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Frontline - The State of Rock (Reissue)

Frontline
The State of Rock (Reissue)
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 24 May 2018, 7:58 PM

FRONTLINE from Nurnberg, Germany, belong to the pioneers of the German Hard Rock Scene. Founded in 1989, this debut album didn’t hit stores until 1994, and hit #10 on the Japanese Billboard charts. The band replaced two members in 1996 following the release of their album “Heroes,” which was only released in Japan. AOR Heaven signed them in 2000 and they released two albums with them. Fast forward to 2018, and they are reissuing the out-of-print debut album here with two bonus tracks.

The interesting thing about the Hard Rock/AOR/Glam scene in 1989 is that this was one of the peak years for this genre. Some seasoned bands were releasing their best material, and new bands were still peppering the landscape through early 1991. By 1994, the perverse Grunge monster had all but killed these bands off (at least in the States); some survived but most never recovered. So when this hit stores in 1994, you can at least understand why the main buzz was in the country of Japan, as they have long been supporters of this sound, Grunge notwithstanding.

The production is clear and about what you would expect for the time. The main features on the album are the necessities for the genre: a clear, clean singer who can negotiate his voice well in the upper ranges, gritty rhythm guitars, glittering and dexterous lead guitars, supporting keyboards, standard bass and drums that hold down the meter without taking a prominent role, and songs that are easy to listen to an have just enough edge to be considered Metal (at the time, that was a much looser term, and it was acceptable to consider Glam bands as Metal bands).

Let’s get to some of the highlights on the thirteen track re-issue. Opening track “Heaven Knows” has a tough guitar riff with melodic supporting keyboards, and a strong vocal performance. The chorus is rich and full and something that you can sing along with. What AOR album would be complete with a power ballad? “Another Love” fulfills this hankering. It has a slick and polished sound, with a mid-tempo pace and is bursting with emotions. Guitarist Boebel does a good job with a guitar solo that hangs back to just support the melody instead of buzzing in your face. “Heaven Can’t Wait” is a strong rock anthem that would have made a wonderful single back in the day. Positive, energetic and with piping vocals, it’s a feel-good type of song.

“Over and Out” has a soft opening sound, with ambient keys and drum toms. There are pleasantly connected melodies and expressive vocals. “Hold On” has a mid-tempo strut, with crunchy rhythm guitars. Kaemmerer really stretches his vocals in the chorus, showcasing his pipes. “Victim of Madness” opens with keys that are soon echoed in the guitars. Besides the obvious melodies, it has a bit of a gritty edge, reflected in the lyrics. The chorus pushes more emotions, and you can feel laments in the vocals. “I’m Falling” is a great bonus track, and I’m glad they are sharing it. It opens with acoustic guitars and a NELSON sort of sound for me. He backing vocal harmonies are what really allows it to shine. “Alone” is the final bonus track; another winner. Charming and tender, but not lacking teeth, it has a great melody line, and a subject we can all relate to.

I wasn’t sure what to expect on an album that passed me by back in the day (I was 26 when it was released), and it being reissued after almost thirty years. What I can say after having heard it, is that it is a real shame that these guys didn’t have the label support at the time to make it big. It’s as good as nearly any album in the AOR style for that time. They show talent, style, and a penchant for melodic and emotional songwriting. For me, it takes me back to a simpler time when music was just easier to enjoy.

Songwriting: 8
Originality: 8
Memorability: 8
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Heaven Knows
2. The Night comes over you
3. Another Love
4. Heaven can’t wait
5. Endless
6. Over and Out
7. Dangerous Game
8. Hold on
9. I have to be Strong
10. Victim of Madness
11. It’s not over
12. I’m Fallen (bonus track)
13. Alone (bonus track)
Lineup:
Stephan Kaemmerer – Vocals
Robby Boebel – Guitar, Keyboards
Thomas Riess – Bass
Stephan Bayerlein – Drums
Record Label: AOR Heaven
     


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