Second album syndrome? That difficult third record? We all know these are the stereotypical hurdles that new bands have to overcome. So how come France's Blackrain see Released, their fifth album together, as their make or break? Well maybe because this time they're signed up to UDR Music in the hope of spreading their message far and wide, and that with renowned producer Jack Douglas (of Aerosmith, Cheap Trick, Alice Cooper, John Lennon fame) in their corner – and the production chair – this band's buzz surely can't get any louder.
From the off, Douglas's touch is mighty, Released sounding like a million bucks through biting guitars, pounding drums and sharp vocals. Neither would it be possible to suggest that the renowned producer hasn't played a large part in shaping the very American rock sound these French lads undoubtedly have. References to AC/DC run through the press release and yes, there's an element of that in the 80s rock sensibilities this lot display. However with everything from WASP to Motley Crue and Cheap Trick to Guns n Roses in there somewhere, the vibe is very much one of sipping on the Sunset Strip, even if nothing sneers quite as much as that era did. Truth be told, it's hard to work out whether that comes from the band's wish to do something different, or a simple inability to really pull off that attack.
Vocalist Swan certainly has the attitude in place, a carefree swagger in everything he does and yet the harsh, Vince Neil meets Michael Eden bite in his delivery will prove as much a plus point to some, as it will stumbling block to others. However he certainly gives his all throughout. While guitarist Max 2 (I'm not sure what happened to Max 1...?) provides some mean lead exploits to compliment Swan's rhythm work. All three factors play strongly into the success of this album's standout cut, "Killing Me", a song that has me doing something I hate… namely saying that it STRONGLY reminds me of another song and I just cannot place what it is. In fact, so much so that I've asked others and so far the consensus has come back with suggestions of City Boy, Cold Play, and Lady Gaga! And here was me thinking Eden's Curse or Within Temptation or Nightwish or…. So fair to suggest that it's simply one of those songs that sounds like everything else. Still, it's pretty damn good. However with all of this album suffering from the "who does this one sounds like?" syndrome, originality isn't high on the agenda. Yes, "Run Tiger Run" romps along convincingly, "Back In Town" doesn't exactly pack its punches, while "Home" almost becomes hard rock meets Motown through its beat and shuffle, before heading into more expected power ballad territory. However for all the performances are good and the sound exemplary, I just don't find myself drawn back to very much of this, while the cover of the Yardbirds, "For Your Love" I could well do without.
Not bad by any stretch of the imagination and in this day of home recording, file sharing and pro-tools, the involvement of a top notch producer really is clear for all to hear. However, will Released free Blackrain into the upper echelons of hard rock circles? Of that I'm really not so sure.
1. Back In Town
2. Mind Control
3. Killing Me
4. Run Tiger Run
5. Puppet On A String
6. Words Ain't Enough
7. Eat You Alive
9. For Your Love
10. Fade To Black
11. Electric Blues
12. Rock My Funeral
13. One Last Prayer
14. True Survivor (Bonus)
15. Jenny Jen (Bonus)
Added: March 28th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Blackrain at UDR Music
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