Last time I reviewed an Inglorious album, it was with a largely new line-up because everyone had just left the band except lead vocalist Nathan James and drummer Phil Beaver. Two years on from Ride to Nowhere and the line-up hasn't changed at all. Apparently it all worked out and perhaps that's one of the reasons why this is a more interesting album than that one. I'm not sure it's better, though it's at least as good. It's just more interesting.
Some of it is that the sound is chunkier and more varied. Danny Dela Cruz and Dan Stevens are a more vicious pairing on guitar than their predecessors and they bring things a little more up to date. Sure, this is still a New Wave of Classic Rock band and there's still plenty of old school influence here, from the Helter Skelter build of the verse in Messiah to the Bad Company riffing in God of War. However, it isn't as obvious as it used to be. Inglorious are now rooted in the legends instead of sounding overtly like them.
I think the biggest reason, though, is that Nathan James has managed to move forward from what I'm still thinking of as an excellent David Coverdale impersonation. Now, he does share quite a similarity in tone and so he's never going to lose that sound entirely—it's obvious on Medusa, for instance, and the second half of Eye of the Storm, among others—but I found far more here than I did last time out. There's some Robert Plant in later songs like He Will Provide and We Will Meet Again, right down to the middle eastern lilt, and plenty of Graham Bonnet throughout too, but much of this sounds much more modern, as if James has been listening to alternative rock singers too.
All that is good and it helps the band find an identity that they surely needed after losing a majority of its musicians at once. The catch is that, while this is a real step on the way to a great album, I'm not buying that this is that great album. It's more consistent than the last one and I enjoyed it through a few times, but there's little that wowed me. Nothing annoyed me either or left me blah, but there are only a few moments that truly shine out from everything else around them.
The best moment here is the early riff on He Will Provide that emerges from the riotous intro. It's an utterly alive riff and it ought to have people bouncing like lunatics when gigs open back up again. I'd lump a couple of intros in with that too. There's one on Cruel Intentions that's both acoustic and faux vintage, played on what sounds like Spanish guitar, and it really grabs our attention and sets a scene for the song proper to build on. Vinnie Colla's bass intro to We Will Meet Again is another, an almost Iron Maiden-ish romp but on Cliff Burton's fuzzy bass.
All in all, I think most people are going to be coming to this album to see if Inglorious still have it. It can't have been an easy couple of years for them but maybe they were freeing years too. If there was a rift that big in the band, it's good to put it behind them and find a way to move forward. I'm happy to say that they've move forward very well. This is a good album but, more importantly, it's a promising one. The present is pretty good but the future looks better and that's a lot more than I could say last time out.