Against the World

fire.gif (20006 bytes)Showcase Album for August 2002fire.gif (20006 bytes)

Track Listing
1. Against the World
2. My Destiny
3. Lightning Eyes
4. Time Stood Still
5. I Don't Know
6. Man With a Broken Heart
7. One Night
8. You Should Know Me
9. Don't Break My Pride
10. Change His Life

AOR Heaven 2002

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More Frontline:
State of Rock (1994)
|Heroes (1997)
Right Attitude (2000)
Related Releases (sound):
Journey - Raised on Radio (1986)
Hugo - Hugo
Starship - Love Among the Cannibals (1989)


Frontline is one of my favorite bands, so I will attempt not to gush. But its difficult to restrain especially when they have released so much wonderful material over the past few years. The debut, 1994's "State of Rock" was so excellent that many probably wept openly at its first release. It was everything one loved about 80s melodic rock benefiting from modern production glory. Pompous arrangements, plush keys abounding everywhere, sizzling guitars that support or take over the lead effortlessly and beautiful vocals by Stephan Kaemmerer that one can just let go and allow it to engulf them in their passionate flame. 1997's "Heroes" was pure classic, a perfect followup that continued on the same lines but with everything boosted. Crisper production, bigger choruses and just overall beefier tracks, but still enormously catchy. "Right Attitude" followed a few years later, more of a teaser than anything else with remixed tracks from "Heroes" and more offerings from that same writing session. It was released simply to build up excitement for the next full length 'new' studio album, and with such superb stuff as the absolutely magnificent crank it up danceable killer "Moving Closer" that's so good it made my personal top 50 it set the excitement to a fever pitch.

The band can be compared to a mind boggling mix of Journey, 'lite' Starship and the darker moodiness of AOR god Hugo's solo outings. Oh sooo painfully smooth, like the pinky peach inner surface of a sand beaten ocean shell or the neverending flow of clouds across a deep blue summer bleached sky. Frontline pastes a silly grin on your face and leaves it there for the duration of ten high powered pop tracks that are AOR in its puriest, finest form. And Stephan is one of the most underrated vocalists in hard rock (hell I say that alot but its ALWAYS true). So remember this name: Stephan Kaemmerer. He has the personality and beautiful pipes to be huge and Frontline as a band the hooks and melodies to take him to stardom. If only the year were 1986 dammit! Thankfully the music is in the 'hear and now' and more than worth looking over.

01.] "Against the World"
A brooding opening with the sound richoeting from one speaker to the other, surrounding and bouncing all while increasing in volume til it fades mysteriously into the dusk. Nightfalls and is over in the blink of an eye, the dawn of a new day sweeps in, the guitars rising in full bodied electricness like the burning heat of the sun theatening on the horizon. Then the vocals slam down with force, the acoustic bouncing in at a moment's notice, like an exclamation. Insantly noticeable is the fact the album is more powerful and heavier than anything they have done in the past, but still fused with their superb melodies. Just check out the background supporting vocals that fly in from nowhere, supporting the lead with elegance and breathtaking beauty. The thunder sound effects shaking down the soundscape with a booming question and the slamming guitars that answer could convince the most doubtful of the pluses of turning into a slightly harder direction. It just flows together so perfectly, in a way that only Frontline can deliver. Six minutes and not a moment off track left for fidgeting. Did I say perfect??

02.] "My Destiny"
OH MY GOD! YES!!!!! Tears to my eyes, did I already say I love Frontline? That opening, the swelling from silence into an expansive depth of loveliness, rich in melody and a chorus that swoops in, glittering and glowing with melodic beauty is so well structured and timed that it does bring tears to the eyes of anyone that truly adores melodic music. They know how to manipulate the emotions without resorting to pulling out the cliched tricks of the trade. The guitar that wraps into itself like a vortex and then whips out for a breezy solo is an excerise in how to create a brief instrumental piece that is absolutely breathtaking without slipping into technical boredom. Bouncy and uptempo, its a beaut from start to conclusion, leaving little room to even catch your breath between the ultra catchy chorus and the high flying verses. "Let me make your dreams come true..."

03.] "Lightning Eyes"
The acoustic comes out in full force, a lapping pacekeeper for the opening verses for this high energy anthem-esque midtempo track, that is until the electric can be spotted rhythm riffing in the lurking background, awaiting its breakout into full glory...and it does by the time the bridge rolls around, the chorus slamming into prominence with its sing-along lyrics and stunning vocal performance. They switch between the more acoustic verses and this huge chorus through the duration of the song. Then they lay on the lavish guitar solos again, not quite as generously addictive as the bits from "My Destiny" but amazingly close.

