The rock scene has seemingly never looked healthier and 2019 has seen some absolutely incredible new albums emerge this year.
This trend looks to continue well into 2020 with the release firstly of the Anchor Lane debut album and this, the first full length offering by Kent four-piece Collateral in February.
Already making a big impression on UK and global audiences with slots at Camden Rocks, Ramblin’ Man and an appearance alongside Jon Bon Jovi, these South East rockers are amongst the most hotly tipped bands for future superstardom and this self-titled release shows exactly why they’re getting so much attention.
The songs on the album are huge and have such lofty ambitions to be played in stadiums but, unlike many who have come before, their strongest weapon in the fight is their talent and drive to succeed. Despite all the big, singalong anthems and flamboyant image, it’s not all empty glamour and glitz as beneath the noise and gleaming chrome of the surface lies a real blue–collar heart and recaptures the spirit of when Bon Jovi and their ilk were at their peak.
The album kicks off with the single ‘Mr. Big Shot’ and it’s a giant slab of commercial hard rock that mixes in some really 80’s elements ranging from classic American AOR to some almost New Romantic undertones and a pinch of ELO. Full of great guitar work from Todd Winger and epic vocals by Angelo Tristan, the track drips with tongue in cheek innuendos and a huge sense of a band having a ball in the studio. More monster riffing and vast melodies power along paeon to the modern music industry ‘Promiseland’, it sounds like the sleazy lovechild of AC/DC and, should have been huge, USA rock legends Giant as it snarls and purrs, leading to a superb solo by Winger.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O67NZRS0zck&w=560&h=315]
The band dust off their cowboy boots as the Southern Rock feel of ‘Merry Go Round’ brings images of swirling dust devils and shimmering desert heat to mind as they effortlessly turn their home county ‘Garden of England’ into the American Midwest. Close your eyes and you can feel the sun beating down and the dry mouthed feel that is desperate to be administered an ice-cold beer.
Without doubt, one of the greatest strengths of the band is to conjure up that sense of time and place in a very tangible way, transporting you to a time when hair was big and choruses were even bigger. This is no aping of the classic bands of that era but a contemporary take on the type of rock music that made Bon Jovi et al kings of stadiums, the production by Sean M Kenny bringing out the best in the material whilst giving it a thoroughly modern sheen.
‘In it for Love’ exemplifies this approach as it perfectly balances the pounding rock driven by rhythm section Ben Atkinson on drums and Jack Bentley-Smith’s bass alongside such a great, dynamic song that will have you singing along in no time.
With its instantly catchy “woooh oooh oooh” gang vocals during the chorus and another fret blazing solo ‘Lullaby’ has already become a live favourite and should be blaring out of every car radio across the Atlantic, such is its perfect suitability for the American market.[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79H8rrFsBoM&w=560&h=315]
Also finding it’s main inspiration the other side of the ‘pond’ is ‘Midnight Queen’, the band tilting their Stetsons to a more AOR meets Country Rock feel that sounds like it might have been written by Richard Marx and Vince Gill, the opening line the name of a huge hit that Marx wrote for Vixen and it shares that same sense of space, the focus on the songwriting, not the flash.
Those waiting for the heartfelt power ballad won’t be disappointed as ‘Get Back to You’ ticks all the right boxes, Tristran pouring his heart out as he longs to return home whilst the song proves it’s more about quality and quiet than drama school overemphasis. Having stated their love for the aforementioned Mr. Jovi, the band expressed their intent to write something that captured the spirit of tracks like ‘Always’ and this certainly will see a sea of mobile phone lights (nobody is allowed lighters at gigs these days) held aloft in tribute.
The pace picks up once again in the spot on, commercial pop rock of ‘Won’t Stop Me Dreaming’, a song that contains a tough streak of steely determination laced through its supremely candy coated and instantly addictive shell.
The album ends with ‘About this Boy’, another country tinged track that once more heads more to the massive and lucrative Nashville scene than the heavier end of their material. Whilst a meatier number may have been more fitting, the song is still imbued with that Transatlantic feel that may well find the band gaining ground both in their home country and in the United States given the growing market here and the already titanic base there. Always doing things their way, Collateral continue to push forward and this album shows just how far they’ve grown and where they’re heading. The stadiums of the World are beckoning.
Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM.