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Album Review : Cleanbreak: Coming Home

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Cleanbreak is another of those ‘supergroups’ that Frontiers Records seem to love so much, although the pedigree within this one is perhaps not quite as well known as some of their others.

Featuring vocalist James Durbin, guitarist Mike Flyntz (Riot V), Bass player Perry Richardson (Stryper, ex-Firehouse) and drummer Robert Sweet (Stryper), this is a band formed to play classic 80s sounding melodic Heavy Metal and that’s exactly what we have on offer here. And boy, is it a good one!! Oh yes indeed!

I was initially somewhat surprised at the involvement of Frontiers Records’ ‘go to’ writer/producer Alessandro Del Vecchio in this project, and I feared that it might dilute the material a little – not that the man isn’t extremely talented, but he’s appearing everywhere at the moment and it would be easy for his creative talents to become a little overstretched.

However, I’m delighted to say that, while it is possible to hear his sometimes slightly cliched approach to melody in some of the tracks, this in no way diminishes the power of the tunes that Cleanbreak are creating and in fact, potentially enhances it by adding catchy melodies to the huge Metal roar that constitutes Cleanbreak’s sound.

Fans of other Frontiers acts W.E.T. and Eclipse will find a lot to enjoy in the grooves of this album, as will fans of traditional US 80s Metal like Dokken.

Cleanbreak come on strong with colossal down-tuned guitar riffs driving the songs, plenty of classy soloing and a mighty rhythm section which pummels the listener’s senses while Durbin’s awesome Metal wail tears the flesh from your bones and melts paint from the walls.

This is no pink and fluffy Melodic Rock sound, but rather a thunderous Melodic Metal maelstrom and it takes few prisoners as it rampages out of the speakers.

Opening with an earth-shattering triumvirate of ‘Coming Home’, ‘Before the Fall’ and ‘Dying Breed’, Cleanbreak detonate a melodic nuclear blast of such megatonnage that cities are levelled, mountains are shaken and any doubts about the project are simply vaporised in the storm of colossal riffery, wailing vocals and steam-hammering drum power.

‘We Are The Warriors’ is the best thing that Dokken never recorded, as Cleanbreak stride through the massed ranks of unbelievers cleaving left and right with their mighty Metal broadswords, the highly infectious melodies pounding their inexorable way into the listener’s head and refusing to let go.

Following this, ‘Dream Forever’ comes in with a hugely dirty and sinister down-tuned riff before transforming into a chugging monster of a track with some of the catchiest melodies on the whole album.

‘Man of Older Soul’ ups the ante still further on a whirlwind of up-tempo melodic Metal; massed vocal harmonies propelling the hooks into the stratosphere before the double bass drum frenzy of ‘Still Fighting,’ which borders on Speed Metal but still manages spectacular melody. The drumming in this one has to be heard to be believed – it’s easy to forget that Robert Sweet has been pounding the skins for over 40 years and still manages this kind of speed and intensity. Unbelievable!

The intensity drops just a little for the immense ‘The Pain of Goodbye’, but it’s a still a monumental slab of molten US 80s Metal with another irresistible chorus and by now there’s absolutely no doubt that Cleanbreak have absolutely nailed this sound and made it their own.

We’re on the home straight now and this is where Cleanbreak take their first and only stumble with the track ‘Cleanbreak’ which despite a classy set of 80s inspired riffery and some cool harmony guitars, just seems to fall onto the wrong side of Metal cheese. Sorry chaps! This is one for the ‘skip’ button.

Fortunately Cleanbreak return to form instantly and very effectively with the brilliant and very Dokken-esque ‘Find My Way’ which has an absolutely massive chorus and sees Durbin holding onto some quite huge notes on the hooklines before the band race to the finish line with another highly tuneful chugfest in ‘No Other Hearts’.

Phew!! Eleven tracks of monstrous melodic Metal mayhem without a ballad in sight. For me, this is without a doubt the most enjoyable of the ‘supergroup’ projects that Frontiers have ever put together (and this statement is coming from an AOR fanatic who normally froths over the pink and fluffy side of rock!)

There’s definitely nothing pink or fluffy about this Cleanbreak album. It’s a colossal slab of melodic Metal power. It works because of the strength of the songwriting and the obvious energy that all members have put into the project.

It feels like it’s been a real labour of love (it feels like a ‘band’, not just a ‘project’) and special mention must go out to vocalist James Durbin who really makes these songs his own with a truly classy performance. His tone is wonderful, he never relies on crazy histrionics (which this kind of music has often resorted to in the past) and he simply delivers on what each song requires every single time. Huge round of applause Mr Durbin! Superb job!

Fans of melodic 80s US Metal MUST buy or stream this album pronto! It’s an absolute belter!

Coming Home” Tracklisting:

  1. Coming Home
  2. Before The Fall
  3. Dying Breed
  4. We Are The Warriors
  5. Dream Forever
  6. The Man Of Older Soul
  7. Still Fighting
  8. The Pain Of Goodbye
  9. Cleanbreak
  10. Find My Way
  11. No Other Hearts

James Durbin – Vocals
Mike Flyntz – Guitar
Perry Richardson – Bass
Robert Sweet – Drums

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