Saturday, May 18, 2019

First Signal's Line of Fire Is An Unapologetic 80's Melodic Rock Hook Fest

Harry Hess and Frontiers Music have been at this since 2010. One well oiled melodic rock release after another. And because the music scene is mostly dead, this music sits on the internet, almost completely ignored. A generation ago this would have been a record label's dream. Hess, who's real job is to sing lead vocals for the Canadian band Harem Scarem, moonlights as a vocalist for this Frontiers project band. Industry heavyweights like Eddie Trunk have thrown constant shade at projects like this because "these aren't real bands that tour". Okay, Eddie, point taken. But this is real music that dwarfs most of the new music that does tour.

First Signal's latest project is called "Line of Fire". And it features some of the strongest melodic rock you'll hear in 2019. A format that is mostly dead despite the #rockisnotdead hashtag. And hence this is why much of this music lies dormant, absent of the clicks being generated by auto-tuned pop stars. Hess is a singer you can place even if you've never heard his voice. Somewhere between Joe Elliott and Jeff Scott Soto. His voice is rough and smooth at the same time. And whereas the other FS projects have been good, this time it's hitting on all cylinders.

The album opens with the Bon Jovi-esque "Born To Be A Rebel". The chorus screams of music's victorious past while dragging the listener into the story line. "Marty, the flux capacitor is set to 1988". The hooks resonate with complete musical thoughts. Another thing you'll discover right away are guitars that don't showboat but actually flow smoothly and melodically with the structure of the song. "A Million Miles" is airier and works almost like a pop song. The beginning is lighter and then transcends into a more robust landscape. The melody is sugary sweet and instantly singable.

"Last of My Broken Hearts" captures a Def Leppard meets Journey vibe in the best way possible. A sparse vocal that is then enveloped in power ballad instrumentation. The hook will browbeat you into submission. "Tonight We Are The Lonely" mixes some modern rock shading with the past and the result is some soaring vocals riding shotgun with a galloping soundscape. The song gets better as it progresses. "Walk Though The Fire" opens with one of the coolest guitar riffs I've heard in a while. This song strongly echoes Foreigner in during their "Inside Information" period or possibly Bad Company during "Holy Water". Vocally, Hess does his best Lou Gramm meets Brian Howe. The result here is one of the strongest songs on "Line of Fire".

"Never Look Back" keeps the "Inside Information" vibe going. Another slice of easily digestible big hook power pop. Any of these songs could be released as singles. The quality of songwriting is evident because it takes little or no time to get into these songs. They overflow with originality. The album's title track is a tad more aggressive and progressive in nature but still fits in well with the other material. The album finally slows down for a classic power ballad showcasing some scintillating acoustic guitars. "Here With You" is reminiscent of Leppard's "Two Steps Behind" but makes it's own indelible stamp. Again, this record is brimming with hit singles.

"Need You Now" mixes Journey and Nelson but also has a late night driving in the rain feel to it. Think the Golden Gate bridge in 1986. "Falling" is more of a rocker that opens fast and maintains speed throughout. Not the strongest song on the album, but strong on any other album. The last track, "The End of The World" finishes strong and has a soaring melody and lyrics open to interpretation. Line of Fire is that rare sweet spot that combines metal, pop and rock into a tapestry that should appeal to music fans everywhere. This is my album of the year...so far....

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