Review by Any Hawes for MPM
UK AOR/Melodic Rockers Nitrate are a new name to me, but apparently, they have released three albums ahead of this new one recently released on Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Featuring the ex-Vega songwriting team of Tom and James Martin (guitars and keys respectively) alongside founder member Nick Hogg (bass) with lead guitarist Richard Jacques, drummer Alex Cooper and lead vocalist extraordinaire Alexander Strandell, Nitrate’s new album is an absolute masterclass in Melodic Rock/AOR with a distinct 80s vibe.
They are ably assisted in their endeavours by ex-Danger danger and current Defiants frontman Paul Laine who supplies backing vocals along with Change of Heart’s Alan Clark and LRW Project’s Leon Robert Winteringham. There are also co-writes with Midnite City’s Rob Wylde and Bob Mitchell (writer on Cheap Trick’s huge git, ‘The Flame’.) An excellent supporting cast, I’m sure you’ll agree!
There is a real cinematic quality to a lot of the songs on Feel The Heat. By that I mean that they could easily have graced the soundtracks of a gazillion of those wonderfully kitsch 1980s B-movies that those of us of a certain age know and love so well.
Title track and album opener ‘Feel The Heat’ is a classic example of the movie soundtrack vibe – all sequenced keys, synth pads and stabbing power chord riffs, it roars into action as if it’s the background to a big chase scene in an 80s teen gang type movie. Vocalist Alexander Strandell certainly has the voice for this kinda thing. All huge high notes and ballsy power, he really makes his mark from the off on a truly barnstorming ‘hands in the air’ anthem.
The ‘Britishness’ of Nitrate’s sound really comes into play on ‘All The Right Moves’, which doffs its cap to Tough It Out-era FM, and that is certainly no bad thing! Just take a listen to the power chord sequence in the intro, and the combination of chugging guitars, keys and clean guitar arpeggios in the verses and tell me I’m wrong! This is a monstrous AOR anthem with an absolutely killer chorus hook. If you don’t have a huge grin on your face within seconds of this kicking in, there’s something wrong somewhere. Lead guitarist Richard Jacques also pulls a blinder of a solo out of the bag on this one. Close your eyes and it’s 1989 all over again…
Even the title of the third track sounds like an 80s movie! ‘Wild In The City’ kicks off with a colossal keyboard intro that only the best 80s AOR ever had before exploding into another soundtrack-worthy anthem that simply pulsates with crackling energy. So much modern AOR is mid-paced and lacking drive: not so Nitrate! They deliver this stuff as though their lives depend on it and when the chorus hook explodes with a metric tonne of backing vocals, you’re in AOR heaven!
The FM vibe returns on ‘Needs A Little Love’ with James Martin’s keys definitely having a touch of the Didge Digitals about them on yet another monumentally huge AOR anthem. The production itself is perfect – huge and full, yet every instrument in the right place, but to my ears, there is something about the mix that is very, very slightly ‘off’. Maybe it’s overly compressed, but I feel it could have been a tad cleaner and clearer. Still, it’s a very minor gripe when the quality of the music is this good and ‘Needs A Little Love’ is another absolute banger!
‘One Kiss (To Save My Heart)’ brings the tempo down a tad and features Melodic Rock goddess Issa on vocals alongside Alexander Strandell. I can easily imagine this song playing behind a love scene in an old 80s movie. The layers of keyboards here are truly worth the price of admission alone, pushing the infamous ‘pink n fluffyometer’ up way past maximum! The two vocal styles fit together so well on this and when they harmonised on the glorious chorus on the first playthrough, this old boy actually got goosebumps! Fabulously over the top stuff!
‘Live Fast Die Young’ has a classic motorbikes and police sirens atmospheric intro which only adds to the cinematic quality before another 80s-tastic slab of soundtrack-esque AOR thunders out of the speakers on huge swathes of guitars and keys with a chorus of almost planet-killing magnitude. Yes, we’ve heard that chorus melody and chord sequence before a squillion times, but who cares when it’s this magnificent? Not me, matey! Oh and I didn’t even mention the key change at the end that takes the whole thing spiralling into the stratosphere. Goodness me!!
