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Winger: Karma

Winger are still regarded by many as a throwaway, pretty boy "Hair Metal" band that released a few albums and split when grunge allegedly "revolutionised" rock music as we knew it. However for those of us that actually took the time to listen to the musicianship involved in Winger's playing can attest to, the ironic thing was that they were among the best, if not the best caught up in the whole party rock MTV explosion. The band's big hits like "Madalaine", "Seventeen", or "Headed for a Heartbreak", contained a substance not found in their rivals songs, which for some reason was a fact that went largely ignored. After the initial accessible melodic rock of their self titled debut album and follow up In The Heart of The Young, the band took a swift left turn with third album Pull, which contained an altogether more sophisticated, mature hard rock blueprint and added bags of melody. It was nothing short of a revelation and remains an underground classic which sounds vibrant and fresh to this day.

With their 2006 comeback album IV, Winger seemed to polarise opinion as to their direction. Gone was the smooth, melodic rock of their first two albums and even Pull appeared to be way more mainstream by comparison, however for those of us who followed Kip's post band writing and projects it was a natural amalgam of his then current output and where the band left off before breaking up.

So where does that leave new album Karma? Well when bands listen to the concerns that their fans have with their music, the results can often be half hearted and insincere, however in this case nothing could be further from the truth. Rather than try and return to the early slick smooth sound, what Winger have done is take the "modern" edge of IV, the killer riffs of Pull and merge them with the unmistakable choruses and melody of the band's early work. It has to be said that what that marriage has produced is quite stunning. What is also in evidence is the starker, emotional approach taken on Kip's solo outings which add a maturity in the vocal department and arrangements that has possibly been lacking from the band's previous efforts.

The huge, pacey riff, soaring guitar and blazing vocal of track one "Deal With The Devil" leaves you in no doubt that this is a band firing on all cylinders. The sound is immediately in your face with everything being crystal clear and allowed the space to breath, whilst sounding tight and impactful. So many albums these days get off on the wrong foot by having an opening track that just doesn't grab you, however Karma does the exact opposite.

"Stone Cold Killer" keeps up the momentum with Winger's ranging bass line and Morgenstein's drums clouting you between the eyes. This is controlled aggressive stuff, however it manages to possess a killer melody line and sing-a-long chorus in between the razor sharp guitars.

Six stringers Reb Beach and John Roth are in incredible form peeling off stunning solos and remarkably heavy, yet melodic riffs. There really is no let up as "Big World Away" romps past with its mesmerising vocals and rip roaring guitars. "Come A Little Closer" perfectly mixes the Pull era of the band with Kip's solo years. The stop start guitars insist on embedding themselves in the mind, however it's the vocals that steal the show and especially during the chorus, Kip is completely hypnotising, bizarrely enough the backing riff during the guitar solo is a dead ringer for Metallica's "Enter Sandman"!

"Pull Me Under" has that classic Winger of old chorus with the vocals slowly building up to a controlled scream as Beach and Roth weave their magic both during the main body of the song and the sublime hammer-on solo. Both get their instruments to squeal and yowl in delight as Morganstein and Winger keep a rock solid rhythm.

The first track to really take its foot off the gas is "Supernova", a more considered almost Indian flow lulls you gently into Winger's impassioned vocal. Kip always sound best when he seems to be on the verge of losing control and this is a perfect example of just that. "Always Within Me" is a killer power ballad, it sounds relevant now, however it would have been a massive hit back in the nineties.

Once more "Feeding Frenzy" perfectly blends the accessible melody that Winger are able to so easily produce with the biting insistent beat and power of Morgenstein. It's the last true rocking track on the album as "After All This Time" and "Witness" slow things down. The first of the two has a bluesy weeping feel as Kip sings about long term love. There's a beautiful solo and the drumming is restrained and graceful.

Choosing to end such a guitar heavy album with two slower tracks may seem a little odd, however here it works well, after the blues of "After All This Time", "Witness" has a huge expansive sound that just encompasses you and completely transports you into the song. As with the rest of the album, the sound is spot on and as the song progresses through its seven minutes the atmosphere just grows and grows until a spectacular almost three minute guitar solo leaves you stunned.

As I said at the start of this review I know the name Winger conjures up all kinds of stereotypical images, however I urge you to take the time to listen to this album as its rewards are quite magical.

Track list:
1. Deal With The Devil
2. Stone Cold Killer
3. Big World Away
4. Come A Little Closer
5. Pull Me Under
6. Supernova
7. Always Within Me
8. Feeding Frenzy
9. After All This Time
10. Witness

Added: September 27th 2009
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 6096
Language: english

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» Reader Comments:

Winger: Karma
Posted by KEVIN BATCHELOR on 2010-09-08 12:23:05
My Score:


Winger: Karma
Posted by Bobby Lisanti on 2009-10-07 08:28:32
My Score:

I Heard the entire first 2 songs on this album plus the samples of all the songs..I predict this will be one of the best Melodic Rock/Metal albums of 2009...Awesome riffs and production and Kips voice is simply mature and rocks out! And Reb sounds awesome also!

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