Tuesday 30 November 2021

Lynx - Watcher of Skies (2021)

Country: Germany
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 26 Nov 2021
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I don't usually do this but I've read a lot of reviews of this album by other people because I wanted to see what they thought of it. Some love it and many don't, for a variety of reasons. There's little guitar distortion to be found. There's too much cymbal bashing. Marvin Kiefer's vocals suck. Every time they get moving, they slow down again. These complaints make me wonder about the age of each of those reviewers, because I think they may be too young to see the album from a particular perspective.

No, these guitars aren't distorted, but that just makes it a hard rock album more it is a metal one and that's just classification. There's a lot of obvious NWOBHM influence here, but there's also a touch of American bombast in the vein of both Boston and Kiss. Arguably, Dark Shadows Rising is the only song here that really counts as metal, because it's far more urgent than anything else, a nod more to a band like Raven. I could see that being a single on Neat Records.

I didn't have a problem with Franz Fesel's use of cymbals or the way that the band mix up the pace of these songs. The production isn't anything to write home about, unless the goal was to sound as if this was recorded on equipment from 1981 during whatever scant studio time could be afforded by the band's parents and released on a British indie label that doesn't have a promotion budget. The only concern I can echo is Kiefer's vocals. I don't think they suck, but they are the weakest link in the chain for me. Again, they fit that NWOBHM mindset where half the band are still in school and they're just burning to get their music out anyway, with the expectation that they're going to be the next Def Leppard or Iron Maiden.

And, if this were 1981, there's no reason why they couldn't be. It often came down to perseverance and growth and the right cohesion within the band. Some got a self-released single out but faded away ito obscurity, even though they made outstanding music; some made it to the majors and are still world famous today. It wasn't all about quality. While Lynx don't feel like a Diamond Head, I'd throw out an Elixir comparison, a band who got good product out but failed to achieve the success they deserved.

But this is 2021, forty years on, and that means that this is mostly going to play to nostalgia, even though Lynx are a new band with new music. I remember so many albums like this in the eighties, where the best quality shone through mediocre production, and really came out on stage. I'd love to see Lynx live, even though they're from Germany and I'm six thousand miles away, so it isn't too likely. For now, I'm enjoying their album a lot, even though there's really nothing new here at all.

Like the recent Wolfmother album, every song here sounds as if I've heard it before. Unlike that album, however, I can't tell you where, because this isn't plaguarism, it's a distilling of a couple of decades of music into a new form, not entirely unlike what someone like Greta van Fleet does. The only song that actually feels specifically familiar is Beyond the Infinite and I can't place the reason why.

The most obvious influence is early Iron Maiden. Kiefer's vocals are a lot more like Paul Di'Anno's than Bruce Dickinson's. The bass intros on songs like Savage Mountain are right out of the Steve Harris playlist. What's more, the band often gallop along in that Maiden vein. None of these are Maiden songs repackaged, but that early Maiden vibe is unmistakable. I have to say that, while I still adore their first two albums, they wouldn't have been able to progress to Powerslave without a change of vocalist and I can see a direct comparison there to Lynx. It wouldn't hurt for Keifer to hand over the mike to a Bruce Dickinson equivalent and concentrate on his excellent guitarwork.

And all that means that I'm going to buck the trend of the reviews I've read. I can't give this 10/10 because it has problems, not that I give anything 10/10 because I feel that sort of classic has to hold up over multiple years and a couple of weeks since release can't justify that. But I can't slam it either. I just plain enjoyed this, on a first listen and on a fifth listen. It's a fun album that took me back almost forty years and that means something to me. Not every musical change in those four decades has been a good one and I had a blast with this musical throwback.

It's vibrant and it feels like the band really mean it, as if this music is the most important thing in the world to them and they're aching to succeed. I don't hear that much nowadays, even from the youngest bands. I dug the sheer energy here and I hope to hear a lot more of it. As Tommy Vance used to say after announcing the results of the Rock War on The Friday Rock Show: "Don't quit!"

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