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China: Light Up The Dark

Coming together in the mid eighties, Swiss outfit China have never been a band to be constrained by genre or style, with everything from AOR, to sleaze rock being incorporated across their five studio albums. Light Up The Dark is the first album of new material to come from the band for over a decade and a half, although a more recent compilation did introduce some new songs. These days Eric St. Michaels is manning the mic, while the guitar pairing of Claudio Matteo and Mack Schildknecht are augmented by bassist Brian Kofmehl and drummer Billy La Pietra and it has to be said that this fivesome make for an impressively tight unit.

Kicking off with the striking, confident riff of the title track, Light Up The Dark is not an album that allows you time to settle in, instead the compact punch of sleazy, rocked up guitars and in your face vocals hits home with assured accuracy. Not content with that "Hey Yo" adds even more aggression in the same way that say Michael Monroe does at his best and already it is apparent that China are playing right at the top of their game, with blistering solos, catchy, boisterous choruses and great vocals making for a tremendously impressive album. That theme continues through the staccato riffing of "She's So Hot", the melodically punky hit of "Girl On The Screen" and the bluesy almost Thunder like "Lonely Rider".

Oddly though the band then choose to change focus, with three songs that while still good, do sound like they come from a different album altogether. "Gates Of Heaven" is an acoustic tinged ballad that Poison would happily churn out, while "On My Way" veers into country rock, coming on like Danny Vaughn trying to write the tune for a US sitcom, before the power ballad of "Stay" continues the mid paced, less rock and roll theme. Thankfully after that three song interlude, we are returned to our regular programme with the down and dirty sleaze rock of "Deadly Sweet", the threatening strut of "Trapped In The City" and "Right Here Right Now", with its mid paced stomp. "Flesh And Bone" takes us out of the album in the confident sleazy, bluesy manner in which it all began and leaves you hankering to start the journey all over again.

Light Up The Dark is an album that contains some mighty slabs of guitar wrapped in bitingly catchy songs that have the staying power to make it a disc you will listen to again and again. However no matter how many times I do play it (and that has been a lot), I can't help wondering why the decision was taken to put all of the slower, less impactful tracks back to back when spreading them through the rocking, up beat songs that make up the rest of the disc would have made for a much more cohesive album. To be fair, in this age of playlists and mp3 players, I'm not sure how much of a difference the running order really makes, so based on the music alone this album easily attains a four star rating, as it heralds a most impressive return from this much missed band.

Track Listing
1. Light Up The Dark
2. Hey Yo
3. She's So Hot
4. Girl On My Screen
5. Lonely Rider
6. Gates Of Heaven
7. On My Way
8. Stay
9. Deadly Sweat
10. Trapped In The City
11. Right Here. Right Now
12. Flesh And Bone

Added: March 22nd 2011
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: China Official Web Site
Hits: 2283
Language: english

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