Lion Music stands for high quality music with a focus on progressive metal and impressive guitar music. In the previous years I was fortunate enough to review a lot of their CDs, always with a progressive touch or a very talented guitar player. Silent Out Loud, the second release of Grönholm, is no exception to that rule. It's not really progressive metal this time, but more melodic rock with a nicely tuned guitar and true to the label's policy which means that the guitar work is very impressive.
After the release of Eyewitness Of Life (2010), the Finnish guitarist, bass player and main composer Mika Grönholm tuned his guitar to a low B to get a heavier sound. Then he started to work on the new album. As a vocalist Markku Kuikka returned and Tom Rask is back again for some drum work. The link to progressive rock can be found in the presence of Billy Sherwood (Yes and related bands), who provides for the guest vocals on two songs. Other guests are Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot), who takes the lead vocals in Vanity and his brother Zach Hietala (Tarot), who delivers a guitar solo.
The CD starts with a power song forming a bridge between melodic rock and metal, a result of the heavy sounding guitar, I guess. Cross Of Mind contains vocals in the vein of Dio and Glenn Hughes, but it sounds a bit strained. The pace and construction of the songs generally remain the same on the first six tracks. Songs as Distorted Eyes, Under My Star, Vanity, Out From The Nest and Race Is On are all good and powerful compositions with great guitar work. After these songs the album changes a bit; the instrumental Giant Step is a showcase for the technical abilities of Mika Grönholm. It's nice to hear a more emotional side of his playing. This piece forms a bridge between the heavier songs and the more acoustic driven and more progressive sounding songs. Giant Steps starts nice and heavy containing a smooth and soft end that perfectly connects to the next song. The sound of the acoustic guitar in Set The Stones is a bit in the vein of the British melodic rock band Thunder. The song has a bluesy feel and a fine voice that unfortunately wasn't used in other songs so far since it fits the song very well. On the following composition Dawn Of A Dream, Grönholm plays an acoustic solo piece showing not to be an ordinary guitar shredder only, but also one who can do without electricity and still remaining impressive. Grönholm has saved the best song to close the album, I think. Away is orchestrated and contains intense vocals and a guitar that exactly has the right feel.
On this second album, Grönholm chose to start with a heavier and more powerful sound. However, these songs have quite a similar sound and don't really stand out. When he changes to the acoustic guitars, the songs are getting a lot better and give the album a boost in a positive direction with the excellent song Away to finish the album.
***+ Pedro Bekkers (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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