by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist –
Looking for a rocking way to celebrate the season? Look no further than the instrumental release by Intuition entitled A Season To Rock.
Intuition is a group of musicians fronted by well-respected guitarist Mike Bidwell and standout drummer Gaetano Nicolosi (both members of southern rock/metal’s Iron Horse). They got together and decided to release a collection of traditional Christmas songs without doing simple “cover” type tunes. They enhanced some intros, added longer solo sections and mixed in interesting arrangements while keeping the tone “metal.” Intuition is rounded out by amazing bassist Dino Fiorenza, guitarist Chris Bickley, and keyboard player Luccio Nicolosi. The listener will pick up many elements of progressive metal, pure heavy metal, electronica, old school hard rock, and a touch of the blues. The band has eschewed the often “over-the-top” orchestrations of groups like the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in favor of a simpler, more direct and accessible sound.
The album opens with a spirited, bass-driven rendition of “Angels We Have Heard On High” which features some truly incredible guitar work. The very progressive and unusual arrangement and tempo changes of “We Three Kings” follows before the band drops to a more traditional and soft rock delivery of “Silent Night.” “The First Noel” is a nice upbeat rocker with a driving rhythm line from guitars, bass and drums, and mixes in some nifty (almost Hammond organ style) during the extended solo – making this the strongest song on the CD. Intuition’s version of “The Carol Of The Bells” is driven by drums and bass, but the keyboards are the star. While it does not have the powerful orchestration of the familiar TSO version, Intuition’s take is much more original thanks to their extended solo sections and unique arrangement.
Beautifully done keys open “Oh Come, All Ye Faithful,” and then the track becomes a simple and effective up-tempo rocker built around drums and bass. This track also boasts some well-done prog-keyboards in the extended solo. “Deck The Halls” is the guitar showpiece with Bickley and Bidwell at their best. “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” features some heavily distorted guitars, wild keyboards, and almost manic tempo changes. It is one of the few times that Intuition seems to have become a bit too ambitious with their performance, although some fine keys and guitars in the softer passages save this track. “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” features some a truly amazing bass work that adds a touch of the blues to the CD, and then some true grinding metal guitars and dissonant keys take the song into a different dimension.
“Joy To The World” opens with a unique piano intro before the rest of the band adds a progressive rock spin to it with contrasting rhythms and a bit of electronica and a truly soaring guitar solo. “O Holy Night” is probably the closest in tone to the original – and the simple synths and strong bass work wonderfully and build towards a memorable guitar break. A hard-rocking version of “Auld Lang Syne” brings the album to an apt, guitar-driven conclusion.
A Season To Rock is a great holiday album, and a very good album overall. Christmas classics, both religious and secular, are handled with grace and a unique charm. These well-known melodies are presented in a different light thanks to the to the addition of the band’s original material and creative arrangements. The album is flawless technically with each musician obviously at the top of his game, and the creative modifications of these long-honored classics only enhance their timelessness.
Intuition has managed to capture the true spirit of Christmas, and delivers the music of the season with the passion, emotion, and most importantly the respect that these classic tunes deserve. Highly recommended!
Genre: Progressive (Holiday) Metal
Gaetano Nicolosi (drums and percussion)
Dino Fiorenza (bass)
Mike Bidwell (lead and rhythm guitar)
Chris Bickley (lead guitar)
Luccio Nicolosi (keyboards)
1. Angels We Have Heard On High
2. We Three Kings
3. Silent Night
4. The First Noel
5. Carol Of The Bells
6. O Come, All Ye Faithful
7. Deck The Halls
8. God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
9. Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
10. Joy To The World
11. O Holy Night
12. Auld Lang Syne
Label: Tanus Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10