|Pride Of Lions The Destiny Stone||Frontiers Records |
Music is all about emotions. And the best releases are the ones stacked with it. That is probably why Jim Peterik is one of my all time favourite songwriters and why he has never disappointed with each release he is part of.|
In recent years it has been the World Stage project, followed by songwriting and production duties with Mecca and then on to the first Pride Of Lions album, which is still a personal favourite from the year or so.
Now it's time to prove that Jim can deliver the highest quality melodic rock consistently. I was in now way surprised to learn that The Destiny Stone does just that!
This is an important release for all involved in Pride Of Lions. It will continue the momentum set by the debut and further help establish the name as a lasting vehicle for Jim Peterik and vocalist Toby Hitchcock.
The debut became my favourite release of 2003 and narrowly missed a perfect score.
I was tempted to bestow a perfect rating upon this release as it is better than the debut in just about every department.
The songwriting however is where the biggest gains have been made. It's hard to build on a near perfect set of songs, such as the debut album, but the songs of The Destiny Stone really have an emotional, passionate quality that few releases can match.
Not only is there more passion, but the songs are in places more complex and really stretch the boundaries set by the understanding of what traditional AOR must conform to. The songs are quite lengthy and within them are passages that divert from the melody and structure of the song, adding extra texture and true character.
The production is also extremely good once again courtesy of Larry Millas with Jim's assistance. Multiple listens are required to get to know all facets of this album and new parts reveal themselves constantly.
And Toby's vocals have, as expected, matured further. I said in my review of the debut album that once Toby lived in his own skin for a while and once he got out on stage and grew with the experience only performing can bring, that his voice would mature and warm further. That it has. Within this album are some moments any singer would be proud of.
In many ways the band has taken the blueprint of the first album and worked on improving each aspect. And I think they have succeeded nicely. Track By Track:
In the traditional sense, a band such as this is obligated to get the album off to a flying start and The Courage To Love Somebody doesn't disappoint.
In the same vein of It's Criminal, but with a little more urgency, this is an uptempo AOR rocker, with a great chorus featuring some soaring vocals.
One small thing that detracted from the debut was the general pacing. It was the continual transition from rocker to ballad and back again which slowed momentum. That has also been addressed here, with a few different tempo's used and an extra uptempo track or two included.
Parallel Lines is one of those. Following on from the cracking pace of the opening song, this slows up just slightly, but still flows nicely. It's also a track straight from the 80's handbook, with a driving keyboard riff during the somewhat dramatic chorus setting the tone.
The first ballad of the album is the very fine Back to Camelot. This is a truly epic ballad with a rich theatrical feel. Add strings and orchestra tappings, plus some fabulous lyrics touching on life in medieval times and an album highlight is made.
Born To Believe In You kicks in with another strong dose of retro keyboards, but quickly fires up into a big rocker. The track builds its tension and pace by having Jim sing the first half of the verse and Toby the second half, moving into a raspy, aggressive chorus.
What Kind of Fool slows things down again, at least for the intro and verse. The chorus is a big bombastic, pomp-fest that fans of the debut will love. Once again, the track builds throughout and features some fine guitar playing and powerful vocals. The ending is also a little different, which certainly adds to the texture of the album.
Man Behind The Mask is a dramatic, retro styled pomp/rocker that hints of Dennis DeYoung era Styx. A good tempo changer for the middle of the album.
Light From A Distant Shore is another brilliant ballad and one that is quite different from the first ballad Back To Camelot. This features some soaring vocals, but in a totally different sense to the earlier track. This is a very laid back, breezy ballad with some great slow guitar playing and some massive harmony vocals as the song rolls on.
About time for a rocker and sure enough, Letter To The Future delivers. Starting slowly, the track doubles in speed and becomes a perfect melodic rocker with the arrival of a catchy chorus.
The Destiny Stone is a mid-tempo rock track, with that sense of dramatics Pride Of Lions are becoming rather good at. The lyrics tell a great story and the track has a really positive vibe. Running at over 6 minutes, there is a lot to absorb, including some fine acoustic guitar riffing towards the end of the track.
Second Hand Life really snaps things into high gear. I love this track. A great poignant lyric that should be listened to is the base of this memorable rocker with a great chorus. The track builds (a staple of this album) and features some great harmonies and a well placed tempo change later in the track.
Falling Back To Then is a darker, moodier rocker that features some fine harmonies and a great chorus that gets better each listen. Well placed for a strong finish to the album.
Closing the album in no better way is The Gift of Song? Holy smokes! How does one describe this track? If I was reviewing the score to Phantom Of The Opera it might be easier! This is a monster to close the album and I challenge anyone not to get totally caught up in the track and utterly blown away by the last minute! Toby Hitchcock you rock my friend!
This is an epic theatrical track that Styx and Dennis DeYoung would have been proud to deliver. I'll leave it to the listeners to enjoy it for what it is, but it's a tremendous credit to Jim and Toby for being able to pull it off successfully.
Essential for just about all lovers of melodic rock music and all fans of Survivor/Mecca/Peterik.
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