After that utter magnificence, where can Nitrate possibly go? Well, they go all rogue on us and up the guitar power and pile on the Hard Rock vibes on ‘Haven’t Got Time For Heartache’, which despite the rather ballsy opening, still manages to include an extremely infectious chorus and those glorious 80s keyboards are never far away. Not the best track on the album, but proof positive that the boys aren’t afraid to rock things up a smidgeon when required and still a decent enough track.
‘Satellite’ is up next. No, not a cover of the classic Hooters track, but another monumentally infectious AOR anthem full of chiming guitars, swathes of keys and enough vocal hooks to sink the proverbial battleship. Mid-paced this might be, but it still pulsates with energy and that’s primarily what is making this album so good – not only are the songs quite brilliantly written and produced, but the whole band plays them with an infectious energy and one can’t fail to notice it.
‘Strike Like a Hurricane’ does exactly what it says on the tin: roaring in on thunderous guitars, this uptempo banger blows in from the tropics with tornado-esque ferocity flattening everything in its path with yet another chorus of Earth-shattering magnitude and a plethora of magnificently 80s ‘”whoa whoa’ backing vocals. Utterly glorious stuff!
Nitrate are hitting the home straight now and are properly in their stride. ‘Big Time’ explodes into action with another huge power chord riff and squealing lead guitars before the wonderful keyboard layers guide us into the verses, chugging guitars and driving drums powering the whole thing along. The boys really have found the ‘hookline motherlode’ on this album, and this track is no exception.
It’s beyond catchy and is exactly what one needs to do when presenting AOR/Melodic Rock to the world: hooks everywhere, that magical combination of big guitars and keyboards and a ton of energy. An absolute banger and no mistake!
Nitrate wrap this monumental slice of 80s-esque AOR goodness up with ‘Stay’, which is ushered in on a sea of delightful keyboard layers (sampled cellos, anyone?) and a beautifully laid-back and restrained vocal.
The track builds quite wonderfully, with gradual introduction of drums, bass and chiming guitars before the inevitable explosion of big guitars and more of those helium-induced vocals. Not quite a full-on rocker and not quite a ballad, this is actually a really cool way to end the album and is another quite magnificent track that one can easily imagine in a movie like St Elmo’s Fire, or Pretty In Pink, or and of the innumerable teen B-movies from the mid-late 80s. Utterly wonderful!!
Good grief, I absolutely LOVE this album! Regular readers of the reviews on this site will by now know of my abiding love for 80s-esque AOR/Melodic Rock and I am an unashamed fan of the genre, but it’s a really hard genre to inhabit successfully in 2023. Too often it comes across as sterile, lacking in energy and just a tired copy. Not so with Nitrate’s Feel The Heat.
This is without a doubt one of my favourite albums of 2023, with only the Defiants’ monumentally brilliant third album ahead of it. It is absolutely brilliantly written and delivered. It pays homage to an era long gone but does it in such a way that it has its own identity. It certainly stands out in the quite crowded AOR/Melodic Rock scene, such is its utter and complete magnificence.
The boys have clearly had an absolute ball with this and it shows in every second of the album. Anyone into this kind of music should check it out pronto. Put an old 80s movie on the TV with the sound down and crank this up LOUD! I can think of few better ways to spend an autumnal evening!
FEEL THE HEAT
1 Feel The Heat
2 All The Right Moves
3 Wild In The City
4 Needs A Little Love
5 One Kiss (To Save My Heart) (featuring Issa)
6 Live Fast, Die Young
7 Haven’t Got Time For Heartache
9 Strike Like A Hurricane
10 Big Time
Buy or Stream: https://orcd.co/feeltheheat
Nick Hogg – bass guitar
Alexander Strandell – lead vocals
Tom Martin – guitars
James Martin – geyboards
Alex Cooper – drums
Richard Jacques – guitars