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

Track Listing
1. Cyberdreamer
2. When I Come Home
3. How Good It Feels
4. A Million Miles
5. What If
6. Look To See
7. Righteous One
8. Misery Loves Company
9. I Can't Run
10. Neon Knights

Z Records 2002

westworldcyberdreams.jpg (18953 bytes)


More Releases by Westworld:
Westworld (1999)
Skin (2000)
Related Releases (members):
TNT - Transistor (1999) [Harnell]
Morning Wood - ST (Jap 1993/ 2002 re-release) [Harnell]
Riot - Thundersteel (1988) [Reale]
Danger Danger - Return of the Great Gildersleeves (1999) [Ravel]


Westworld began life as Tony Harnell's mix and match side project that also sported bassist Bruno Ravel from Danger Danger and axe attacker Mark Reale from Riot. Their stunning debut was an AOR masterpiece, featuring a wide diversity of songs that include heart throbbing ballads, frenetically fun rockers and smooth melodic workouts. It was basically TNT pulled kicking and screaming into the 1990s without resorting to the modern tension of TNT's failed attempt of a 90s comeback, the miserably disappointing "Firefly". They did straighten their act out with "Transistor" a few years later, so all is forgiven. The 2000 follow up to the smashing success of the self titled, "Skin", was a little darker, matured and a much more cohesive band effort. Where the debut attempted to cover a smorgasbord of everything, "Skin" concentrated on album flow with a tight knit consistency. "Cyberdreams" is the latest and is yet another fantastic collection of tunes courtesy of the group, and while it might not quite be able to take the crown from the reigning king of the three Westworld discs thus far, it does edge in at hard fought, but tightly close second.

First off, enough simply cannot be said about the overall sound quality of the disc. It is by far and above the best production heard so far on a Westworld album. Crystal clarity shows they sacrificed a bit of time and effort into making this sound the very best they could with the allowed budget. Mixed by Bruno Ravel and produced by the band, its quite an added surprise, considering the lower sound quality of the past two cds. The feel of the disc is similar to "Skin"; bold melodic rock painted in shades of darkened hues that adds a third dimension to these songs, a few which potentially could have been paper thin if in the hands of lesser writers and performers. But the darkness is not as widespread or suffocating as the touch of "Skin" and has been lightened considerably with poppier choruses, making the tunage easier to digest for the targeted AOR audience. A clever slight change in format indeed, especially since they managed to retain all the layered depth as previously enjoyed in their previous incarnations. The musicians themselves are in fabulous shape, Harnell has often been likened as having the voice of a wayward angel, and his gorgeous, ethereal vocals sound as rounded and captivating as ever. The rhythm section is bigger and tighter and the guitars are simply slick. Reale shows us his softer side, something he tries to hide in Riot but is encouraged here in fold, you can see this come to light in the gentle moody ballad "Look to See". But that guitar also comes in thick and chunky style, sizzling with electric fire and riffin' it up in one mid tempo rocker after another.


01.] "Cyberdreamer"
If you think melodic rock is all fluff and no substance, then this may be the very track to reverse your opinion upside down. Its an opaque envelope of sound that is burst open by the pop-like commercial flavored chorus that strikes unexpectedly, leaving the confines of the comforting darkness that eagerly devours the verses alive. The feel is cold and metallic, like laying your palm against a mainframe, conveying a sense of the electronic webs of android dreams. Warmth comes from the contact of strings, woven into calming intricate patterns laced through the various more traditional rock instruments creating the song's skeletal musical structure. With Harnell's vibrant, otherworldly voice laid over the top, it all adds up to equal quite the opening stunner that expertly juggles the song's extremes to achieve perfect balance. Its the first of many contrasts included throughout for one to absorb from the disc. This is played up in some areas such as here within "Cyberdreamer", and elsewhere taking more subtle routes.

02.] "When I Come Home"
A strong track that watersheds some of the remaining feelings leftover from the opener. Its a chunky piece that has a rock solid bottom and an uplifting tempo that has a bit of classic TNT edge. The chorus is more 'middle of the road' but gets the job done with a certain commanding aire of authority. This more upbeat tone is quite welcome and some may argue that this would have put the album off on a better foot, but I would sincerely disagree. "Cyberdreamer" sets the tone for the entire disc - which as you delve deeper into the disc, the tones are often dark and very moody. Whether this hits you over the face or is subtley buried, it depends on the particular track, but this theme is underlying throughout the entire running time. If one is so inclined to pursue this theory of common ground, it can be spotted even pulsing inside here as well.

03.] "How Good It Feels"
A charismatic composition with alot of heart and personality, it continues with the hard rock tones introduced by the previous song. The vocals tread on the darker side, deeper and throatier than Harnell's usually higher pitched croonings, but still as smooth as freshly spun silk. Verses slide across the horizon with the purple grey haze of shadows. Its a more energy fused take on what "Skin" stepped out to accomplish. That is until the power packed chorus jumps in and blows everything away with pure waves of unbound melodic electricity. A brilliant melting pot that flows together seamlessly in a sparkling package.

