Somewhat amazingly, Idol alumnus James Durbin – for it is he, to all intents and purposes, that is Cleanbreak – stands now as one of the straight-up best vocalists currently doing the rounds in American heavy metal; and if last year’s self titled debut effort hinted at the truth in that statement, then this year’s Frontiers Music-sponsored effort, Coming Home, confirms the fact to anyone with ears to hear.
The difference for Durbin v.2022 is the band the label have formed around Durbin’s undeniably talented throat; Riot V guitarist Mike Flyntz can play this US power metal stuff in his sleep, for sure, but there’s no chance of catching any zeds whilst the man peels of solo after solo of high quality (his work on second track, Before The Fall sets the listener up for what is a tour de force of melodic lead guitar playing through out the album). And in Stryper rhythm section Robert Sweet (drums) and bassist Perry Richardson Durbin has found a bedrock from which to launch salvo after salvo of calmly assured vocal brilliance on the ears of the listener. Sweet in particular shines with some fine percussive work, underlining the fact that he’s one of the most sorely underrated drummers in metal.
Songwise, too, everything is tighter and everything delivers (in spades) on the promise laid down by last year’s debut. And if there is nothing actively quite as good as that album’s highlight, Evil Eye, then pound for pound the likes of We Are The Warriors, Dying Breed, the title track, Man of Older Soul and No Other Hearts just give Coming Home the edge.
But where to now for Durbin? Two fine records in the space of a year would indicate that the man has finally found the niche he’s been looking for style-wise; should he be happy at this level, or would another tilt at taking the mic for a more established act plying their trade in a similar sonic field be the catalyst to catapult our hero to the top of the metal tree, where he undoubtedly belongs? Time will tell, but for now let’s just be pleased that he’s cranking out consistently impressive metal like Coming Home.
Coming Home is out now.