A strange one, this. UK rockers Collateral are making big waves on their local scene, garnering rave reviews whenever they play live to the extent that they’ve recently snared tour supports with the likes of Skid Row and Bon Jovi sideman Phil X and his band The Drills; Is this the second coming of Brit-based melodic hard rock? Somehow, on the evidence of this album, I don’t think so. Not in the way the band’s well wishers want it to be, anyway…
The band opens up promisingly enough with the raucous introductory brace of Mr Big Shot and Promised Land, both of which feature strident, hands-in-the-air riffage and classy soloing from the fortunately-monikered (for this kinda tuneage) Todd Winger. But – and it’s a reasonably big but given the hopes being pinned on these boys in some quarters, the vocals of charismatic frontman Angelo Tristan don’t quite follow through on the strutting promise of his colleagues’ instrumental contributions.
The man can sing, deffo, but, in the context of the heavier material on offer, he’s just a little too polite to sound truly convincing. Third track Merry Go Round, for instance, is a stadium rocker crying out for a vocal delivery reminiscent of Jon Bon Jovi in his late eighties prime; Tristan, on the other hand, just can’t muster the grit or downright bravura to carry it off. The poppier In It For Love and Lullaby are more in the man’s wheelhouse, and sound consequently more convincing.
All is not lost, however, for if the first half of the album is an exercise in revisiting the late eighties, the second half of the record seems to focus on the early nineties; there’s a real CMT-styled country rock feel to a lot of the material here, with the band often coming across as nothing less than an updated version of US country chart botherers Little Texas. This is revelatory news, because it’s on this material that Tristan really, really shines, and where the band undoubtedly start to sound like contenders. Midnight Queen, in particular, is an absolutely titanic slice of country-tinged AOR, spine tingling in vision and boot scooting in execution; there’s a big market for this sort of sleek, hook filled malarkey in the US, and Collateral wouldn’t look out of place on a Brad Paisley bill touting more of this kinda stuff.
There’s a big tear jerking ballad, of course, in the shape of Get Back To You, which is where Collateral really start to make sense; a sumptuous mix of Aerosmith and Keith Urban, it’s got the musical smarts of the real greats of this style of music, which isn’t something many young bands can boast at this stage in their career.
Penultimate track Won’t Stop Me Dreamin is probably the weakest track on offer, but even this features some committed rhythm work from drummer Ben Atkinson and bassist Jack Bentley-Smith and yet more crystalline soloing from Winger, but closing track About This Boy ups the ante again with another trip into country-rocking territory. It’s a great way to end the album and surely a pointer to where the band should really be heading on album number two.
Collateral will be released on February 21st.