|Hardline Leaving The End Open||Frontiers Records|
It was 2002 when Hardline II was released and I gave it a 90% rating. In hindsight that was a little high, but I still find myself admiring some aspects of that album and I know my appreciation for what the guys were trying to do found me in the minority when views on that record are aired.|
The band was trying to update their sound, but didn't have the production quality in place and perhaps pushed the envelope too far considering the style of the debut, which fans were anticipating a repeat of.
Several years in the making, there were times when I figured the third album Leaving The End Open would never appear.
And when it did I also figured it would be almost impossible to resurrect the Hardline name yet again after a 7 year wait. Whether there is ever a Hardline 4 remains to be seen, but at least the guys have corrected a number of mistakes made with Hardline II.
Having already established a more updated sound on Hardline II, it seems easier to accept the style of the new album.
Leaving The End Open has little in common with the classic hard rock of the debut. The ballads come close, but elsewhere the updated sound of the last album is continued, but with a more convincing melodic friendly approach at all times, making this a very credible contemporary melodic rock record.
If the word contemporary has always scared you off, then this album probably won't change any perceptions, but for those that are willing to hear a band grow and mature, this should provide plenty of highlights.
As with Hardline II, I expect a number will dislike this record and the reviews will feature the polar extremes of both sides of the coin. Count me in the positive column.
Leaving The End Open is a somewhat mellower than expected record, with the emphasis on slow and mid-tempo numbers, but it still rocks in places.
The aggressive contemporary rocker Voices opens the album with authority and a contrasting melodic chorus that gets better with every listen. Lots of hidden melodies within this track. Falling Free follows a similar path – a contemporary theme, but a strong classic melodic chorus that flows effortlessly.
Start Again is a classic Hardline style ballad that could have been placed on either of the two albums preceding this one.
Pieces of Puzzles is one of those tracks that classic AOR fans will hate – a tough contemporary exterior, but get further in and there is a very melodic and catchy bridge and chorus to enjoy. Bittersweet is a dreamy atmospheric track that features some fine Neal Schon moments courtesy of guitarist Josh Ramos.
She Sleeps In Madness is probably one of the weaker tracks on the album – it again features that modern and dark edge, but a less discernable chorus. This adds grit to the album, but AOR fans will struggle with this one.
On the other hand, In This Moment is an AOR dream – a beautiful ballad accompanied by piano and a superb Johnny Gioeli vocal.
Give In To This Love returns the album to a modern and dark edge, with a melody that takes time to get to know, but remains effective.
Before This flip flops the album back to classic AOR. This is a nice building song that climbs to one of the best anthemic choruses of the record. One of the highlights as classic meets modern in a groovy way.
As has been the pattern, the album turns darker again with Hole In My Head. Another question mark for lovers of old school melodic hard rock, but it continues that interesting contrasting pattern of styles that the second half of this record has.
And closing the album is another monster ballad. The title track of the album is a really superb piece of music and Johnny's emotional vocal and Josh's highly melodic guitar work make for a killer song.
Plenty to enjoy here in both light and shade for those that are open minded, although the ambitious song designs are not full appreciated due to a production quality that doesn't match up. The cymbal and overall drums sound doesn't penetrate like it should (once again) and the mix is a little muddy in places.
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