Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nick Marino ~ Freedom Has No Price


(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: prog-rock, heavy metal
Label: Rising Force Records
Year: 2010
Home: n/a

Members: Nick Z. Marino ~ keyboards/lead vocals

Additional: David Cabrera, Dragan Deletic, Eric English ~ guitars
Hank Gleber, Scott Migone, Miguel Gonzalez ~ bass
Caroline Hope, Charlotte McKinnon ~ b. vocals
Patrick Johansson, Lee Levin, Ricky Sanders ~ drums


Listening to this album for the first couple times I was trying to figure out who it sounded like. I knew the voice immediately reminded me of Graham Bonnet of Rainbow, but not so high but just as much tuneful screaming, as his style is often described. As for the music, I finally realized, it's a keyboard version of Bonnet's two albums with guitarist Michael Impellitteri, Stand In Line & System X, particularly all the fast songs from the former. If you like that you'll enjoy this. Freedom Has No Price is the first solo release from Rising Force keyboardist NM, the band fronted by Yngwie Malmsteen ... ironically Malmsteen got a big career boost playing with Bonnet in Alcatrazz. NM crafts something in the same mold as Rising Force, including the speed. Fast & furious is the name of the game here & it should come to no surprise. Sadly, it is a surprise, as I hope a musician has more than show-off speed under the fingers. But, I must stop here & confess that every time I listened to the album I only got through the first few blistering songs before being interrupted & stopping for another time. After these few listens & few songs I was desperate for diversity & realizing that I wasn't too sure about the album. But, for some reason I felt like I was missing something & didn't write it off. That something is that NM opens with the door with a roar, blows away his listeners, then takes things down a notch. The diversity, mostly via a classical influence & the Indian drones (i.e. "Love", "Hand", "Never Mind", "Believe"), is there but it takes a bit into the album to find it. I wasn't getting there before stopping, but could feel that something special lied underneath what I had heard. Malmsteen has often been critiqued with technique over substance. NM verges at times of losing his substance & falling into this same technique pocket. I truly believe this is a mistake many pianists do. The piano doesn't have all the quirks of a guitar, like slide, vibrato, bending, yet one expects all these things in a solo & most pianists are stuck trying to do this on the piano but failing. Since the piano is a different instrument with its own textures the outcome ends up sounding like a bland run of scales. Few pianists are able to truly do a piano solo not imitative of a guitar solo. Ray Manzarek of the Doors & Eric Norlander of Rocket Scientists are two that come to mind in the rock world that have been able to instill solos with the voice particular to the keyboard. The problem is that the classical world has this, as its not dominated by guitar stylings, but pianists still question how much of that to bring into their music or how to blend the styles together, considering most pianists tend to have some classical educational background. Too often they play something very classical & then abruptly switch gears to fast scale runs. Liszt played fast scales too but it doesn't sound like it. Why is that? NM struggles with fusing his educational background with his current music so they flow together seamlessly. Yet, I found myself returning to this album many times, even after I'd finally gotten a chance to listen to the whole thing. I found I enjoyed it more & more. Once I got beyond the shock of the Malmsteen influence I was able to enjoy it more on its terms. Though, I probably would not have continued to give it multiple chances if it wasn't for the fact of the Bonnet-esque vocals (i.e. "Never Mind", "Out Of My Mind"), as I happen to be a big fan. In the end, I keep returning to the singing on this album. It got me in the door, kept me listening & remains a favorite thing. Why? Because, like Bonnet, Serbian born NM is distinctive. I like distinctive singing. Sadly, I'm not doing justice to NM's keyboard skills by saying that, but its obvious I have mixed reviews on that. But, while many albums I review I get rid of, I kept this album. I know this is something I'm going to want to revisit down the road. The album is produced by Malmsteen & is the first artist Malmsteen has brought under the Rising Force Records umbrella. Before playing with Rising Force NM worked with Gloria Gaynor. He played with Malmsteen from 2005 to 2006 & has been in the band since 2010, appearing on the new album Relentless with all star vocalist Tim "Ripper" Owens. This is NM's fourth album but first non-indie release.



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