Freak of Nature was Mike Tramp's band formed in the early 90's. They were one of the most amazing bands where each member had a crucial role in the band, but unfortunately they never got the attention they deserved. With the grunge bands being popular at the time, and Mike Tramp being the former singer of the 80's band White Lion, there was no interest from the labels in the USA, so Freak of Nature embarked on a vast European tour playing hundreds of clubs. They toured extensively throughout Europe and Japan opening for many bands including Helloween and Dio, promoting their self-titled debut release.
This album marks the beginning of Tramp's interest in a heavier and darker musical scope, employing two guitarists and a fantastically solid rhythm section. Mike Tramp probably never sang as great as he did in Freak of Nature, before and after this band. His vocals were at his best, as were his songwriting skills. His lyrics were thought-provoking, angry and extremely emotional. The band behind him are equally intense, and each member takes on an integral role in the compositions as well. All songs on this disc are written by the entire band, and it certainly shows.
The album is quite multi-facetted, starting with the fast-paced "Turn the Other Way". Most White Lion fans, including myself, were quite shocked to hear this song, as we all sort of expected from Mike Tramp a similar band to White Lion, but he managed to surprise everyone. The following songs on the album are even heavier. "Possessed" is perhaps one of the greatest songs Mike Tramp has ever written; it begins with bleak acoustic guitars, quickly developing into a mind-blowing Heavy Metal anthem. Mike's lyrics are about child abuse, drugs, and social injustice. Actually, there are songs here that focus more on Tramp's lyrics, rather than just the music. "What Am I", "World Doesn't Mind" and "People" may not sound as strong as the other numbers here, but their lyrics are among the most cerebral in Tramp's career.
Two of my favourite tunes here are "92" and "If I Leave". They both start out mid-tempo, but they are so strong and diverse musically that they stand head and shoulders above the other tracks. "92" is about Tramp's former FON-partner, Oliver Steffensen. He obviously wrote the song when Steffensen changed his mind about being part of the band. However, the song also deals with Tramp's grandmother's death, making it even more personal to him. "If I Leave", on the other hand, is full of crunchy rhythm work and solid guitar riffs. Jerry Best and Johnny Haro prove to be a killer rhythm duo. Haro's drum fill in the middle of the section always gives me goosebumps, whilst Jerry Best was always a key member in the sound of Freak of Nature. Mike Tramp's vocals in the second half of this song are perhaps some of the greatest, most immortal moments in the history of rock music. Sounds too exaggerated? Well, I grew up with this disc. I was 15 when I bought it, and literally wore this disc out. Both Freak of Nature albums are among my all-time favourites anyway.
The album is dedicated to two of Tramp's heroes, Phil Lynott and Freddie Mercury. I'm sure they would both be proud if they heard this disc. I know this album is a little difficult to track down, and expensive too, but it's worth seeking out for sure. The follow-up to this, Gathering of Freaks, is equally stunning, if not better. They're both essential to any metal fan.
- Turn the Other Way
- What Am I
- Rescue Me
- World Doesn't Mind
- Where Can I Go
- If I Leave
- Love Was Here
- Are You Ready (bonus track)
* Review originally written in 2005.