|Slamer Nowhere Land||Frontiers Records|
Mike Slamer only releases a new album every couple of years for a good reason. They are all total quality releases. In fact, they are all perfect! The man is a perfectionist and a production genius.|
Mike's best accomplishment in the melodic rock world to date has been the two Steelhouse Lane records, more precisely the second one Slaves Of The New World.
That was an incredible melodic rock record that I always wish I gave a perfect 100 to, as it continued to grow on me past the review time and is still has not lost any of its brilliance…and remains a record I recommend to all to buy without hesitation.
So many fans have been looking forward to a new Steelhouse Lane record. While that is unlikely to ever happen, Mike has still kept making records with two studio and one live album with Billy Greer's Seventh Key project.
Seventh Key was a slightly different beast to Steelhouse Lane – same Slamer trademarks and same perfect production style, just a little different manly due to Billy's own personal influences over the record.
Looking to get back to making records for himself, Mike Slamer teamed with Strangerways/The Sign vocalist Terry Brock to form Slamer. This band is different beast again, albeit one with definite similarities to his recent work.
In fact, I would describe the Slamer debut Nowhere Land as a direct cross between Steelhouse Lane and Seventh Key. There are influences from both present.
Brock certainly makes his mark here, but also present is Billy Greer, who contributes some very prominent harmony vocals. Incidentally, Brock helped out with harmony vocals on the last Seventh Key album, so you can see the crossover style here.
The album is more proficient as far as progressive elements and has more technical nuances than Seventh Key. Over however, I think this is a far mellower album than I expected, or perhaps than it could have been. That really isn't a bad thing; it merely means one must perhaps be a little more selective as to when to play it. It is more a mood record than the 'play anytime' Steelhouse Lane records.
One thing is for certain. This album features some the very finest guitar playing and finest AOR solos that I have ever heard. Mike Slamer's control of his instrument is unparalleled as far as I am concerned. Every track features a new reason to be amazed – be it a technical shred, progressive lick or slow, controlled emotional solo. Amazing just does not cover it.
Not one note or syllable is out of place here, which is a testament to his technical genius. The record is ultra smooth and produced to perfection. There are a couple of small issues that prevent this album from reaching a perfect score.
The biggest surprise for me is perhaps the vocals of Terry Brock. His voice is awesome – on this album he sounds smoother than ever. He sounds a million bucks here. I must add however, that in some way, his rough, raw and raspy edge has been polished over somewhat. There is part of me that misses that edge.
And that same notion applies for the whole album. It is simply so tightly produced and is so slick in the delivery that I can't help but feel the edge of Steelhouse Lane is missing.
The other thing I found is that the momentum of the album is not helped by the track sequencing – rocker / slower / rocker / ballad etc. A revised order where the tempo did not alternate might have offered a better slightly better flow. Minor points for what is really a technically perfect slice of melodic rock.
Track By Track:
As is morally and contractually required – all Slamer albums must feature a classic 'big intro' - one that builds the tension before the opening song bursts to life. This album is no different. The intro to Nowhere Land features some mighty guitar riffs and a slight progressive touch. Once underway Nowhere Land lets the listeners know that Slamer is going to be packed with - well...everything you expected!
Nowhere Land bobs and weaves its way through 6 minutes of harmonious vocals and changing landscapes, mainly painted by some serious guitar theatrics and a pounding rhythm section.
The tempo is immediately pulled back to allow a slow guitar solo to set up Strength To Carry On. This is an amazing track that couldn't be more packed with melodies. The tempo may be slow, but the hooks are glorious. The soaring chorus is the most obvious reference point, but there is so much to listen to throughout the track, including a mid-song bridge, intricate guitar parts and subtle melodies that become known after repeated plays.
It's back to high octane levels with the rocker Not In Love. A 90 second passage of progressive guitar plays kicks the song off before falling back into a more familiar groove. The verse swaggers along, and then the killer chorus – backed with harmonies galore – bursts through the comfort zone. This is another 6 minute track, so there are a few diversions along the way. Certainly not your average formulaic melodic rock!
The 8 minute ballad Come To Me is something out of the ordinary once again. I'm not big on the tempo going back and forth between fast and slow on alternative tracks, but this stuff is just so good. It's nearly 2 and a half minutes into the song before we hear the voice of Terry Brock, with the atmosphere and the tension being built constantly. Brock's voice is so smooth, so emotionally charged and the chorus is once again layered with rich harmonies. Some fine soloing closes out the track.
Time to rock again and the groovy Higher Ground quickly becomes an album favourite. Brock sounds just a little bit grittier here and rocks it a little more - as does Mike Slamer with some hard edged guitar riffing and a good strong song tempo. But the chorus! AOR glory of course! The song features more amazing guitar solos and some truly out of this world uplifting layered vocals towards the end of the track.
Jaded follows the album formula and starts slow. Terry Brock never sounded so smooth and sweet as he does here and Mike's guitar playing is eloquent to say the least. Out of nowhere there appears a heavier, faster and more intense bridge / chorus double play that as it continues on keeps getting bigger and bigger and is another example of perfect high-tech AOR.
Beyond the Pale is another slow and dramatic song that takes a few minutes to build before some fine laid back guitar soloing and moody keyboard parts take the song into its second half. Not a lot of singing within this one – it's more an epic movie score type of song. It features more haunting and emotional vocals from Terry and more hidden melodies that reveal themselves with time.
Runaway again starts slow. More slow guitar soloing builds a fairly sparse track before various layers are added and the song builds to another orgasmic multi-layered chorus that rocks a little harder. This song concludes a mid-album triple play of sultry, moody AOR that appears very laid back to start with, but gains intensity as you get to know the album.
Audio Illusion is a much needed straight ahead melodic rocker. The song is all hooks and all high-tech harmonies and layers and layers of instruments. I'm not sold on the hook, but I love the fact the lyrics are having a dig at the modern day pop music industry.
Perfect Circle is part of a hard rock double play that closes out the album. Great hooks, great harmonies and a strong chorus and a relatively straight forward approach.
Superstar is even better. This is straight out of the Steelhouse Lane hand book and is the heaviest and most hard rocking track of the whole album. I could have used another couple of tracks like this – dramatic, intense and a little progressive also. It rocks!
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