Review by Taf Rock for MPM
“Here we go”. Mats Leven hollers those three words and invites you to join the band in a touch of ‘Sin’ . I can imagine being in a rock club in the mid 80s and leaping to my feet dancefloor bound to join the headbanging masses only pausing to grab my air guitar upon hearing those words.
It’s such a magnificent intro to this the band’s 5th album coming 3 years after the 2020 rebirth of the band with their aptly titled ‘2020’ album . Sadly the COVID ‘wars’ prevented major touring of this comeback album but the band still managed in excess of 1.6 milion Spotify streams for standout track ‘Freight Train’.
Swedish rocker Mats (ex Candlemass/Yngwie Malmsteen) is a new recruit to the band in the intervening years and certainly announces his arrival in style moving the band away from the ‘Rainbowesque’ feel of the previous 2020 album .
The opening track (THUNDER AND LIGHTNING) gallops on at a frantic pace and implores you to listen. ‘She’s like a loaded gun’ Mats sings.
The impression I get is that of a band breaking down the jailhouse gates after 3 years helplessly caged up relishing the chance to unleash some new material on a hungry audience eager to consume all before them and banish the recent barren gigless years into a distant memory .
She’ll hit you like a ton of bricks” Mats continues. ‘She’ll light your fuse’ And this track certainly does both. The rhythm section of fellow Dutchmen drummer Koen Herfst and bassist Randy van den Elsen (a member of NWOBHM band TANK since 2017) lay down a frantic pace and Adrian keeps up the speed with his lightning quick fretwork on this track .
The first of many impressive lead breaks follows. I can certainly envisage this first song being a great set opener on the forthcoming live shows
The album continues with what was the lead single HOUSE ON FIRE. Not quite as fast and frantic as the frenetic opener and quite a different vocal approach from the versatile Mats Leven. Semi spoken vocals ‘I was like a stranger to myself’ create an atmospheric intro to this track.
The track settles into a mid paced rhythm with Adrian reminding me of Randy Rhoads at times before the gang vocals of the chantable chorus . Already this album is starting to remind me of a time when this sort of music ruled the pre grunge rock world .
Next up is the impressive title track SIN. Having seen the video to this song I couldn’t help but smile as a ‘white snake’ announces Sin’s arrival on your screen fading to a rotten apple . Taking me back to 1981’s Come n Get It album cover featuring a ‘white snake wrapped inside an apple’ .
Not the last nod to Adrian’s former employer on this disc . This track is a bit of an epic . A slow almost haunting vocal from Mat prevails throughout this track showing off his vocal dexterity – ‘wherever I’m going wherever I’ve been, there will always be …. Sin’. Adrian seems to love paying credit to our classic rock heroes and amongst others I detect a brief tip of the hat to the late great Ronnie James Dio with part of the main riff sounding similar at times to ‘Last in Line’ before eastern style orchestral keyboards drift in adding a ‘kashmir’ like feel to the song. The main lead break overlays a choir style effect.
‘LIGHT IT UP’ (the 3rd single from this release ) revisits the frantic pace of the opening track . Adrian showing off his fretwork talents and enjoying an extended lead break mid track . As the lyric says this song ‘runs like an animal’ and is another that should make repeated visits to the decks of the rock club DJs and subsequently fill the dance floor
Swiftly onwards to ‘WALKING ON WATER’. ‘If I just close my eyes… I am flying free’ croons Mat with another atmospheric intro giving way to thunderous drums and another gang vocal chorus
A staccato rhythm introduces BURNING SKIES ‘Forever the skies are burning…. they can’t stop the flame inside our heart… the heat goes on’ sings Mats as Adrian continues to set his fretboard alight.
HIT THE GROUND RUNNING – An apt track title for this fast paced album. ‘like a full blown maniac, I’m taking no lip’ Mats powerhouse vocals a key part of this whole album.
Step up to the stage ‘BABY YOU’VE CHANGED ‘. A track unlike anything else on this album. It’s so ….. Whitesnake. All we are missing is the Coverdale holler of ‘here’s a song for you’. As soon as the slow atmospheric intro drifts across the airwaves you get a feeling of ‘Is this Love’ era Whitesnake (it could almost be a sequel given the subject matter of two partners splitting up). It’s a beautiful ballad that could quite easily grace any Whitesnake disc. Shades of Still Of the Night add to the likeness to the reptilian band .
I can imagine back in the 80s the lighters being ignited and lifted skywards in many an arena to this song. Set against an orchestral backdrop I can see this song being many people’s turn to track on this release. Adrian’s solo on this song is all too brief but it doesn’t detract from what is a standout track on the album
The album draws to a close with OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Quite an anti climax after the heights scaled by it’s predecessor but still a decent enough track and one final chance for Mats and Adrian to showcase their respective vocal and guitar talents as they close out an album that’s taken this correspondent on an enjoyable trip down classic rock memory lane.
Albums similar to this were all the rage back in the days when Tommy Vance ruled our Friday nights and Vanessa Warwick hosted our Sundays on MTV with Headbangers Ball. That’s not to say this album sounds dated. Quite the opposite in fact. Bob Marlette (Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper, Rob Zombie) is again at the production helm for this album. Bob ensures a modern refreshing lick of paint is given to Adrian’s classic rock sound.
Talking of paint the multi talented Adrian (Adje) Vandenberg also painted the cover for this album. Not only has he resurrected a sound many may have forgotten but he has also ensured the sharks from his classic 1983 Heading for a Storm album cover swim once again.
I can’t help but think that if Adrian had released this album back in 1986 instead of joining Whitesnake and putting his own group on ice it would have sold a ton . But then again it wasn’t such a bad career option for Adrian to tour with Whitesnake and play some of the largest arenas in the world until 1997
If you like your rock pre grunge 80s/90s style with plenty of guitar histrionics and powerful atmospheric vocals then you could do a lot worse then give this album a spin. It would after all be a sin if this album and Vandenberg the band didn’t get the recognition they so richly deserve on the evidence of this release
1. Thunder And Lightning
2. House On Fire
4. Light It Up
5. Walking On Water
6. Burning Skies
7. Hit The Ground Running
8. Baby You’ve Changed
9. Out Of The Shadows
Out Aug 25, pre-order now: https://lnk.to/vandenberg