CD Reviews

China - 'The Very Best Of' , 'Light Up The Dark' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 17, 2010    
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One of the melodic hard rock highlights of a year that has many other such gems. It's a real corker!

This may just happen to be the melodic hard rock band from Switzerland that is not so far represented in your collections. (I am making the assumption that if you are reading this magazine then you have at least one CD by Gotthard, and likely also something by Krokus…)

Originally formed in 1985, ‘The Very Best Of ‘ is a sensational and utterly unmissable assemblage of thirteen 1980s style melodic hard rock culled from China’s five studio albums across the decade 1985 – 1995, plus 3 new songs recorded in 2007 for this release that was prepared for the ‘Rock Never Dies Tour’. The tour lasted until early 2009 and saw the reignition of a band that had been largely dormant since the mid 90s. It is generally the view of aficionados of the band’s music that the earlier albums were the plum releases and thus it is that the self-titled debut from 1988 and the following year’s ‘Sign In The Sky’ are both represented by five tracks whilst 1992’s ‘Go All The Way’ and 1995’s ‘Natural Groove’ supply only three between them (though they are decent enough selections!)

Looking at the track details, unfamiliar purchasers will, perhaps, be surprised to find no fewer than four different vocalists, and this may well help to explain why with having so many changes in this key role the band failed to build a solid following. External factors that came into play in the early 90s didn’t help either, of course! Math Shiverow was the voice on the debut and songs including ‘Shout It Out’, ‘Rock City’ and ‘Wild Jealousy’ are typical of the period. Patrick Mason took over on vocals for ‘Sign In The Sky’ and his sweeter tones embellished fabulous songs such as ‘In The Middle Of The Night’, superb ballad ‘So Long’ and the album’s tantalising title track! Next up (and vocalist on ‘Go All The Way’) was Eric St Michaels and it is he who has returned as vocalist of the reformed band, and thus also sings on the three new songs included here. Finally, Douglas McCowan fulfilled vocal duties on ‘Natural Groove’ and brought a distinctive sleazy drawl to the songs. (For the sake of completeness, I should also mention that Marc Storace (Krokus) has sung with the band live, but is not represented on this collection of studio recordings).

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Fast forward to 2009 and the reformed band: Eric St Michaels along with ever-present guitarist Claudio Matteo, long-standing bassist Brian ‘Beat’ Kofmehl and new drummer Billy La Pietra finished the previously mentioned tour, recruited second guitarist Mack Schildknecht and the quintet headed into the studio to record the band’s first new studio album for fifteen years.

‘Light Up The Dark’ is a snarling beast of an album, harder and with some modern rather sleazy edges. It is lyrically acerbic and with heavy riffs and a bright, full-on production that makes for much more of an aural onslaught than was present on earlier albums. This is immediately apparent from the swagger of the title track and the in-yer-face posturing of modern rockers ‘Hey Yo’’ and ‘She’s So Hot’. Elsewhere there’s ‘Gates Of Heaven’ – a truly wonderful ballad, a country-tinged rocker (‘On My Way’) that includes a guest appearance from Marc Storace, melodic mid-tempo paeans including ‘Right Here Right Now’ and ‘Flesh And Bone’ – these two completing the album in fine style. There are also the three fine new songs featured on ‘The Very Best Of…’ (‘Girl On My Screen’, ‘Stay’ and ‘Trapped In The City’) but here in re-recorded and enhanced versions.

‘Light Up The Dark’ has had far more than its fair share of plays for this review, and for me has become one of the melodic hard rock highlights of a year that has many other such gems. It’s a real corker!!

Paul Jerome Smith

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