(Silver Lining Music)
I'll be the first to admit my disturbingly intense fascination with Melodic Hard Rock masterminds Alcatrazz. Having procured their full-length debut No Parole From Rock 'n' Roll (1983) as well as its major label follow-up Disturbing The Peace (1985) via a cut out bin, I quickly found myself enthralled with their trademark blend of gritty vocals and razor-sharp riffs and solos. Accordingly, hook-laden gems “Island In The Sun” and “General Hospital” quickly became beloved additions to my mix tape repertoire. Although I may have temporarily 'lost touch' with the group amid their Pop-infused Dangerous Games (1986) era, my admirations for their Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai-fueled origins continued unabated via a series of expanded editions, imports and re-issues (most recently The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986: Live, Demo, Rehearsals). Now, thirty-four (!) years after what was to be their final studio effort, the group has returned with the mighty Born Innocent (2020).
On the brilliant Born Innocent (2020), an expertly assembled thirteen song collection of Melodic Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the maddeningly infectious, fret-melting tilt “Born Innocent” and the Nozomu Wakai (of Destina Metal Souls fame)-fueled “Finn McCool”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved. Wasting little--if any--time reaffirming their rightful placed atop the genre, the group wholeheartedly flexes their creative muscles early and often. Attempting, or so it would seem, to capitalize on the veritable tidal wave of success initiated with the release of the in-concert exercise Parole Denied -- Tokyo 2017 (2018), the group offers an idealistic representation of their classic history. Yielding an initial series of auditory excursions that are as fine-tuned as they are truly nostalgia-inducing, the group boldly reminds us all of their compositional abilities without, believe it or not, borrowing too heavily from their legacy.
Continuing with the barbed harmonics of the Steve Vai-penned jewel “Dirty Like The City” and the oddly menacing, power chord 'clinic' “Something That I Am Missing” (featuring an appearance by Italian mastermind Dario Mollo), the steadfast--to say the very least--combination of vocalist Graham Bonnet (Blackthorne, MSG, Rainbow), guitarist Joe 'Shredlord' Stump (HolyHell, Reign Of Terror, Shooting Hemlock), bassist Gary Shea, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo (both of New England fame) and drummer Mark Benquechea (B.O.W.A, Devilution, Sin) steamrolls ahead with a well-rehearsed ease. Offering a seamless amalgamation of gritty, soaring vocals, blistering fretwork and an array of complimentary keys and rhythms that serve as a continuation of their already established trademarks, the group effortlessly reminds us all of their unabashed prowess. Re-enforcing each key focal point with a precision that belies their age, they surge ahead as a newly reconstituted, albeit cohesive, unit.
Co-Produced by a less-than-likely tandem of Waldo and Doomed Beast/Dragonsclaw frontman Giles Lavery and Mixed and Mastered by Andy Haller (Don Henley, Hirax and Joey Tafolla, among others) other standouts, including the delightfully swaggering tome “The Wound Is Open” and the exhaustive, equally impressive quasi-acappella ballad “For Tony”, only further reinforce their well-deserved reputation as a bona fide creative force to be reckoned with. Undeniably some of their most captivating works to date, even the weakest of links (the palid first single “Polar Bear” and “London 1666” serve as ideal examples) fail to subtract from the overall impact of the auditory accomplishments. With Stump et al. deftly re-capturing the essence spirit of Malmsteen's earliest fleet-fingered histrionics à la “Jet To Jet”, “Bigfoot” and, to a lesser extent, “Starcarr Lane”, make for a remarkably enjoyable ride seemingly guaranteed to leave both new and established fans alike thirsting for more.
But was it really worth the wait? Absolutely! Arguably serving as the rightful successor to Disturbing The Peace, the majority--if not all--of the undeniably ear-pleasing wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to leave all but the most pessimistic of enthusiasts only wanting for more. Although the group's oft-modernized variations of their classic tonalities may not necessarily appeal to Old School purists (No Parole From Rock 'n' Roll this most definitely is not), the end result(s) of their more than considerable efforts are nothing short of extraordinary and deserve to be treated accordingly. Love 'em or loathe 'em, this is quite possibly as good as it gets. Needless to say, if you've once again found yourself in search of refreshingly forthright alternative to the painfully mindless din and clatter that is so often force fed en mass via the proverbial mainstream, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane cure-all for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.
Born Innocent (2020)
The Official Bootleg Box Set 1983-1986: Live, Demo, Rehearsals (Box Set) (2018)
Parole Denied -- Tokyo 2017 (2018)
Dangerous Games (1986)
Disturbing The Peace (1985)
Live Sentence (1984)
No Parole From Rock 'n' Roll (1983)
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