Classic AOR has become a bit of a conundrum these days. While the genre is alive and well throughout Europe and abroad, it has been almost relegated to the status of a cult following in the United States, kept alive by the diehard legions of rabid fans that refuse to let it die.
There seems to be a myriad of bands these days that are turning out quality AOR on a regular basis. Now more than ever they have more labels and avenues available to get that music out and you can add to that ever growing list Finland’s Brother Firetribe.
Brother Firetribe was born out of Leverage vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino and Nightwish guitarist Emppu Vuorinen’s desire to do something completely different from what they were doing with their other bands- Mission accomplished and job well done yet again, gentlemen.
Their newest endeavor for Spinefarm Records entitled Diamond In The Firepit is the band’s third studio album since their inception in 2002. It is an instant AOR masterpiece that Pekka had this to say about, “We’re thrilled to be back in action after 5 years, which to us seems like a lifetime.” He added, “The album turned out exactly how we wanted it to and we can’t wait to meet our old friends again and hopefully make some new ones along the way when we hit the road this year.”
One listen to the alluring hooks and soaring choruses flowing throughout opener “Love’s Not Enough” and it’s easy to see why he is so happy. It pushes the boundaries of what traditional AOR can aspire to be. At the same time, the simple yet effective hook filled arrangements of “Far Away From Love” launches the listener into a melodic AOR heaven.
The syncopated rhythms and ambient keyboards in lead single and video “For Better Or For Worse” will be lapped up by avid fans of cleverly crafted AOR while “Desperately” is an exquisite power ballad that will transport the listener to the glory days of the band that almost single handedly introduced the world to the term and genre of the power ballad, Journey.
The infectious riffs and choral harmonies in “Edge Of Forever” are quintessential examples of how great AOR should be executed and “Hanging By A Thread” is a perfectly polished gem with an organic feel that serves as the perfect backdrop for Pekka’s powerhouse vocals to come shining through.
To prove they are no one trick pony, the atmospheric verses in “Trail Of Tears” conceals the fact that some AOR has a lumbering beast lurking just beneath the surface of the classic AOR facade and their Survivor-esque cover of Sammy Hagar’s “Winner Takes All” is without a doubt one of the album’s best kept secrets.
To further drive home the point that they will not be limited by the confines of genre specification, the lacerating hooks and blistering solo in “Tired Of Dreaming” really allow Emppu to step outside of what he does in Nightwish. In stark contrast, the keyboard driven melodies of “Reality Bites” pack one hell of a punch and could have been on any of Europe’s classic albums.
There is really not much that needs to be said about closer “Close To The Bone” other than, the band saved their hard rocking best for last. A classic AOR fan’s wildest dream come true.
Here’s the bottom line- It is hard to find fault in an album this sublime, but if it had any weakness, it would be that it could have benefited from a few more big, fat, juicy riffs from Emppu.
Nonetheless Diamond in the Firepit is a very solid 8 out of 10.