by Alexandra Mrozowska
– Columnist —
Do you remember 91 Suite? They created quite a buzz among melodic rock fans with their self-titled debut back in 2002 and even topped it with its follow-up Times They Change three years later. And yes, the singer sounded as a cross of Jon Bon Jovi and Michael Bormann. Now the two guys from the apparently disbanded Spanish band return under the different moniker, Secret – Jesus Espin on vocals and Ivan Gonzalez on guitars, bass, drums and keyboards. And the fact of their first album – entitled The End Of The Road – being just released encourages one to check out, if the longish period of musical inactivity was fruitful for the creative duo … or not.
The album’s opener “Give Up The Fight” is very promising. The track’s powerful chorus against the background of tasteful licks and splendid solo makes one of the record’s instant highlights out of it. “Here With Me” is another track in the similar vein, with its AOR-ish polished chorus, blistering guitar riffs and a dynamic melody with slight bluesy overtones.
However, if you hoped for an even more feisty track as for number three – the further listening will result in a serious disappointment. “Since I Fell For You”, with its “boy-band-ish-a’capella” intro, tinkling keyboards and radio-friendly pop rock hook is as saccharine as it could possibly get. It’s not hard rock and perhaps more pop than rock genre-wise … but boy, the song is crafted well enough to make you wish contemporary radio friendly tunes were more like this anyway! The same goes for “Just To Hear You Say.” This poppy piece could have ended up on any of the recent Bon Jovi releases. It has to be admitted, however, that the lead guitar work is much better here, than it was on What About Now or its mediocre predecessors from the Jersey giants’ catalog. That said, 1-0 to Secret!
“Bring You Down” could have been a great AOR-infused track, if it didn’t lack a certain hook – but unfortunately, it does. Next are “Out Of My Life” (with a notable guitar solo) and a sweet power ballad “Wherever You Go,” another clichéd tune that’s enjoyable, but forgettable. The only asset to decent, but way too poppy “Trust Someone” are the guitar parts – a real showcase of Ivano Gonzalez’s musical sensitivity as well as technical prowess. “Peace Of Mind”, on the other hand, sounds as if the duo reminded themselves it’s AOR-ish tunes they really excel at – this keyboard-and-guitar laden, pomp rock thing’s another highlight of the album. Its follow-up is “When You Really Love Someone”; the track as such not being bad, a kind of country-infused pop rock schmaltz usually reserved only for Bon Jovi’s Lost Highway album. It doesn’t get much better with “Angeline,” as the track’s excessive lusciousness is the last thing a rock fan could wish for on the overtly sugary album; there are some interesting Spanish guitar-infused instrumental parts within the song, though. The final one is “I Believe In Love”, which gravitates a bit more towards AOR – a move in the right direction to finish with, as the track itself brings to mind the likes of Casanova or … guess what, 91 Suite.
The truth is that The End Of The Road isn’t a bad album. Technically it’s absolutely fine, the 12 songs featured on it range from satisfactory to decent and to very good, and there’s some stuff really worth attention here, too. And the guitar work throughout the album is absolutely splendid. However, there’s one flaw to it – labeled melodic rock, at certain moments it gets way more pop rock than rock, too mellow and thus easily forgettable. The fact is that the potential for the band still exists and hopes are that The End Of The Road will actually be the beginning for the Spanish music duo – as we still have to wait for their milestone to come out and shake us to the ground music-wise. For now, modern-day Bon Jovi, Jaded Heart and – of course – 91 Suite fans can enjoy this one, the rest of the listeners getting a few neat “pop-rock-meets-lite-AOR” tunes to intersperse their metal-dominated playlists with. This certainly doesn’t hurt … does it?
Genre: Melodic Rock, lite AOR
Jesus Espin – lead vocals, backing vocals
Ivan Gonzalez – guitars, bass, drums and keyboards
1. Give Up The Fight
2. Here With Me
3. Since I Fell For You
4. Just To Hear You Say
5. Bring You Down
6. Out Of My Life
7. Wherever You Go
8. Trust Someone
9. Piece Of Mind
10. When You Really Love Someone
12. I Believe In Love
Label: MelodicRock Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 6.5/10