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Album Review : The Big Deal – First Bite

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

First Bite is the debut album by female-fronted Serbian Melodic Hard Rockers The Big Deal. Given their country of origin, it’s perhaps no surprise to hear that this album sits proudly within the ‘Euro-Rock’ style.

Uptempo hard rocking songs, with big guitars, neo-classical keys and highly melodic vocals are the order of the day here and they’ve certainly created a bit of a buzz with their cover of Europe’s ‘Rock The Night’ and with the initial single releases from the album.

Built around the undeniably monster talents of guitarist Srdjan Brankovic, his wife Nevena, a classically trained pianist and singer, vocalist Ana Nikolic and drummer Marko Milojevic, The Big Deal have certainly piqued the interest of the Hard Rock crowd over the past few months due to the unusual dual female lead vocals and the impressive pedigree of the band members. So, what does the album sound like?

‘Never Say Never’ opens the album in some considerable style. It kicks in with a thunderous galloping Hard Rock riff and has the requisite immense chorus with both singers giving it their all. The instrumental break mid-song also sets out a fairly impressive statement of intent with both guitarist Srdjan and keyboard player/vocalist Nevena showing off their extremely impressive technical chops. Heavier than many of their contemporaries, the band nonetheless showcase their love of melody within the frantic roar of this very impressive opening track and it definitely leaves you wanting more.

‘I Need You Here Tonight’ continues the theme set by the opening track and is another powerhouse Melodic Hard Rocker with cool dual vocals from Ana and Nevena and yet another highly technical guitar/keyboard solo section. It’s a decent song, but not quite as strong as the opener.

‘Sensational’ was a single and a very obvious choice for one it is too, as it possesses a chorus of quite staggering magnitude and one that, despite the familiarity of the major key melody, manages to teeter on just the right side of ‘cheesy Euro-Rock’. The chugging guitar riff in the verses and the massed wall of power chords in the chorus give the song a very powerful overall sound and it is a standout track. However, good as this is, the solo section sounds a little too similar to what has gone before – lots of shredding arpeggios and melodic flurries on both guitar and keyboards, which is fine and dandy but it’s getting a teeny bit samey. Having said that, there are some lovely neo-classical piano flurries in here too, which add interest and help to elevate the song further.

‘Top Heaven’ is another highly melodic and powerful rocker with the dual vocals sounding particularly strong and this is pretty much the pattern for the rest of the album. ‘Wake The Fire’ has a bit more light and shade in its production, which is very welcome, and the chorus is extremely infectious. ‘In The Dead Of The Night’ rocks along at quite some pace with a very good guitar solo which reminds me of ‘TNT’s Ronni Le Tekro in its use of harmonised melodies and shredding runs.

‘Rebel Lady’ drops the pace a little and has a slightly more heavy AOR feel with an absolutely colossal chorus before another of those shredding dual guitar and keyboard solos and an unexpected key change to lift the song towards its conclusion. It’s a very strong track and sitting where it does in the running order, it provides a slight change of pace before the blistering riff and banshee wail that introduces ‘Power On’ roars in at warp factor 10; it’s more Melodic Metal than anything else and rattles along at a thunderous pace, not letting up for even a second throughout its 2 minutes 57 seconds lifespan.

‘Bad Times, Good Times’ was another single and, as with the other lead tracks from the album, showcases a strong melodic sensibility, those wonderful vocals and more technical solo play from the guitar and keyboards. ‘Fallen’ could easily have been a single too as its chorus melody really is outstanding. These two tracks together really are very strong indeed.

The album ends with ‘Lady Of The Night’ which follows the well-trodden path we have seen throughout the remainder of the album. It’s another decent track and actually breaks the mould a little with some acoustic guitars amongst the riffery and keyboards. It certainly isn’t a bad way to end a pretty enjoyable album.

Overall, this album sits at the harder rocking end of the Melodic Hard Rock spectrum with huge guitars front and centre throughout. Its strengths are clearly evident in the melodic songwriting, the powerful dual vocals and the obvious technical ability of all the players, but the guitarist and keyboard player in particular.

It’s a strong debut with plenty to enjoy within its grooves and it makes a powerful attempt to stand tall amongst a fairly crowded marketplace. It’s certainly a good debut album, but whether it’s a great one with much longevity depends to be seen. Several of the songs will definitely warrant repeated plays but there is a slight ‘sameyness’ to the sound, especially in the instrumental breaks where you almost feel they could be rather interchangeable from one song to another, as they tend to do pretty much the same thing in each song.

Also, the vocals, while they are undeniably strong, melodic and powerful , they do lack just a little bit of identity. Listening to the singles without the benefit of the videos, I wasn’t really able to tell the two ladies apart. Not that this really matters much given the quality but they don’t stand out in the same way that Heart’s Ann Wilson does for example.

To be fair to The Big Deal though, those really are very minor niggles and fans of European Melodic Hard Rock will definitely find plenty to get their teeth into within this album. I for one hope that The Big Deal get to record a second album as I’d like to see where they take their sound as they evolve and I’m confident that this album will get a fair few more spins in my house and car going forward.

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