04.] "A Million Miles"
Another contrast of moodiness and the divine, this one sports a simply huge, bombastic chorus that is awash with melody, the supporting piano raining down with fat raindrops of that pure, crystalline sound. The verses are distinctly murky, invoking an entirely opposite atmosphere from the instant hook and grab chorus. What stands out however, is the bridge. Usually meek and merely a clever way to make the transisition from verse to chorus as easy as possible. Not here, instead of the usual par for the course, it ends up tricking the listener to expect one thing when the intention is to deliver something else entirely different right afterward. A touch of wonder that makes the song positively infectious.

05.] "What If"
Yet another hook brimming pouncer! The curtain unveiling rumbles of an earthquake explode into crashing sonic waves, warbling with a studio distorted vocal, both which hide behind the bridge just waiting for a heartbreak. But that's not to come since the panther of a chorus leaps out into the open and just kills and slays with its overpoweringly agile infectious rhythms with their lighter touch that dwells on the side of popiness. Songs such as this that manage the fragile balancing act of keeping its wildly different style choices from overwhelming one another are few and far between. Especially one pulled off as natural as this one.

06.] "Look To See"
Aurally this is a sour romance in the twilight of mourning. The love dirge is brought to tragic life by the sorrow burdened lead piano supported by floaty acoustic with accompanying orchestrations melting in the shadows. It is a potent combination resulting in the creation of a rich backing tapestry that serves as merely an atmospheric backdrop to the overwhelming intensity of the lead vocals.

07.] "Righteous One"
Wow what a killer rock track! Harnell is in fine form here, shaping his words beautifully ontop of the "Transistor"-ish TNT rhythms, flourishing an extremely clean and sleek chorus that just blows one away. Electric lead breaks galore break up the monotony, but as all of the best AOR proves, all you need is a couple of good choruses and a slick flow, and this song has it all. A hole in one for the band and the perfect track to divert from the general feel of the disc thus far. The right place, the right time, the right song...

08.] "Misery Loves Company"
As infectious as the plague, but not nearly as deadly to one's well being, this massive track pops out of nowhere and slams you with its rock solid structures. As it has been mentioned in the review many times thus far: its a great melding of contrasts. You have the heftier verses that showcase everything in a harder, pale light. Then the chorus sweeps in, illuminating the dimness with the flames of dancing acoustic radiating a soft warmth and of course the marvelous backing vocals that are the finishing touch to this polished piece.

09.] "I Can't Run"
A cool concotion a world's away from the rest, its like a exploring a palm tree paradise hidden from an island's shore. Not quite as snazzy or spectacular as the beach that is the rest of the album, but there's plenty to attract passerbys. The lead in the verses is carefully dragged out for emphasis then it steps out in high fashion for the sparkling chorus. Tons of layers lay underneath, and for those collecting Westworld frequent flyer miles will be impressed on each visit by the multitude of pristine guitar that dwells in its juicy, still sizzling center. Perhaps not as grabbing as "When I Come Home" or "A Million Miles", but it certainly doesn't qualify as filler fodder!

10.] "Neon Knights"
The fury of this song has survived the test of time, becoming an exercise in pure cover tune pleasure, making it a hard edged, yet fitting closure to the disc. Steel Prophet's attempt at this song on the popular Dio Tribute disc "Holy Dio" seems pathetically lame in comparison. Harnell & Co.'s version puts it to shame with the kind of blistering excitement and urgent intensity that elevated the original recording to the ranks of a Black Sabbath classic. Tony's voice is rich and full, he's belting this one straight from the lungs, surrounded by curtains of aggressive power. The phrasing is not quite dead-on, but he does stamp on his own style that shouldn't throw one off guard for too long. It is pure muscular power.


Westworld fans are in for a treat, and I really can't imagine anyone not liking this disc. It has so many mass market things going for it; not too heavy, a wonderful sense of atmosphere, fat production, brilliant performances and more importantly than all of these: the mass appeal of the songs themselves. It is pure luscious darker styled AOR that is definitely modern in a 2000 rock sense but with one foot in the melodic waves of rock's 80s heyday, cheese factor not included. Unfortunately the disc's slick running time is also its only drawback. One of the debut's most delighting features was its far and wide diversity that kept it spinning in the disc player long after the novelty should have worn off and something brighter, newer and shinier should have been taking up valuable listening time. Whether this lack of occasionally diverting from the path will hurt the album's longevity or not is not entirely clear, but with everything else adding up as all pluses, its easy to see that third time's the charm.

Songs - 9.2, Performance - 9.5, Production - 9.2, Lyrics - 8.5

Hot Spots: "What If", "Cyberdreamer", "Misery Loves Company"
Bottom Line: Third time's a charm for Westworld... essential AOR.

Review by Alanna Evans -

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