Stray - 'Valhalla' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     February 06, 2011    
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Stray's first studio album in almost a decade.

There are so many types of rock and metal that it is easy to become befuddled by the sheer volume of genres and sub-genres springing up on an almost daily basis. That's why sometimes the sheer bliss of discovering an album with no pretentions to be anything other than what it is, is extremely refreshing. 'Valhalla', which is Stray's first studio album in almost a decade, is one of those albums, doing exactly what it says on the tin, with their brand of melodic bluesy rock being a blast of sharp, uncompromising, yet hugely melodic rock and roll. Amazingly Stray, or more precisely Del Bromham, are now well into their fifth decade as a going concern although they are pared down to a power trio comprised of Bromham on guitars, keyboards and vocals, Stuart Uren on bass and Karl Randall behind the drums, both of who have both been playing with Bromham under various guises for quite some time now. The real beauty of this collection of songs is that the music is so timeless that if it wasn't for the crystal clear production, provided by Chris Tsangarides (Y&T, Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest), it would be hard to decide which of the last four decades these rocking, rolling, barroom bruisin' songs were recorded in.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Right from the off there's no doubt that Stray have come back with a real fire in their belly, 'Move A Mountain' has a great little bouncing guitar lick that instantly has you sitting up and taking notice, while 'Dirt Finger', which is a song about the grimy, life destroying side of drug addiction, has Bromham firing out one of the dirtiest, yet catchiest riffs you'll hear all year. Whilst most of 'Valhalla' grabs you and gives you a hearty blues laden shake, there are also some more restrained and introspective moments, with the beautiful anti-war '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue' proving to be a real slow burner that winds its melodic way into your subconscious, while 'You', is a slower poignant blues number that Gary Moore would sell his Grandmother for. That said, while those more considered songs break the album up well, the true joy of 'Valhalla' is when this power trio do what power trios do best and rock out big time. 'Free At Last', which reprises the anti-war sentiment and the mighty thump of 'Double Six', leave you in no doubt that Stray are a riff machine to be reckoned with and a powerfully seductive one at that. Bromham may not have the most range in his voice and he does ever so slightly over stretch himself at times, however his gritty lived in drawl has exactly the sort of tones needed to carry this style of low slung rock and roll off to a tee.

There's always a danger that a "vintage" band coming back for another shot at glory will end up more like your Dad dancing at a wedding than a slick rocker, but with 'Valhalla' Stray have proven that they can still throw shapes with the best of them.

Steven Reid

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