|Tony O'Hora Escape Into The Sun||Frontiers Records|
Two of this month's Frontiers releases are project albums relying on a tried and true formula backed by some familiar names.|
In the back of my mind is the constant thought that these projects have the very real possibility of wearing thin on the record buying public, but it's hard to argue a case against either of these projects, when the end result is largely satisfying.
For former Praying Mantis vocalist Tony O'Hora's solo comeback, the very talented Magnus Karlsson has been employed to deliver the goods.
Magnus is probably the stand out star of 2005, delivering two amazing albums and performances with Starbreaker and Allen/Lande. Magnus was the man behind the music and the songs on both releases and the quality of the tracks featured on those albums goes to show what an all-round talent he is.
Magnus' role on Escape Into The Sun is the same as the last two projects – deliver 12 knockout songs and supply all the music – guitars, bass, keys and drums. And did I mention produce the effort also?
I do wonder when Magnus gets time to sleep, but for now, fans of his band Last Tribe and those newly acquired through his side projects have a smorgasbord of passionate melodic metal to feast upon.
Tony O'Hora – whose name is on the marquee of this release – does have an important role to play. He has to supply vocals to match the power of the music and he also has to prove the lads of Praying Mantis that they are missing out on a still vital vocalist.
As far as my opinion goes, both deliver what was asked on them on this album and it sets 2006 up as another potentially great year for Karlsson.
Still, there are however, a couple of points that need to be made.
This record is very comparable to the Starbreaker project. Yes, Magnus has a certain style that shows through on all of his projects, but the mood, vibe and song style of this record compares mostly to that of Starbreaker.
And at times you could almost hear Tony Harnell singing when Tony O'Hora reaches for the higher notes supplied by Karlsson.
And to be perfectly honest – I prefer Starbreaker and I prefer Tony Harnell as a vocalist. I don't think this album has the originality of that project, or say the Allen/Lande album.
But, Escape Into The Sun is still a fine melodic metal album in many ways. And while it is powerful and sonically intense as far as the guitar delivery, it is also thoroughly melodic – as all Karlsson's projects are - which means it is definitely going to pull in listeners from outside this genre who may not normally purchase music as heavy as this.
Crossover appeal is important and vital for this scene.
This is an extremely moody record. It is somewhat darker than Starbreaker, perhaps exaggerated by the pacing of the record. The majority of the songs could be described as mid-tempo, with a few excursions outside that.
I think the record could have been a little more varied in tempo. For the first few listens, the songs sound very familiar. Once again there are some great tracks featured here, but the consistency is not quite as Karlsson's first two projects.
Highlights include the opening intensity of Broken Soul which features some strong vocal hooks; the mellower and even more melodic title track Escape Into The Sun; the Allen/Lande vibe of the uptempo No More Innocence; the emotional intensity of My Final Prayer, which has an Allen/Lande meets modern Stryper sound; the classy chorus of Dreamless Nights and the heavier, modern sound of More Than We Know.
The first half of the record is much stronger than the closing half. Tracks 9 through 12 sees the quality drop from Karlsson's usual high standards.
The album isn't as consistent or as original as Karlsson's first two projects, but still delivers some of the best melodic metal available in the marketplace currently.
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