Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 8 May 2020
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I remember House of Lords from their debut, which made quite an impact back in 1988. It was a major effort, the band built around Angel's Gregg Giuffria and musicians of the calibre of Quiet Riot's Chuck Wright and Fifth Angel's Ken Mary. Jeff Scott Soto sang backing vocals throughout and the songs were written or co-written by names like Stan Bush and Rick Nielsen. It was a big deal but, given how the musical landscape changed soon afterwards, it's not surprising to find that House of Lords called it quits in 1993.
However, they reformed in 2000 and they're still going, with vocalist James Christian the main man nowadays. Giuffria left in 2004 and the other three founding members followed in 2005, but current lead guitarist Jimi Bell and drummer B. J. Zampa have been with House of Lords longer than each of them, making this kind of their band now. Bassist Chris Tristram is the new fish, having joined in 2016. This makes a dozen studio albums for House of Lords and two thirds of those have come since Christian took the reins.
I liked this one on a first listen, even with the inevitable power ballad in Perfectly (Just You and I). However, it got better, albeit oddly in phases. The title track was the most immediate song, a straight ahead melodic hard rock number with hints of glam rock and southern rock. Christian has a very clean voice and, given trends, it wouldn't shock me if he decided to record a solo country album at some point instead of a straight AOR album.
The Both of Us also stood out immediately and, again, it's a catchy straight melodic hard rock song. A second time through and other similar songs leapt up to join it, like Chemical Rush and One More. They're a little more subtle but not by much. The refrains on Chemical Rush and We're All That We Got are acutely infectious and some of the lively guitarwork follows suit.
On a third listen, the less straightforward songs made their presence really known. Change (What's It Gonna Take) starts out like Boston with a long and imaginative keyboard intro, then turns into a mature Bon Jovi and bizarrely ends up in Owner of a Lonely Heart era Yes with overlays everywhere we might look. The Summit starts out like a perkier Led Zeppelin, complete with some requisite middle eastern bits.
However, none of those are the primary influence here, which seems to me to be Aerosmith. That influence shows up on One More but really gets overt on The Chase, which features a horn section and a slide guitar and sounds like Aerosmith rocking up a Robert Palmer pop hit. By this point, at four or five times through, The Chase leaps out as perhaps the best song here, but then I let it replay once more and get caught up in other songs all over again.
While this was a 6/10 on my first listen with some highlights that elevated it, it's become an album I'm tempted to give an 8/10. It grows that much. On consideration, I think I'll stay with a 7/10 because some of this is generic and some of it is overly derivative. I'd have been more sold on the Yes and Led Zep bits if they were integrated better into the album as a whole rather than their own individual songs. Also, while the power ballad is pretty good for its type, I'm not a big fan. I'm a much bigger fan of the rest of this.