and breathing new creative life into his art in the process.
The trend continues with Pictures Of The Past Present And Future, the second Wonrowe Vision full length from the spring of 2013. Staying true to its namesake, the album presents with a compilation of new material, re-recorded versions of older songs, live tracks and long lost demo recordings. POPPAF meets expectations from a performance standpoint in that the trademark Wonrowe Vision qualities are present in the form of near punk-like energy, generous slabs of distorted guitars, assaulting rhythm section and engaging hooks to spare.
In terms of song selection, however, I find it disappointing that the group did not include more current material. The album opens to its lone new song, a mauler entitled “That’s Total Evil” that plows its distance in high octane fashion but interspersed with occasional slower, doom-ish moments. A complementary catchy chorus and gutsy mind-set would allow it to sound right at home on Mission Invincible. The second studio track, a re-recorded version of “Pictures” from the Lightforce ‘Blue Demo’, gives rise to a commercial heavy rock feel with its youthful (almost punk-ish) vigor and simple but effective structuring. One cannot help but be impressed with the melodic nature of the early Lightforce material.
Ten songs recorded live at the Metal Bible Launch on December 20, 2012 in Melbourne follow. The lone complaint being that the two opening live tracks are “That’s Total Evil” and “Pictures” performed verbatim. While the two present with a bit more energy and heaviness in a live setting, it can be repetitive hearing them back-to-back-to-back. As a result, I cannot help but feel it would have worked better if the live versions of “That’s Total Evil” and “Pictures” had been skipped and the album opened with four new studio tracks instead.
“You’re So Kind, Yours & Mine”, also off the ‘Blue Demo’, ensues and reminds of “Pictures” with its melodic proclivity and heavy rocking edge underpinnings. As a matter of fact, it is somewhat of an understatement when Rowe introduces “You’re So Kind…” to the crowd as a “nice little up song”.
The remaining seven live tracks first appeared on Mission Invincible. Not to go into too much detail, but the Wonrowe Vision material translates perfectly live and comes across as if written with that framework in mind. Or more specifically Wonrowe Vision is in its natural element performing before a live audience.
Standing out equally is the group’s musicianship, most notably that of guitarist Lincoln Bowen on the instrumental moments to raucous pieces “The Spirit Of The Rock” and “Mission Invincible”, while Rowe nails a plodding bass line on the darker, doom based “Resident Spider”. The bluesy southern boogie flair of “Smile Your Way Through Life” finds a talented band hitting on all cylinders, and not just musically but lyrically as well: Pick yourself up from the floor/Recite your pain, you’re a bore!/Inspire yourself, overcome/God is with you through the blood/Of His Son that died for all
There is also good interplay with the audience throughout, as can be found at the start of the speed metal laced “Vaporizer” as Rowe suggests to the crowd “This is a fast one- go nuts!” and cool audience participation on “I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark” (another not quite so tempered piece).
Demo bonus tracks include original ‘Blue Demo’ recordings of “Pictures” and “You’re So Kind, Yours & Mine”. What stands out about the two is how they are female fronted, with vocalist Phadrah Hirschfield bringing to mind Nancy Jo Mann (Barnabas), albeit not with quite the same range (when factoring Rowe’s technical bass lines, early Lightforce does hint somewhat of Barnabas). Yes, production is rough around the edges (keep in mind these are mid-eighties demos) but still listenable. The same applies to “12 Men” (from the ‘Yellow Demo’), a heavier track with the greater guitar edge and bottom defined feel. Closing things is the Mortification version to “12 Men” (taken off Brain Cleaner from 2004). This one, obviously, features better production in standing out with plenty of thrash based riffs and Rowe’s raspy vocal style. Great song!
If you have not been previously exposed to Wonrowe Vision then my advice would be to first pick up Mission Invincible. This will allow you to not only get better acquainted with the band in terms of its strengths and styles, but end up with a very good album as part of your collection as well! If you already own Mission Invincible, then POPPAF will make a welcome addition as a result of its variety and including previously hard to find demo tracks. With that in mind, I look forward to the next Wonrowe Vision full length to encompass all new material instead.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “That’s Total Evil” (5:05), “Pictures” (3:13), “That’s Total Evil” (live) (4:57),”Pictures” (live) (3:42), “You’re So King, Yours & Mine” (live) (2:58), “The Spirit Of The Rock” (live) (4:50), “Mission Invincible” (live) (4:03), “Resident Spider” (live) (3:52), “Vaporizer” (live) (3:03), “The White Rock” (live) (2:45), “Smile Your Way Through Life” (live) (3:38), “I’m Not Afraid Of The Dark” (live) (3:55), “Pictures” (3:11), (demo) “You’re So Kind, Yours & Mine” (demo) (2:30), “12 Men” (demo) (3:16), “12 Men” (Mortification version) (2:15)
Steve Rowe - Lead Vocals & Bass
Lincoln Bowen - Guitars
Andrew Esnouf - Drums