Monday, June 6, 2016

Album Review: Jaded Heart - Guilty By Design

Jaded Heart falls into that category of bands that I feel a bit sorry for. They had a fair amount of success during their early years, but when unmistakable singer Michael Bormann exited the group, a large part of their identity followed with him. The band kept going, and they kept making solid records, but there was something about 'that sound' that was missing. And in keeping with that, I had completely lost track of the band, and cannot for the life of me remember hearing their last few efforts. But I remember liking them, and the first single released was a strong track, so I was curious to see if time has made this version of Jaded Heart feel more like the real thing.

"No Reason" kicks the album off far heavier than I was expecting, with a stomping riff that is much more metallic than the melodic hard rock I thought was going to greet me. It might not be the best approach, since the song comes across a bit bland, like they might be trying just a bit too hard. It doesn't help that Johan Fahlberg's vocals don't stand out. Oh, he can sing, but he has one of those voices that doesn't stand out. He lacks the personality to make him instantly recognizable, which in turn makes the songs feel that way as well.

The material is better when it veers more towards rock than metal. A song like "Remembering" fits the guitar and vocal tone better, which just aren't as metallic as the harder numbers would require. Let's take "Rescue Me" as an example. The opening riffs are pure metal, and the guitar tone is fuzzy enough that the muted chords lack the defined punch they need. But then the chorus dips into melodic rock territory, and it's the best moment on the entire record. It's the one melody that really has a sticky appeal.

And that, ultimately, is what makes "Guilty By Design" a record that will ultimately fade from my mind. It's perfectly fine melodic rock/metal, and it never feels like a chore to listen to, but aside from that one track, there isn't anything on here that I want to hear again. The early years featured plenty of forgettable songs too (Bormann is terribly inconsistent as a writer), but there were always three or four absolute gems to make you keep coming back. Those aren't here, and the record suffers for it. For whatever reason, the melodic writing on these songs isn't up to snuff. The choruses are all too flat and simple to be of interest. They don't stick in your mind, and without that, the chord progressions and riffs aren't enough to make this a must-hear album.

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