Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Album Review: Treat - Ghost Of Graceland

Hyperbole can be used to great effect, but it can also start a project in such a deep hole that it can never climb out. I understand that with as much music as is being made these days, you have to do whatever you can to try to get attention for yourself, but there are limits to how far I'm willing to let things slide. Treat is pushing the limit a bit with this new album, as the press materials describe this as the new album from the 'hard rock legends'. I'm sorry, but there is no way that Treat are legends. Legends are either the bands that even people who don't follow music would know the names and songs of, or are the bands that modern bands still draw their inspiration from. In either case, Treat are not legends. That being said, I know how this works, so I'm not going to hold it against them. After hearing the singles that were released, I was actually quite excited to hear this record, putting aside my brief disgruntlement.

"Ghost Of Graceland" kicks things off in fine fashion. The main riff is heavy, bluesy, and a touch sinister, while the chorus is pure AOR melody. It's a great song, and definitely sets expectations high for the rest of the album. "I Don't Miss The Misery" follows with an even heavier, modern riff that grinds along into the verses, while the chorus once again soars up into a huge melody. These two tracks are not just great music, they show a band that understands that rock and roll needs to be about more than tuning down a guitar and stringing riffs together. There's a real sense of songwriting here, and a focus on making sure that everything in the songs is memorable.

I'm a sucker for ballads, and we get one in "Do Your own Stunts" that hits the right notes. The pianos carrying the beginning of the song are lovely, but it's the keyboard parts and orchestrations once the band kicks in that really hammer the song home. It's a little dramatic touch that makes the song feel more emotional than if it was a more stripped-down arrangement.

For a band that's been around thirty years, Treat is still learning some new tricks. The guitar arpeggios that open "Endangered" feel completely modern, and give a nice counterpoint to the more unabashedly pop chorus the song is packing. It's one of those songs that could have easily gone off the rails, but it manages to keep from stepping over that line, and it works as a bit of bright, shiny ear candy. By the time this song and "Inferno" pass by, I'm reminded strongly of the Nordic Union album that was put out on the same label, Frontiers, earlier in the year. Like that album, Treat is hitting on melodic rock with a heavy bent towards modern pop choruses. And like that album, Treat is doing it exceptionally well.

On the whole, the second half of the album isn't as strong as the first, but it's a minor distinction. Songs like "Alien Earthlings" and "Too Late To Die Young" may not compete for the best on the record, they're still charming songs that go down easy. And while the second ballad, "Alone Together" is similar to the prior ballad, it lacks the rocking punch to push it to a higher level, so it feels like a missed opportunity.

That being said, let's not mince words. "Ghost Of Graceland" is a really good record that's a heck of a lot of fun. It's big, catchy hard rock that has a lot to offer. Sure, it feels a bit tame in comparison to Nordic Union's record, but considering how that record is a strong contender for the best album of the year, that isn't an indictment. Treat has done well for themselves here, and "Ghost Of Graceland" is a record that should appeal to anyone who's a fan of AOR, or anyone who listened to guitar pop on the radio in the mid to late 90s. It takes me back there, and that's always a good thing.

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