ToJa: Train of Life
The journey that we all take through life can be a confusing one and if you jump on Train of Life from ToJa, there's a good chance that you may end up even more confused than you were. It's not that the music on show is substandard or there's a problem with the musicianship, it's just that, as often as not, from song to song this album sounds like different bands playing different genres. For example "Just A Love-Song" is a gentle acoustic guitar with swaying strings, Tommy Rinn's overly echoing vocals dominating proceedings. Even taking into account that Rinn struggles at times to stay in tune, it is almost a pleasant if uneventful song. Frome there we get "First Love" which starts with a finger clicking acappella hum before a bluesy laid back guitar enters proceedings and prompts Rinn to whisper the first verse. It's hard to know if you are listening to a rock record or some kind of West End show, especially as the mass choir backing vocals appear.
So it's a laid back slow paced album full off atmospheric ballads then? Well no. In between the more theatrical moments there's the stonking House of Lords mixed with Saracen "Slave To The Machine"; a fantastic track full of drama, a driving twin guitar line and huge chanting chorus. Bizarrely enough ToJa then go on to follow this up with another stark downbeat almost orchestral piece based round Rinn's uneven voice, before almost copying the guitar melody from "Stairway To Heaven"; finally building into a slow paced ballad come show song. It would be easy to imagine Ewan McGregor crooning this number in "Moulin Rouge", which there's nothing wrong with, it's just that it doesn't sit well with the pomp rock workouts.
Then we are off again on another of Thielking's bluesier, more pompous moments, Rinn doing his best Rob Halford impression on "Night to Remember" and as illustrated previously on "Slave To The Machine", this is where the band really kick into gear and sound most comfortable. When they are given the chance, Dietz on bass and drummer Dierks are impressive, giving the songs a big expansive feel. It just such a shame that so much of the album doesn't contain their input. Once more the pace changes with closing number "Circle of Lies" again taking us on a theatrical journey with its keyboard produced strings and woodwind and Rinn yet again wailing away over little background accompaniment. At least this time the crescendo is built towards with some focus. I have to stress that there are many fine moments on this album, however you do have to persevere to find them and they are all too quickly buried in a cacophony of disparate ideas. Unfortunately none of this is helped by a decidedly dull mix and dry production, which leaves Rinn's voice over exposed and vulnerable.
You get the impression that if ToJa could stick to the more over the top pompous rock element of their music and limit the theatrics to shorter passages, then they could come up with something very worthy indeed. However Train of Life is way too confused to provide it.
1. Train Of Life
2. No Cross
3. Just A Love-Song
4. First Love
5. End Of A Nation
6. All Of My Life
7. Slave To The Machine
8. Hold My Hand
9. Night To Remember
10. Circle Of Lies
Added: September 23rd 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: ToJa online
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