2016 release from Frontiers Music srl.
Johnny Gioeli – Vocals. Josh Ramos – Guitars. Alessandro Del Vecchio – Keyboards, backing vocals. Anna Portalupi- Bass. Francesco Jovino – Drums.
Artist location: USA. Italy.
5 out of 5 stars rating.
Reviewed by David.
- Where Will We Go From Here.
- Nobody’s Fool.
- Human Nature.
- Trapped In Muddy Waters.
- Running On Empty.
- The World Is Falling Down.
- Take You Home.
- Where The North Wind Blows.
- In The Dead Of The Night.
- United We Stand.
- Fighting The Battle.
There have been albums this year that came out of nowhere and and blew me away. Albums like Bulletrain and Cruzh that were complete surprises to me at how amazing they were.
Then there are albums that are not a surprise, that I knew beforehand that they would be great and yet they still managed to blow me away with how incredible they are when I hear them for the first time.
This is one of the latter records.
Hardline‘s fifth studio album and the long awaited follow-up to 2012’s ‘Danger Zone’ has finally arrived and it is a record that will make melodic rock lovers stand up and cheer. It is a huge record for this year and it only takes one listen to realize why it is such a highly anticipated album.
Vocalist Johnny Gioeli is not only the sole original member but is also the only member to be on each of the five (six with the 2003 ‘Live At The Gods Festival’) records. Longtime Hardline guitarist Josh Ramos (The Storm, Lion, L.R.S.), who has been with the band since Neal Schon’s absence, has been on every record since ‘II’ but was unavailable for ‘Danger Zone’ and Eden Curse axeman Thorsten Koehne played on the record, though Ramos did return and play for the live performances on the few tour stops they had. Ramos is back for this record though and he is fabulous as always. The man is a hell of a guitarist, no two ways about it, and his back catalogue speaks for itself.
Back again from the ‘Danger Zone’ record are bassist Anna Portalupi, drummer Francesco Jovino (ex-U.D.O., Primal Fear, Edge Of Forever) and writer, vocalist, keboardist and producer extraodinaire Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, in house producer for Frontiers Records). As always Gioeli has surrounded himself with some incredible talent and every musician on the record is in top form here sounding as good as ever.
With Del Vecchio involved then you imagine it is going to be keyboard heavy, and while they are there they are not nearly as prevalent as much as one may assume from Del Vecchio’s other works. In fact this has a much heavier feel to it then anything previously from the band. During a conversation with Gioeli a few months back he told me that he had channeled some of his inner Axel Rudi Pell with this record and with just one listen then it is very evident that he did indeed.
If you are expecting a ‘Double Eclipse’ part two then you are going to be sorely disappointed here. In fact about the only real thing that this group and the Hardline of 1992 have in common is Gioeli himself. Musically this is almost nothing like the debut. Of course any fan, or anyone at all, that has heard any of the band’s material since the debut will not be surprised by this as nothing since 1992 has really sounded the same as that record.
And that is not a bad thing at all.
Sure ‘Double Eclipse’ is a classic record with some extraordinary songs but that was the band and their sound at that point in time. Fast forward 25 years and we have this incarnation of Hardline. A band that proves they still not only kick some major ass, but in fact sound as though they have gotten a second wind and are just getting started. We can all certainly hope that is indeed the case because this record proves that there is still a hell of a lot of great music left in Gioeli to give us and apparently Del Vecchio is just a bottomless pit of musical ideas because the sheer amount of songs he writes is absolutely incredible.
So the record you ask? Well the record is a thing of beauty. Far heavier than anything we have heard from Hardline before but still as melodic as anything we have heard before. With countless screaming guitar solos from Ramos (have I mentioned yet how great he sounds here?) it surprised me how heavy it actually was, even knowing that it was going to be a heavier record going in to it.
The songs are incredible. Starting it off with the first single from the record that most have likely heard by this point, ‘Where Will We Go From Here’ sets us off on our journey with it’s hard hitting melody and great chorus.
For all who have been bitching that nothing has sounded like ‘Double Eclipse’ since that debut then ‘Nobody’s Fool’ is what you have been waiting for. An awesome song that definitely has that debut sound to it and one of my personal favorites from the record. Think a bit of ‘Takin’ Me Down’ and you will get an idea of the way this track sounds.
The album rarely ever lets up. In fact the only real time we are given a break in the constant onslaught of the hard rocking pace of the record is the mid-tempo title track and the terrific ballad ‘Take You Home’. And what a song that one is! Johnny sounds great on everything but this is the type of song that he truly shines brightest on. Incredible vocal performance and a beautiful piano performance by Del Vecchio.
Another favorite of mine is ‘Where The North Wind Blows’, a fantastic rocker with a great melody to it that is a highlight of the album to be sure.
‘United We Stand’ comes in at track 10 but it is one of the strongest rockers of the album. Wonderful song with a great chorus and great message.
I won’t go through it completely track by track because all I can really say is they all freaking rock! Think ‘Danger Zone’ but heavier and you get a general idea of the sound of this record.
There is absolutely nothing here that even comes close to being bad or filler material. As the writers of the record, Gioeli and Del Vecchio, who happen to be two of the nicest and most humble guys you could hope to meet, really nailed it with this one and proved here why they are two of the biggest names in the genre.
Not surprisingly Johnny sounds absolutely stunning on the record. Twenty-five years after the debut album and he is sounding better than ever. I have said it many times but Gioeli is one of my favorite vocalist of all time. The pure emotion he is able to harness with his voice and put into the music is astounding (just go listen to ‘Take You Home’). The voice this guy has is truly a God-given gift and it is just an absolute thrill to hear him sing. There is really nothing left to say about him, he is just simply an amazing singer that always brings his A game and he delivers an outstanding performance on this album.
As stated previously the rest of the band are phenomenal as well. Ramos and Jovino need no introduction. Their contributions to the genre are very well known to most all of us. Their skill and talent are unquestionable. These guys are professionals and they constantly prove that they are at the top of their game with each release they are a part of. Josh is a tremendous guitarist and Francesco is a beast behind his drumkit and both of these guys sound excellent here.
Anna Portalupi has quickly become one of the top bassists in the genre. Having played with the likes of Ted Poley, Tarja Tarunen (ex-Nightwish) and Bobby Kimball (Toto) to name just a few, this lady has nothing left to prove to the rock world. She is fantastic. This is her second album with the band and she proves that she has the chops it takes and more than holds her own on the record beside the other incredible talents gathered here.
What can you say about Alessandro Del Vecchio? The man has been a game changer for the genre. With writing credits for bands such as Revolution Saints, Edge Of Forever and Level 10, to name just a very small amount of what he has been a part of, Del Vecchio has become a staple for the genre as a whole. As a writer, producer, musician and vocalist the man is extraordinary. His influence on the record is very evident and he and Gioeli have found the perfect match here. Their writing styles mix splendidly on the record as they have found that perfect middle ground where both of their influences mesh into one but also both equally shine through individually.
All in all this is a monster of a record. No surprise in the least to me there. This band has it all and they are outstanding on every track. With the pure talent on this record it is not surprising at all that it is a simply stunning melodic rock record. It is without a doubt the strongest album from Hardline since the debut. In fact I dare say it is the best record Gioeli has been a part of since ‘Double Eclipse’.
Fans of the band, Gioeli, Del Vecchio or just some good, hard rocking melodic rock will eat this one up. This one is a no-brainer, pick the record up.
Very highy recommended.
‘Where Will We Go From Here’.
‘Running On Empty’.
‘Take You Home’.
‘Where The North Wind Blows’.
‘In The Dead Of The Night’.
‘United We Stand’.