04.] "Time Stood Still"
This one builds from the slower paced opening that has that whispering promise of melodic overkill laying await in the near future, this is brought to reality with the chorus which has a darker sound than seen here thus far. The subdued galloping guitars, echoing vocals that fade into oblivion and steady drums in the verses make a nice light contrast with the powerfully dominating chorus that smacks you upside the head with the whalloping doses of commanding melody and guitar that sizzles. The pace never slows down, it keeps flying on a steady course straight into the sunset. And hip hop-like scratchings?? They have been known to experiment, and look at how well that turned out ("Moving Closer"!) Its not overdone, kind of like a little surprise tossed in for good measure, and actually works. Congrats! Another wonderful song!

05.] "I Don't Know"
Opening with a more straightforward rock approach, the guitars diving in like birds performing aerial tricks in the air, and that initial assumption is blown away like torn leaves ripped into the wind. Another souped up chorus that just slays and kills takes charge and refuses to let go. Its huge and lush, flying with its own assumptions that were obviously cracked, split and died by the way the next part dives down into heart tugging bliss... the pure magic created in the way the guitar slips in behind Stephan's lead that subdues into a sorrowful soft cry of "I don't know...I don't know..." And the guitar solo...just rip my heart out and throw it on the floor already!  It suffers a desperate emotional breakdown, the walls crumbling with the weight of pain. 

06.] "Man With a Broken Heart"
Keys and acoustic combine to create a lush pastel tapestry, alight with pinks and soft greens, then awash with the saddest colour of them all, the delicatest blue of an electric guitar wailing to itself. This ballad-esque song mines the emotional side, and comes up a gem of a track with blooming beauty and a sparkling chorus that crushes dreams. Its all rather pretty and becomes unremarkably familiar after a few minutes, that is until the guitar eases in, with the tearful pearlescent moonglow of otherwordly beauty. Robert Boebel is truly an emotional master who keeps his riffs contained within the context of the song so wonderfully.

07.] "One Night"
Kickin' it back into gear is this uptempo lush keyboard filled track, the synthesizer emboding the sound of droplets of crystal showering down, so magically magnificent against the more 'natural' piano ivory tickling. The drums pound heavily but all this keyboard work lightens the soundscape considerably. Its chorus is so packed with sound it takes several listens to sort it all out a creation of multilayered melodic bliss. The guitars flicker like an unpredictable candleflame, the breezes teasing it back and forth from the brink of vaporizing to attempting to touch the sky. One breath and its blown out, the chorus dominating for one last trip around the sun.

08.] "You Should Know Me"
Unique describes this opening perhaps too perfectly. Guitar sliding in and then abruptly out of the picture, synthesizer effects scattering across the surface, like pebbles skipping upon the water, the background swelling until it breaks to centering around the electric that carries upon its wings a beautiful melody and then settles into backdrop emphasis, allowing the acoustic to take over for the majority of the verses, nudging the vocals along. Then that mind numbingly infectious rhythm riff it was flaunting before the vocals swept in is played up to the extreme for the benefit of the chorus. Stephan's voice is as expressive as always, in his own Steve Perry-esque fashion. A stirring send up of the theme of being misunderstood by the one you love the most.

09.] "Don't Break My Pride"
The imperative acoustic dominates the scene throughout the majority of this bouncy melody jam packed number, which is kind of a mixture of all the midtempo tracks that have come before it. The distortion effect on the vocals is implemented to change things up, never overused thankfully, only to add a touch of spice as the verse is abandoned for the chorus and in other key areas. Another fantastic guitar solo tops things off with high style.

10.] "Change His Life"
Sadly, all things must come to an end, as this is the final song. An uplifting track with changes between swirling keys and a chorus that pulls desperately at the links begging to break free of the chains, finally allowed to fly on its own, soaring to the clouds above and beyond. So many effects are used here, the guitar singing so high and sweet that its almost a pleasurable torture to endure. It flutters, uninterrupted despite the top of the world crashing down over and over again. But nothing can prevent, nothing can stand in the way and the electric rides out til the end, a fitting bit of musicianship to match the theme of an individual overcoming all odds to reach success. Changing his life forever.

The name Frontline has meant quality melodic rock for years now and "Against the World" is no exception. A little fiercer than their past, and like all their other albums, the songs start to flow into one another after awhile, all because of their similiar tempo, but each packing enough punch and variety to stand on their own. Often acclaimed as one of the last 'must-hear' AOR bands with Kaemmerer's 'better than Perry' pipes and Boebel's pristine production, emotive guitar expression and penchant for lusciously extravagant keyboards, "Against the World" is one more step into sheer AOR brilliance. To describe this delictable release, 'essential' becomes the most fitting of words.

Songs - 8.8
Performance - 9.4
Production - 8.5
Lyrics - 8.0

Hot Spots: My Destiny, You Should Know Me, Against the World
Bottom Line: One of the best bands in AOR releases yet another 'must have' album...

Review by Alanna Evans-

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