I am not ashamed to say I was genuinely flattered to be invited to join a metal music lovers group on Facebook.
Ok, so it is entirely possible they just found anyone who liked Iron Maiden or Black Sabbath and automatically sent invites, but still. It just so happens I grew up head-banging to classic rock and early metal. There was always great music for my sister and I to sing along to on long car rides. My parents tell anyone and everyone they meet about the time we had just left Sunday mass, and my younger sister, who was about two years old at the time, yelled, “Judas Priest, man!”
Needless to say, we are a music-oriented family.
Aug. 25th saw the release of numerous hard rock and heavy metal albums. From Bobaflex’s “Eloquent Demons” to Queens of the Stone Age’s “Villains,” last Friday was full of album releases from “new kids on the block” and seasoned professionals.
One such band was German-based metal band Alpha Tiger and their self-titled, fourth studio album.
The band’s last album, “iDentity,” had many critics believing Alpha Tiger had finally found their sound and were in the best shape ever. When the band’s lead singer unexpectedly quit after the album’s release, however, the remaining members found the success bittersweet, as they had to turn down many inquiries for bookings and appearances.
Luckily, the modern age of social media assisted the band in finding a perfect replacement in the form of Benjamin Jaino – a young vocalist with the looks of Johnny Depp and voice of Sebastian Bach of Skid Row.
The new frontman experienced a “baptism of fire” when he was thrown right into touring with his new bandmates soon after joining. While there was no doubt a steep learning curve, the experience had the benefit of ensuring Jaino was well adjusted in the band by the time they hit the studio for their next album.
Alpha Tiger opens with the two minute instrumental “Road to Vega” that gives the listener a glimpse of the instrumental prowess the band possesses, with masterful guitar and dramatic synthesizer use that harkened back to Styx’s theatric flair.
The album slams into overdrive with track number two, “Comatose.” David Schleif relentlessly beats the drums into submission with heavy cymbal work as guitarists Peter Langforth and Alexander Backasch run metal scales with lightning speed. Jaino’s powerful voice takes a page from the ’80s metal singers’ handbook as he bemoans the detachment and emotionally numb society of today. It’s definitely the album’s strongest song.
The heavy hitting “Vice” serves to kick the gain and tempo back up to head-banging levels after a couple of the album’s slower songs. This bitter song is about a toxic relationship where one side is tired of the relationship, the mind games they play and wishes the other would disappear.
The last two tracks on the album incorporate snippets of old recorded press releases similar to Guns N’ Roses popular “Civil War.”
The first, “If the Sun Refused to Shine,” begins with a unique guitar riff that reminds me of an old ’80s arcade game, speaks of perseverance. The lyrics could nod to the band’s own personal difficulty overcoming obstacles created by the loss of their original frontman. The recorded voice in the middle of the song is of a scientist discussing the possibility of life elsewhere in space and is blended around the edges with a softly reverberating guitar.
The last track of “Alpha Tiger,” “The Last Encore,” opens right off the bat with a recording of a member of the music industry talking about the business. The lyrics accompanied by the distorted guitar tell the story of a musician from his first guitar to coping with the lifestyle of a successful rockstar.
All in all, this is a strong album with metal in a style that is both familiar and new. The album’s entirely analog recording gives the sound a distance, and the absence of crispness adds to the sense of nostalgia. Even after a change in frontmen, Alpha Tiger seems musically sound and confident as ever. “Alpha Tiger” is definitely an album that would have had me head-banging along in my car and might even get my sister to shout, “Alpha Tiger, man!”