When improbably revitalized Classic Rock veterans Rainbow announced the addition of Chilean-born Lords Of Black frontman Ronnie Romero to their ever-morphing ranks, I was initially apprehensive. However, a trio of post-reunion releases (Memories In Rock: Live In Germany, Live In Birmingham 2016, Memories In Rock II) would eventually prove, the group was more than capable of re-capturing the magic of yore. However, with the group tragically imploding amid Ritchie Blackmore’s odd ‘Renaissance fair’ aspirations–Blackmore’s Night remains the guitarist’s primary creative focus–Romero soon found himself joining forces with woefully-unsung Japanese guitar wizard Nozomu Wakai in Melodic Hard Rock/Heavy Metal upstarts Destinia. Returning with Metal Souls, the highly-anticipated follow-up to the group’s acclaimed full-length debut Requiem For A Scream (2014), Wakai and Romero now appear destined for the dizzying, halcyonic heights of international recognition.
On the brilliant Metal Souls (2018), an expertly assembled ten song collection of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, each track, beginning with the relentlessly pummeling “Metal Souls” and the emotionally-charged third (!) single “The End Of Love”, immediately commands the rapt and undivided attention of all parties involved, myself most definitely included. Deftly unleashing an array of anthemic, occasionally all-consuming ‘auditory landscapes’, Wakai boldly abandons the stereotypical trappings of yore in favor of a truly awe-inspiring multi-dimensional delivery. Seething with an originality that belies the relative brevity of his combined discographies, Wakai wastes little–if any–time driving home each key focal point with a refreshingly forthright feeling of enlivenment. Introducing himself on a world-wide scale to a veritable legion of new and established fans as the all-new ‘hīrō’ they’ve been so desperately yearning for, the group reminds us all of their impending dominations.
Continuing with the hook-laden call-to-arms “Raise Your Fist” and the maddeningly infectious lamentation “Metamorphosis”, the airtight–to say the very least–combination of multi-octave vocalist extraordinaire Ronnie Romero (ex-CoreLeoni, Lords Of Black, Rainbow), guitarist Nozomu Wakai, bassist Marco Mendoza (Black Star Riders, Ted Nugent, Thin Lizzy) and legendary ‘skinsman’ Tommy Aldridge (Black Oak Arkansas, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake) steamrolls ahead with a carefully-calculated ease. Showcasing an impossibly fluid six string prowess early and often, Wakai effortlessly invokes the long-forgotten memories of Alcatrazz and Steeler era Yngwie Malmsteen (i.e. No Parole From Rock ‘n’ Roll and Live Sentence, 1983 and Steeler, 1983) and Loudness co-founder Akira Takasaki. Obliterating the pre-conceived notions of the proverbial average listener, Wakai is skillfully buoyed by Mendoza and Aldridge throughout, remaining subdued and tasteful in the process.
A self-Produced and Mixed affair throughout, other standouts, including the delicious Sturm und Drang of “Cross The Line” and the arguably clichéd–yet undeniably impressive–closer “Ready For Rock”, leave little doubt of Wakai’s future as the definitive torch-bearer for the Melodic Rock sub-genre. However, what separates him and his collective all-star band-mates from their equally well-heeled predecessors is an overall emphasis on capturing the unmitigated magic and spirit of a sadly bygone junction in time. Accomplishing this feat without brow-beating everyone into submission, the end result(s) of their more-than-considerable efforts represent the dawn of a fresh and exciting new chapter in his soon-to-be storied métier. An absolute must-have for any devout worshiper of the United Church Of Shred (or, for that matter, anyone with a genuine and sincere appreciation for all things Hard Rock and Hard Rock-co-ordinated), Metal Souls ‘brings’ the proverbial goods time after time.
But is it groundbreaking or revolutionary? Not particularily. But then again, that’s not the point, now is it? Seamlessly blending the auditory heroics of Rainbow, Ronnie James Dio and Whitesnake with a contemporary tonality, the majority–if not all–of the decidedly incendiary wares contained herein are seemingly guaranteed to appeal to both die-hard shred enthusiasts and curious newcomers alike. Remaining entirely faithful to his more-than-considerable influences without ‘borrowing’ too heavily from any singular element, the often mighty Wakai ultimately succeeds by shamelessly pandering to his main target demographic. Needless to say, if you’ve once again found yourself in search of a refreshing, nostalgia-inducing trip down memory lane that doesn’t involve wholeheartedly re-embracing an embarrassingly obese expanse of spandex-clad Velveeta, then this, my friends, might just be the high-octane counter-irritants for what it is that ails you. Trust me, you will not be disappointed.