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Epitaph: Fire From The Soul

Epitaph have a long history stretching right back to their 1969 debut. Back then, while opening for the likes of Black Sabbath, they built a strong reputation as a psychedelic progressive rock outfit. Through personnel changes and a continued search for the 'breakthrough', they soon evolved through hard rock and metal, without any great success. Numerous attempts at hitting the big time came and went along with record label implosions and future members of Victory and Saxon, before the band seemed, during the mid 80s, to be gone for good, the underrated Domain formed from their ashes. More reunions and break ups have occurred since, this German led by an Englishman outfit coaxed back once more for some reunion shows and their first album (Remember The Daze in 2005) in over two decades. Dancing With Ghosts followed in 2009 and now we have Fire From The Soul.

The band's early days of prog may now be long behind them, but that doesn't mean that Epitaph aren't an eclectic lot, for while you can certainly file Fire From The Soul under melodic rock/AOR, there are also some meaty riffs and progressive elements. In fact, if anything, it's the band's desire to mix things up on this album that proves its undoing. "Nightmare" kicks things into gear, roaming bass chugging, guitars rolling along on a Magnum meets Styx hand clapping hybrid. "The Way It Used To Be" screams 80s rock, the hopes this sound could still fill arenas clear even if I can't help but be reminded of the slower Statue Quo output of the late 70s at the same time. Before "No One Can Save Me" takes a strange left turn into chanty pirate folk rock with hopeful Queen like backing vocals (if there's such a thing); proving catchy enough in the process, even if the helping of cheese its served with is hefty.

It's the first big missed step in what has been a reasonably enjoyable, if unspectacular journey up till now. However the lengthy title track begins to show real holes in Cliff Jackson's vocal armory and again, the backing vocals give off an unwelcome 'yo-ho-ho' feel. Which is all the more disappointing given how convincing the upbeat urgency and excellently multi-vocal layered "Spark To Start A Fire" and almost Dare like "Love Child" undoubtedly are. However "Sooner Or Later" spoons on the schmaltz once more, not sure whether to gather you round the camp fire, or aim for power ballad bombast, while the closing "One Of These Days" decides to intentionally pastiche the MHR/AOR sounds of days gone by. The opening riff harks to "Into The Fire" by Dokken, before moving onto a Magnum meets Styx pomp surge, Deep Purple strut and Kansas fiddle excursion. However it's the clever reworking of David Lee Roth's "Just Like Paradise" chorus (the rewording as "Paradise, I'm looking for paradise" suggesting that unlike Roth, the search still goes on for Epitaph (and the rest of us)) that really hooks you in and confirms the smile inducing homage.

In the cold light of day Fire From The Soul is an enjoyable, but throwaway set of songs that, with one or two exceptions, have you singing and tapping along as you listen. However rather than make you want to investigate the band further, you are inspired to dust down the albums by bands from years gone by that seem to have so strongly influenced this CD. Which, given that Epitaph are older than nearly all of the obvious touching points on this release, seems to defeat the purpose somewhat.

Track Listing
1. Nightmare
2. The Way It Used To Be
3. Fighting In The Street
4. No One Can Save Me
5. Any Day
6. Man Without A Face
7. Fire From The Soul
8. Spark To Start A Fire
9. Love Child (Bonustrack)
10. Sooner Or Later
11. Rondo AllaTurca
12. One Of These Days

Added: August 20th 2016
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Epitaph online
Hits: 1332
Language: english

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