Saturday, March 19, 2005

Review: Lochinvar - Fire Eyes (2005)

Fire Eyes

Taking their name from the daring Scottish knight in Sir Walter Scott's poem of the same name, not the Rod Stewart song, Lochinvar is the duo of singer Paula Blade and guitarist/bass player/drummer/keyboardist John Walker. They play '80s-styled hard rock that we're all familiar with, similar to bands such as Dokken, Whitesnake, and Heart, providing fans of this genre (of which I am one) a fresh source of melody, rhythm, and guitar/vocal skill. Originating as a five-piece in the mid-'80s near Dallas, Texas, Lochinvar was moderately successful on the local scene, releasing a couple of demos and garnering some radio airplay, before falling dormant in 1993 (yet another victim of Pearl Jam). Back together again as a duo in the new millennium, Lochinvar present their second full-length album Fire Eyes.

As one would expect from an album of this particular style of hard rock, melodic guitar riffs punctuated by electric licks and distinctive solos permeate each and every track. John Walker must surely be a student of the George Lynch school of guitar wizardry, as there is a distinctive Dokken feel to the majority of the tracks. His status as a veteran six-stringer is evident, for he churns out a solid performance from start to finish and has a knack for knowing just where to let a solo fly and where to restrain the riffs a bit. "Heart Of Stone", the leadoff track, has a very expansive solo that illustrates my point quite well. The Dokken influences I think are most evident on the title track, giving the song an air of familiarity while still bringing a good degree of distinctiveness. The lyrics of "Fire Eyes" present a lot of Wiccan imagery, with Paula doing a fantastic job of infusing them with emotion.

As a singer, Paula has a voice that is both warm and edgy - quite appropriate for this style of music. Whether she's kicking out the raucous lyrics of the heavy "Amazon", or filling the words of the ballad "Beyond The Stars" with unfeigned emotion, Paula adds a depth to Lochinvar that is genuine. In this respect the comparisons to Heart are most appropriate. Besides her work with Lochinvar, Paula has released a couple of solo CDs in which she expresses herself through a more pop/dance, slightly Gothic sound. Her versatility can also be heard on Fire Eyes in the form of "A Poet, A Dreamer". More Celtic folk ballad than blistering metal onslaught, this track is a favorite of mine because of the real, heartfelt emotion Paula puts in to the lyrics. An introspective piece, we catch a glimpse of who Paula is as a person through her interactions with her family and the pride she holds for her son. Ok, kind of sappy for a metal review but anyone with a true appreciation for music will hear what I am saying.

To finish this review in a "metal mood", I'll mention the track that I most enjoyed - "Sahara". Clocking in at over 7 minutes, it's the most epic of the album but flows quickly and is over before you know it. Majestic keyboards give the song a Middle Eastern atmosphere, enhanced by Paula's vocal melodies. A story of two lovers given only one night of heated passion, the lustful encounter is conveyed quite effectively through John's allusive leads and Paula's emotional narration. Of course, what would it be without a couple of John's soulful solos thrown in for good measure. Another highlight is the sultry "Enchanted Moon", with an overtly Great White-meets-Alannah Myles feel to it. A heavy, bluesy bass intro sets the stage for Paula to lay down some sensuous passages.

Overall, Fire Eyes is a solid album of melodic, guitar-driven, and (dare I say it) sexy '80s-styled hard rock. Paula is a welcome addition to the legion of Metal Queens who have delivered some passionate music to ravenous metal fans over the years. While John is a master at his multifaceted craft, I would love to see the two expand their ranks so that they may take the show on the road and bring their music to the live stage. The one negative moment on Fire Eyes that I feel I should mention, though it is insignificant in the greater scheme of things, is the closing of the track "Amazon". Paula lets loose with a warbling battle cry that, I'm sorry to say, was almost embarrassing to listen to. I think Paula knows where I'm coming from, because if you listen closely a couple of seconds into the following silence you can hear her let out a bit of a giggle. Aside from that moment, I recommend this album to all fans of melodic hard rock.

Track Listing
1 Heart Of Stone 4:39
2 Fire Eyes 4:44
3 Amazon 4:25
4 Closer To The Web 4:53
5 Beyond The Stars 4:42
6 Lasher 3:37
7 Enchanted Moon 4:15
8 Sahara 7:02
9 Midnight Woman 5:06
10 A Poet, A Dreamer 4:22

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