Any project touting Deen Castronovo on lead vocals is going to get my attention and enthusiasm. To add Mr. Melody Jack Blades and the righteous Doug Aldrich turns a triple play into a home run.
Overseeing the project in man of the moment Alessandro Del Vecchio, adding his always brilliant keyboards, plus composing most of the songs and adding his deft touch to the production, which I think has to be his most accomplished effort yet.
‘It is a musician's record,' states Castronovo of the project. Indeed it is. There are a plethora of examples of exquisite musicianship from all throughout the record, none more so than Castronovo himself, who delivers a masters clinic on how exactly to play on a rock record with power, soul and finesse.
While I am somewhat hesitant to embrace superstar projects that aren’t born from a natural evolution of personalities and circumstances, this project totally makes sense and thanks to some amazing songs from Del Vecchio, delivers in spades.
Of course I’d prefer all three guys to be amongst the writing credits, but now this album is done and done so well, perhaps discussions about the next album will allow that to happen. And there sure will be a follow up to this. It’s just too good.
Back On My Trail is a dramatic album opener that rocks as intended. Upbeat and driven by a thumping beat and some hard edged, but melodic guitar riffs.
Deen bursts through the speakers with power and authority in his own natural tone, which is a combination of the sweet tone of Steve Perry and the power of Jeff Scott Soto.
He lets rip a few notes that simply stun. And his drumming is quickly simply insane. There are drum fills and progressive twists throughout the song.
A terrific guitar solo with numerous flourishes throughout shows what a master Doug Aldrich is, while Jack Blades’ bass truly thumps away.
The song itself is a powerhouse melodic hard rocker that sounds like Journey meets Night Ranger, but with the sonic edge that Doug brought to Whitesnake. Harmonies abound and the chorus is simple, but memorable and gets better with every listen.
Turn Back Time is co-written by Alessandro and Jack Blades and is an easy choice for the first single. The feel good anthemic and uptempo melodic rocker sees Deen and Jack share lead vocals, with Deen doing his finest Journey style melodies and everyone joining in to take the chorus over the top. Some more tasty guitar soloing and an infectious foot thumping beat makes the song a clear winner. Deen again is a monster on drums. How does he do it?
You're Not Alone sees Alessandro Del Vecchio’s piano opens the first ballad of the album. It’s only a matter of seconds before the power of this song is on display. Arnel Pineda and Deen share lead vocals in a very recent era Journey-esque track that features layers of keyboards and rich musical depth. It’s a big power ballad that reminds me heavily of the more dramatic songs off the LRS album (also written by Alessandro). It’s a big and powerful ballad where vocals are the emphasis and there’s plenty of them!
Locked Out Of Paradise is a monster melodic hard rock tune. It’s one of the heavier album tracks and is maybe the most powerful song I have heard Deen Castronovo appear on since Hardline. The drumming is stunning, while the vocals are pure Perry-goes-metal.
The chorus gets better and better and the song structure is such that it takes the classic melodic hard rock format, but modernizes it. Doug’s guitar playing is sublime from start to finish.
Way To The Sun features an acoustic guitar and a soulful vocal greeting the start of the next track. Another ballad? Not sure I’m ready for that, but that vocal! Then 1 minute in, the song bursts to life, with the full power of the band in action. The chorus is beautiful – harmony vocals, a powerful drum rip, an authoritative guitar riff. Neal Schon guests on the track with a typically soulful flurry of guitar chords that is pure Journey. The track continues building throughout, so by this time it’s in full epic mode, with vocals, guitars and harmonies. Beautiful track.
Dream On is a song written by Erik Martensson, with Johan and Kris Becker, Alessandro and Jack Blades. The combined collaboration works, as this is a brilliant pure melodic rock stadium anthem, with Deen sounding like a raspier Escape/Frontiers era Steve Perry.
The chorus is pure ear candy and the energy infectious. Erik Martensson’s writing influence here is undeniable. Melodic bliss.
Don’t Walk Away is another ballad and to be honest, at first I thought it was too early for another ballad, but once again, that fear is dismissed with the first note Deen sings. Wow, this guy has soul and passion that’s been kept hidden for too long.
The song starts as a soft piano ballad, with Deen and Alessandro featured together until the chorus sees a full band accompaniment. And what a chorus. A hit single in any other era.
A monster Alessandro song that is pure Journey. The end of the song is simply epic and some of the notes Deen hits are insane. This song features some big big vocals and a great guitar solo too.
Here Forever is another ballad, but like each slower track before it, it is different once again and stands on its own. It’s probably one ballad too many and it does make me question the sequencing of the album, but you can’t deny that the song is soulful, powerful and emotional. It’s more rock then ballad and Deen’s voice is outstanding once again. Definitely reminds me of Journey.
Strangers To This Life – it’s time to fire proceedings back up again. Deen goes full Perry for this moody rocker that might have sounded pretty comfortable on Journey’s Trial By Fire.
Better World is another upbeat melodic rocker that has a strong European feel and a good mix of Journey too. The verse and bridge-to-chorus is pure Journey, while the chorus is more Euro-melodic rock, with keyboards a plenty. Of course there is a tasty Aldrich solo and some rolling bass thumping from Jack. Alessandro takes a writing credit with Magnus Karlsson on this one.
How To Mend A Broken Heart is a ripping version of the brilliant Eclipse track. This has all the energy of the original and Deen sounds brilliant singing it. That rasp in his voice is a joy! For those that don’t know Eclipse, let this be an introduction to the fabulous Swedish band.
A sparse piano ballad to close the album. While another ballad might not be on the menu for some, In The Name Of The Father is a stunner almost worth the price of the album alone. Deen’s vocals send a shiver down the spine as just his voice and a piano deliver the first half of the song. There’s orchestral backing and then the full band chimes in. Truly a magnificent, epic ballad and the song itself (from Alessandro on his own) is brilliant. Steve Perry would be proud…
So there you have it folks. On paper, the lineup looks amazing and on record the guys deliver. More a product of Alessandro’s pen and production efforts, but the performances by the guys are what makes these songs come to life.
We’ve always known that Deen Castronovo is a freak drummer and an amazing vocalist, but this album propels him into the spotlight and he excels in both roles.
I’d love to see these guys hit the road, I can only imagine the setlist, but duties with their main bands will no doubt curtail any fan hopes.