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(43:22 / Quixote Music)
TRACK LIST: 1. I'm Your Lie 4:37 2. In Denial 3:45 3. The Call 4:03 4. Enlighten Them 4:01 5. Books 2:30 6. History Lesson 3:44 7. Rhodesian Rhapsody 4:21 8. Hold On 4:15 9. To Be Or Not To Be Revisited 3:48 10. Falling 4:25 11. How We Perceive 3:31 LINEUP: Vytas Lemke - keyboards Matthias Wurm - guitars Phil Griffits - vocals Frank Fischer - bass Ludvig Benedek - drums
Prolusion. "In Focus" is the third studio CD by ALIAS EYE, from Germany (though their singer Phil Griffits is an Englishman), following "A Different Point of You" (2003) and "Field of Names" (2001), of which I am only acquainted with the latter. That being said, Mr. Griffits works on two fronts, as he is also a permanent member of another well-known German outfit, Poor Genetic Material.
Analysis. Those who are still curious to know what's in the group's focus nowadays, please relax:-). Prior to listening to "In Focus", I refreshed my memory of Alias Eye's debut album, which in the end led me to the conclusion that the group continues to follow the path they paved from the outset - well, unless they changed course when making their second step, figuratively speaking. Overall, this their latest effort can be viewed as a modern take on classic Hard Rock and Doom Metal (of Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath's archetype respectively), which yet, is still nostalgic enough to ensure the preservation of most of the genres', well, vintage features, which in turn find their reflection in the recording's overall sound. There are no instrumentals among the eleven tracks here; almost all of the songs bear the distinct signs of their makers' primary mentors, the influences now disappearing, now popping up again and so on. Standouts include Enlighten Them, I'm Your Lie, The Call and History Lesson, and I'll describe these first. The sole tune that doesn't reveal any obvious references, Enlighten Them, is a progressive folk rock creation with an uncredited 'guest' accordion inventively soloing almost throughout - either alone (mainly within the vocal sections) or in conjunction with the piano and bass. The meaty, distinctly growling guitar riffs, building an explicit, elaborated Doom Metal-like sound, are only an integral part of three songs. Definitely, these are I'm Your Lie, The Call and History Lesson, even though the latter has less of a hard edge than the other two. There are a few sections with different thematic and rhythmic patterns on each, some of the melodic lines being not without originality, but nevertheless, the comparisons with Black Sabbath's late '80s work and classic Threshold as well (think "Headless Cross" and "Extinct Instinct" respectively) are inevitable, in each case. It is not for the first time that I find Damian Wilson's intonations in Phil's vocals, though this time around, the singer appears to be even more adaptable to any particular musical situation, exchanging the masks of Damian, Tony Martin and John Lawton ('whose' story is yet to come though) and, well, his own vocal faces, equally with ease. In Denial, Rhodesian Rhapsody, To Be Or Not To Be Revisited and Falling, each draws guitar- and organ-driven Hard Rock whose roots can be traced on the first Alias Eye CD, but even more in such Uriah Heep's creations as "Firefly", "Innocent Victim" and "Fallen Angel", Griffits' singing at times being almost an impersonation of John Lawton. Rhodesian Rhapsody is the best of these, which is explained quite simply: one of the tune's two instrumental interludes is outstanding, as it finds the group venturing on quasi improvisations, with Vytas Lemke's electric piano and Frank Fischer's bass sharing the lead at the fore. There are some repetitions to be found on each of the aforesaid eight tracks, but no unnecessary ones (at least as applied to the style), the relative straightforwardness of instrumental parts within their vocal sections being mostly well compensated for by Phil's elastic singing on the one hand, and the players' resourcefulness in the instrumental ones on the other. The remaining three, so far unnamed tracks are all ballads, all having a late-'70s Uriah Heep vibe to them as well, although when listening to the refrain of Hold On, I am also reminded a bit of the song of the same name from "Audio-Visions" by Kansas. Unlike Hold On (which has for the most part a full-band sound), Books and How We Perceive both find Phil Griffits singing exclusively to the piano, the latter being just boring, thrice repeating the same verse-chorus theme during the three-and-a-half minutes of its duration. One may disagree with me about How We Perceive, asserting the track exceeds 11 minutes in length, but personally (paraphrasing its title) I don't care a damn how Alias Eye themselves perceive such a vulgar trick as the 'recording' of silence that they've put after the ballad, as well as a very brief drums-free cut-parody of Rock-&-Roll placed without rhyme or reason at the very end of all that wretchedness.
Conclusion. Apart from the increased quantity of outside factors, there is nothing fundamentally new on this Alias Eye new release, compared to "Field of Names". In short, hard rock fans, particularly those enjoying the band's first album, should find "In Focus" suitably fitting the focus of their interest.
VM: April 18, 2007
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