Style: Melodic/Hard Rock
Release Date: 9 Jun 2023
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You probably won't know the name of Twilight Road because this is their debut album, if indeed it isn't a one off project, but you may know the names involved, the primary pair being Dario Mollo, an Italian guitarist, and Carl Sentance, a British vocalist. They have worked together before, on an album by Dario Mollo's Crossbones from 2016 called Rock the Cradle, which was apparently strong enough to generate fans wanting another one, but I haven't heard that.
Mollo is best known for his pairings with famous vocalists: four albums in collaboration with Tony Martin, three more in Voodoo Hill with Glenn Hughes and another in EZoo with Graham Bonnet. I heard him last on the fourth of the Tony Martin albums, Thorns, from last year. Sentance first found fame in Persian Risk, Phil Campbell's old band, but also fronted Krokus for a few years, knocking out an album with them, and has been the lead vocalist in Nazareth since 2015, after Dan McCafferty chose to retire. My last experience of his work was Nazareth's Surviving the Law album, also from last year.
If those sound like diverse bands, you'll have figured out in advance how versatile this album is. In fact, it's almost deliberately set up like a trawl through a lot of the history of rock music. Trapped, for instance, is straightforward guitar-driven hard rock with soft keyboards behind it to open up a door to airplay. Dirty Rock 'n' Roll is harder and grungier and has a Guns n' Roses feel to it in both vocal delivery and structure, but a whole bunch of other names leap out at points, some Steve Vai here, some Def Leppard there, some Alice Cooper here, some Warrant there. Dark Angel travels a little further back in time and delivers a delicious back and forth between guitar and organ.
This sort of changing goals between tracks is so overt that I could imagine the song choice chosen by a randomising machine like they use on talk shows or Whose Line is It Anyway. The next one will be in the style of... *spin wheel*... seventies blues rock. Ah yes, Madonna. Then... *spins wheel* an outtake from Rainbow's Down to Earth album. OK, so Turn It Up. That's not quite the core riff from Since You Been Gone but it's close enough to bring it immediately to mind. Next up? *spins wheel* Bruce Dickinson but less sonically dense than Iron Maiden? I like that idea. So here's Empty Mirror and Warning. Take your pick.
Actually that vocal approach shows up before then, because there are parts of Dark Angel where Sentance channels some Dickinson, but that reaches its peak on Empty Mirror, where he hurls out lines like boomerangs to float in the air and maybe come back to him from the audience. It's not a difficult approach for him, more akin to his Persian Risk days, I'd think, than anything he's doing in Nazareth now, but he's a versatile singer. He's one of the key reasons that Perfect Strangers has a pretty high success rate. And yes, I'm talking about the Deep Purple classic.
This is one of those iconic songs that should be covered with extreme caution, because it's just not likely to work. Either you do it so well that it sounds like the original, in which case why bother, or you don't and it sounds like a poor knock-off, hardly the effect you're going for. I had my doubts in advance but this is a rare exception to those two scenarios, because Sentance sings it firmly in the style of Ian Gillan but not exactly how Gillan sang it, so it feels less like a cheap knock-off and more like a live version by Purple that we haven't heard before.
That holds true for how they treat the song too. It's close for a few minutes, enough so that we're singing along and not only with the words, because after all we know the guitar and organ riffs in this one the way we know a lot of lyrics. However, then it veers off into another direction entirely, into an instrumental workout that echoes what Purple might have done in a live environment, all the way down to a brief Rainbow homage at the end, but doesn't copy what they actually did. I'll say it plainly: I wasn't expecting this to work but it did and that may be the biggest success here.
In short, there's a lot here and while not much of it is particularly original, it's all done well, from the blues rock of Madonna to the prog metal elegance of Mafia, Sentance shifting his voice from a Bruce Dickinson sustain a little closer to a Geoff Tate one. Most of it sits in between in these two, exploring the range of what hard rock has done over a few decades and filtering it into a bunch of new songs. Mollo's excellent, my favourite moment from him being the core riff in God is Red, but Sentance makes the album for me.