How's that for a way to start a review? Well that is exactly what I said when I popped this disc into my CD player for the first (and definitely not last) time!
SLAMER is the aptly named combination of guitarist, songwriter, producer, engineer and all around musical genius Mike Slamer (ex-CITY BOY, STREETS, STEELHOUSE LANE) and singer extraordinaire Terry Brock (ex-STRANGEWAYS, THE SIGN) . It seems this project has been talked about for a while and boy was it worth the wait.
The album opens with the title track "Nowhere Land" and this track kicks it big-time! After a ninety second atmospheric intro, the song explodes into what could almost be mistaken for a prog-metal rocker. ala DREAM THEATER . The chorus is very melodic but is accompanied by an almost ominous and unrelenting musical background. The track contains some modern elements but never loses its melodic, groove-laden touch.
"Strength To Carry On" is a mellower AOR number and more of what you might expect from Slamer and Brock . The song is in stark contrast to the opening number but is no less in quality. Slamer is one of the classiest guitar players you'll hear and as I looked at the writing credits for this track I better understood its feel. The track is co-written by Slamer and bass player Billy Greer of KANSAS fame. Greer and Slamer have hooked-up before. Back in the 80's they were band-mates in the AOR outfit STREETS , which released two semi-legendary albums (well at least by AOR standards!) on Atlantic Records. But most recently they played together on the Greer -led SEVENTH KEY albums (also on Frontiers Records), which are somewhat legendary in their own right.
Track three is back to a more modern, up-to-date sound with the Slamer/Brock penned "Not in Love." You definitely see the influence Brock has on the material he has a hand in as it's a bit edgier, but like I've said it never loses its melody and quality.
"Come To Me" starts off with an almost dream-like feel and is again mellower than the previous track and, you guessed it, it's another co-write with Greer . After listening to this track several times I could almost imagine it coming off the "Arrival" album by JOURNEY .
One of the great things about the album to this point is the combination of "light and dark" that the songs flow in. A heavier, edgier track followed by mellow one makes for a great listen and keeps the listeners attention. Even though the songs vary in contrast, the album is held together with a undeniable quality and atmosphere. thanks to equal parts of production and arrangement; both which you could thank Slamer for.
Now the next five tracks are all Slamer/Brock co-writes. The first of which is "Higher Ground" and for some reason I could hear MEAT LOAF singing this track. especially in the chorus. Maybe I'm crazy but it's still a great rocking track.
"Jaded" again starts off on the mellow side with and an acoustic guitar background but turns into a groove-laden rocker. It almost has the feel of the album opening "Nowhere Land" albeit on a more reserved side and I wouldn't be surprised if they were written around the same time as each other. I think it's about time I mentioned that Brock sings his ass off on this record and the production and background vocals only further enhance that point.
"Beyond The Pale" has an almost church-like hymn introduction and makes its way into a semi-ballad. It's not your typical ballad due to the lyrical content. Slamer turns in quite inspiring guitar work on this track. Have I mentioned he is one classy player?
"Runaway" starts off on the mellow side and builds into a power ballad. This time the lyrical content is more in line with the ballad category. For me, the song has an almost modern day DEF LEPPARD ballad feel to it. The chorus is absolutely huge and the guitar work is great again!
"Audio Illusion" is a typical arena-rocker in sound with the lyrics taking a stab at the "fake" world of pop music. The lyrics "You're a studio creation / Doing everything your told / Cause you love the celebration / (For) another million records sold" just about sums up the world of Britney Spears, Ashley Simpson and the like! Normally a song like this is something I wouldn't be too big on but the arrangement and playing on this track, as with the whole album, is top-notch.
The album ends with two Slamer/Brock/Greer penned tunes. Earlier in the album the songs that Greer had a hand in were more melodic and commercial but these tracks rock big time! "Perfect Circle" is a down and dirty rocker but with a great anthem-like chorus. And "Superstar" ends the album in the same fashion it began. heavy and slightly progressive feeling! The guitars are edgy and have a John Petrucci (DREAM THEATER ) tone to them at times.
All in all this is quite the enjoyable and classy album to listen to. The songs and playing are just top notch. Mike Slamer has been a name I've known for a while with his involvement as a session player for many years. In recent times he has somewhat stepped out on his own with his involvement in projects such as the aforementioned STEELHOUSE LANE and SEVENTH KEY but SLAMER , as evidenced my the moniker, is clearly his piece de resistance!
- Mike Slamer - Guitars, keyboards and backing vocals
- Terry Brock - Lead vocals and backing vocals
- Chet Wynd - Drums, percussion and backing vocals
- Along with Billy Greer on backing vocals and Scott Bal supplying additional backing vocals on "Nowhere Land"
- Nowhere Land
- Strength To Carry On
- Not In Love
- Come To Me
- Higher Ground
- Beyond The Pale
- Audio Illusion
- Perfect Circle