Have you ever had to put yourself out in front of other people to be judged? I think just about everybody has. Whether it was an oral report in school or a project at work, it's never easy to stand up and let people critique something you've worked hard on. It's even more difficult for an artist. Good art comes from the soul. You spend a lot of time working, practicing, honing your skills but, eventually, if you want to take your craft to the next level, you've got to put it out there and let it be judged by the masses. People you don't even know are evaluating your soul. It's not an easy thing to do.
This weeks artist is Scream Arena, a band out of York, England. The performers are Andy Paul on lead vocals, Lincoln J Roth playing bass, both Alex Mullings and Phil O'Dea on guitars and backing vocals and rounding it out is the drummer, a fellow named Michael Maleckyj.
Scream Arena's self titled debut album is a throwback of sorts. Straight up rock with some modern elements thrown in for good measure. For me, the drums are what set the stage on this one and the beats are straight-forward rock and roll. Maleckyj is a solid drummer, nothing too fancy, a steady, hard rock drummer.
The other thing you'll notice straight away are Andy Paul's vocals. They're kind of a whispered growl. They sort of reminded me of a toned down Dave Mustaine or maybe Alice Cooper. Neither Dave nor Alice are known for their vocal prowess but they have their style and it works for them. The same is true of Andy Paul. My only complaint is his vocals rarely go beyond the growling whisper. There are points in the songs where the music hits a crescendo but the vocals don't match the intensity. This is where the various backing vocals come into play. The backers are the one's that help keep the weaker songs strong.
On to the songs... Track one, "Born Ready" is a tune with a driving beat, literally. It starts with "gentlemen, start your engines" and the drums start driving. It's a good song but not necessarily what I would call a powerhouse opening track.
"Racing to the End of Night" is a slower number that brings to mind Queensryche, without Geoff Tate on vocals, of course. The keyboards are more prominent on this one and, again, the backing vocals take charge and keep the song going.
Track four, "House of Pain" is the song they should have started the album with. The feel is decidedly old school but it really hits the mark during the chorus when gang vocals proclaim, "we shall show no mercy". It's got a great groove, a classic guitar riff and some great solo work. It is by far one of the better tracks on the album.
Now, the hit single on the record should be Scream Arena's take on the Elvis Presley classic "Heartbreak Hotel". This song is a departure from the rest of the album. It is much more aggressive and has a fuller guitar sound with a few industrial elements here and there. Andy Paul's vocals work very well for the duration of the song. By the way, if you're familiar with the original version, they sound nothing alike. If Scream Arena achieves any notoriety it will be because of this song. It's my favorite cut and not just because I'm a lifelong Elvis fanatic.
Sad to say, the rest of the album sort of wallows around, never quite hitting a stride. "Another Night in London Town" is a nice song but never quite clicks in it's performance. With apologies to Mr. Paul, it just lacks intensity. It feels like a Thin Lizzy song but the vocals keep it a bit lackluster.
My copy of the album came with the bonus track "The Heart of the Rock". This is another example of Scream Arena doing their thing well. It's a harder song, heavy on the riff and the vocals are fitting. It's a familiar theme - "gimme thunder, gimme lightning, gimme good times, gimme rock". This style of song is their strength and this is where their focus should be.
The rhythm section has done a great job keeping this record rocking. The riffs are solid and catchy and the band has a solid hold on the hard rock feel. But, in this reviewer's opinion, the singer will make or break your band. Scream Arena really shines when they rock hard but the album has way too many mid tempo, melodic songs that don't completely showcase the unique vocal style of Andy Paul. Paul comes to life in "House of Pain", "Heartbreak Hotel", "The Heart of Rock" and even "Born Ready" but he doesn't have what you would call a "sensitive" voice so when he tries to caress a vocal, for me, he falls just short. I feel like he may be holding back just a bit vocally to try to create a certain sound. I wish he would just let loose and hit a note in the next octave every once in a while. Just let 'er rip, Andy.
As far as debut albums go, Scream Arena is off to a good start and they've even created a few gems along the way. I hope their next endeavor will focus a bit more on their harder rock side. The heavier the song, the more Scream Arena hits their stride. I give them all the credit in the world for getting this far and I wish them much success in the future. All art appreciation is subjective so I suggest you check out Scream Arena for yourself. Who knows, maybe you'll discover your new favorite band. But who am I to judge.