Review by Paul Sabin for MPM
When modern rock and metal guitarists are discussed, Joel Hoekstra’s name is sure to be mentioned. Whether playing in Whitesnake, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra or on his solo projects, he is a melodic force to be reckoned with. Here we delve into the follow up to 2021’s `Running Games’ solo project outing.
Hoekstra has surrounded himself with a fine cohort of musicians including Vinny Appice (Dio, Black Sabbath) on drums, Tony Franklin (Blue Murder, The Firm) on bass, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Black Country Communion) on keys who all played on the last release. New member joining on vocals is Girish Pradhan (Girish and the chronicles).
Crashing in with a heavy backing riff and tight gritty vocals comes `Everybody Knows Everything’. Hoekstra’s trademark tone is in full force here. Sherinian’s keyboards soar briefly before a blistering guitar solo takes centre stage. `Crash Of Life’ kicks in with a punchy guitar melody and Pradhan digs deep blending powerful choruses with an upfront vocal lead. The production lets every member have musical space making for a superb airy but assertive sound canvas.
`Damaged Goods’ is the true definition of melodic metal where elements of Rainbow, Dio, and Whitesnake are all resident. A neoclassical Blackmore-esque solo makes an appearance here and Pradhan comes dangerously close to an RJD vocal tone. `Tone Into Lies’ sees Hoekstra launch into a dreamy rocky ballad. Harmonised vocals and a gentler guitar part provides the foundations for Pradhan’s creamy vocal parts and Hoekstra’s finger tapped phrases.
`Far Too Deep’ takes the listener back to a powerhouse metal opus where melodies dual with pinched harmonics and screaming lyrics. `Not Tonight’ bares all the makings of a modern Whitesnake track with the stop go riffing and breakdowns, and of course and infectious chorus.
`Over You’ exposes a softer vocal tone from Pradhan. In fact, the whole track has a Bon Jovi style feel to it as harmonies and lead guitars wail in tandem with crystal clear jangly rhythm parts. `I Would I Cry For Love’ ups the game and could be a bed fellow to Rainbow’s `Kill The King’. All the stops are pulled out here as guitars blaze and Pradhan’s vocal is deep and menacing.
`Don’t Have The Words’ take the prize for straight ahead rock n roll ala Marsden era Whitesnake. The classic guitar sound is mean, moody and full of sass, as is Pradhan’s best Coverdale impression. `Find A Way’ merges a Purple-esque riff with modern sounds, wailing vocals and bluesy struts in this attitude fuelled track.
`You’re Right For Me’ builds slowly with a catchy riff and brilliant hooks and turns into a superb foot tapping song that’s very infectious. The album closer, `Through The Night’ takes a different route altogether as this dizzy, psychedelic summertime song is bright airy and light. Pradhan shows here that he is not just an all-out rock song but he can handle a smooth almost pop style of tone too with ease.
This album is somewhat of a surprise as unlike many before him, Hoekestra hasn’t made this an ego trip of million note a second solos and meandering instrumentals which are so often found on guitarists solo projects. Here there are musical textures to be explored from balls out heavy rockers right through to dreamy summer songs.
Some tracks have familiar flavours from dearly loved bands of the past which will appeal to the old guard, but equally there are modern sounding tracks that have a life of their own. All the musicians playing here are experts at what they do, but the addition of Girish Pradhan’s vocals has made this album outstanding.
Crash Of Life” track-listing:
1. Everybody Knows Everything
2. Crash Of Life
3. Damaged Goods
4. Torn Into Lies
5. Far Too Deep
6. Not Tonight
7. Over You
8. I Would Cry For Love
9. Don’t Have Words
10. Find A Way
11. You’re Right For Me
12. Through The Night
Joel Hoekstra -Guitars
Girish Pradhan -Lead Vocals
Vinny Appice -Drums
Tony Franklin -Bass
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Jeff Scott Soto- Backing Vocals