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Big City - Testify X

Big City
Testify X
by Chris Hicklin at 11 October 2021, 2:58 PM

Continuing their trend of signing every metal act in Scandinavia, Frontiers Music present the sophomore effort from Norwegian rockers Big City, their first with new singer Jørgen Bergersen and bassist Miguel Pereira, which represents a substantial line-up change. With a huge Melodic Metal sound that mashes up the Euro and US approaches to Glam like EUROPE and DOKKEN while bringing a more serious side to proceedings reminiscent of progressive metal such as QUEENSRYCHE, the band have crafted a monster of an album in Testify X. That Bergersen was in fact discovered by the band playing in a EUROPE covers band is the least surprising thing I have learned today.

The album opener “The Rush” establishes the band immediately, with a shimmering acoustic introduction, little time is wasted before getting down to a pumping Hard Rock riff. Jørgen Bergersen’s vocals immediately impress, as the choruses feature an unsettling style of harmonies in the vein of STALEY/CANTRELL of ALICE IN CHAINS. Equally impressive is the guitar solo, which demonstrates thoughtful note selection, and like all the best solos is part of the DNA of the song, not just a load of notes thrown at the wall to see what sticks.

Dark Rider” is another memorable track, kicking off with a fuzz bass and keyboard intro, then overlaid with a dramatic jangling spiral of guitars, it breaks into a belting vocal begging the listener to sing along.
The album’s lead single “Testify” brings us another acoustic introduction, the body of the song is one of the catchiest, driving Hard Rock tunes on the album. In the words of guitarist and seemingly cornerstone member Daniel Olaisen the track is about “confessing to things to get weight off of your conscience in order to have a better life…or keep them a secret and live a lie.”

I Will Fall” is a big ambitious Rock Ballad in the best tradition of BON JOVI, with multiple shades of light and dark, keyboard and piano parts shadowing the vocals, and the sort of guitar solo that requires a great big fan to blow your hair around, it is this album’s “Dry County”.

With an opening riff more in the tradition of Glam Rock is “Winds of the Road” is a little deceptive sounding a little like MOTLEY CRUE or similar at first the track quickly matures into something much heavier and more intense, with a break for some churning guitar riffage and a superb soaring solo.  I must say the lyrics on “Heart’s Like a Lion” have me a little confused, “Heart’s like a lion, burning in the atmosphere”, is a somewhat awkward metaphor, not helped by the entirely inappropriate “Never have I been so clear” line to follow. But this does not prevent the song from being a horns-raised stomper with a long winding intro, that is fully consummated by a chugging Thrash Metal verse and slower but infectiously melodic chorus. The track is replete with virtuosic guitar soloing, also to be found in abundance on the progressive, occasionally furious, occasionally operatic “Graveyard Love”.

Closing out the album, at over seven minutes “How Dark Does It Get” is the longest track the album has to offer. Beginning with a rousing intro featuring some slow tapping and hammer-ons across the whole fretboard that creates an unearthly sound, the track builds to a crescendo before launching into a tight percussive groove for the first verse, with broken down choruses and epic harmonised vocals. I take the song to be about depression, the vocals sound full of pain and uncertainty, and the guitars solo in a relentlessly turbulent and manic style, evoking a feeling of confusion and disorientation. An excellent end to the album.

The best way to describe this album is as being like watching a film, it has a cinematic breadth to it, each song sonically takes the listener to a new place, much like a great world building sci-fi does. After listening I feel the album has taken me on a journey out of myself. The production is key here, the sound is very open and never claustrophobic, each instrument has separation, everything is crystal clear. The dual guitar work of Daniel Olaisen and Frank Ørland is consistently impeccable, the rhythm section of Frank Nordeng Røe and Miguel Pereira remain resolutely locked into each other throughout, and Bergerson’s vocals are emotive and engaging. The song writing is intrepid, there is not a boring moment to be found on the whole album and the album takes several listens to fully absorb.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. The Rush
2. Dark Rider
3. ­Testify
4. I Will Fall
5. Running Away
6. Conception
7. Winds of The Road
8. Heart’s Like a Lion
9. Graveyard Love
10. How Dark Does It Get
Jørgen Bergersen - Vocals
Daniel Olaisen - Guitar
Frank Ørland - Guitar
Frank Nordeng Røe - Drums
Miguel Pereira - Bass
Record Label: Frontiers Music SRL


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