|Oliver Hartmann Out In The Cold||Frontiers Records|
Sometimes the best surprises come when you don't expect anything. Oliver Hartmann is the acclaimed former vocalist for European hard rockers At Vance and current frontman for prog-metal act Empty Tremor. |
As a solo artist his name is untested and I quite honestly did not have any idea what kind of an album Hartmann would deliver.
For the first time in a long time, I would go into an album with absolutely no anticipation nor expectation. 52 minutes later I am a converted Hartmann fan, left blown away by what is simply a joyous and uplifting musical experience. So often albums are held to particular styles, but this is just brilliant, pure melodic rock.
So rarely does an album offer such musical brilliance that I am left with virtually nothing to compare it to.
Oliver Hartmann's debut solo album is mix of moody melodic rock and heartfelt ballads, mixed with a couple of breezy feel good rockers. Every track offers something different and the whole sound of the album is a world away from what he is best known for.
I think this will be a big favourite amongst AOR and melodic rock lovers and will establish Oliver's name as a class songwriter and performer of his own credentials.
I love an album that is driven purely by the craft of great songwriting and that aspect along with Hartmann's powerful, yet accessible vocals is what makes this album so good.
If forced to draw a comparison, I refer to Black Sabbath singer Tony Martin and his moody solo release Back Where I Belong, which saw that singer pull things back a notch or two to concentrate on some fine soft rock tunes.
Out In The Cold sounds like a million bucks. Produced by Sascha Path and Oliver, not one single note is out of place. Well placed harmony vocals add extra texture and impact to the already powerful choruses and string arrangements throughout give the album an amazing intensity.
Track By Track:
Opening the album is the uptempo rocker Alive Again, a track which is one of the more powerful of the album, driven by Hartmann's own guitar playing. The chorus is instantly catchy, showcasing the range in Hartmann's voice, with some fine backing vocals adding impact.
The angst ridden rock ballad Out In The Cold follows, with a burst of strings bravely offering the opening notes. Another musical burst, in the form of guitars gives way to an acoustic driven verse, which in turns leads to a full band chorus which is backed with more strings and a moody, emotional and powerful vocal.
Brazen starts with an acoustic guitar and features another highly passionate vocal. There is some real angst wrapped up in the lyrics and the delivery of this album. The songs builds to one of the most passionate choruses I've heard in many moons. The track builds intensity as it goes and the last minute of the song is something to behold.
The Same Again is an uptempo rocker with attitude and a definite sense of anger surrounding it. The aggressive chorus gives the listener no reason to doubt!
I Will Carry On is an utterly brilliant ballad, backing with soaring vocals and even more string arrangements. The vocals are just perfect – that hint of raspiness, mixed with a strong soulful feel. And is that bagpipes I hear, or just a synth?
Every song is a winner on this album, but none more than the uptempo, pure melodic rock anthem of What If I. This joyous, uptempo melodic rocker with huge harmony vocals has a chorus which catapults the song into major contention for Song Of The Year. And what about that vocal in the last seconds of the song?
How Long is a more straight ahead hard rocker, with a more restrained chorus, but an enjoyable beat.
The Journey is the second proper ballad of the album, and is another great sentimental track, with a soft vocal that guides the song along. The chorus takes some time to appear, but works well in context with the song.
The tempo and style changes a little with, Who Do You Think That You Are, which has one of the toughest guitar riffs of the album. This is a dark, moody and quite heavy mid-tempo rock track with an aggressive heart.
Listen To Your Heart heads back into the uptempo feel good, melodic rock n roll vibe of the opening track and What If I. This is pure melodic rock and yet again features another great chorus that makes it an album highlight.
Can You Tell Me Where Love Has Gone is a mid-tempo moody rock track with a big chorus and some fine harmony vocals.
One of the best tracks on this already classic album is Into The Light. It's the perfect way to close the album. This 6 minute epic ballad is as haunting as it is beautiful and the melodies throughout send shivers up your spine. The extra orchestration and the glorious backing vocals make this yet another example of songwriting genius. And oh man, what a finish to the song.
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