In the mid eighties it really looked like Q5 might be contenders. Despite the ridiculous stage garb of bassist Evan Sheeley, their classy mix of rollicking heavy metal, AC/DC raunch and radio-friendly AOR sheen really amounted to something over the course of two excellent albums, with both 1984’s Steel the Light and it’s follow up, When the Mirror Cracks (1986) being choc full of memorable material.
But then time-honoured musical differences took hold resulting in founder member Floyd Rose (yes, THAT Floyd Rose) jumping ship and leaving the band rudderless. Fast forward thirty years and the band are back, still sans Rose but definitely still with the attitude that made them such a hot prospect last century.
The trouble is, they haven’t brought too many decent songs with them, so whilst New World Order is very definitely an entertaining listen in places, it’s shorn of much of the class that made Q5 such an excitement machine in 1986.
Opener We Came Here to Rock and third song The Right Way both creak into action with a half inched AC/DC strut but come off sounding like Krokus offcuts, whilst sandwiched in between is a track, One Night in Hellas which has a surprise whiff of latterday Saxon about it. All in all this isn’t a good start.
The title track fares better; the pompous metal assault of prime era Dio fused to vocalist Johnathan Scott K’s strident voice on a bellicose call to arms that really clicks is really good stuff, and next track, the aggressive yet melodic Tear Up the Night has you thinking we might be on to something here. Guitarist Rick Pierce is in scorching form, plainly, but even he can’t really pull the leaden Halfway to Hell out of the fire as hackneyed riffs and a plodding chorus send the album spiralling towards oblivion again.
Prisoner of Mind is excellent, pompously epic in a sort of latter day Uriah Heep style, with Pierce and six string companion Dennis Turner combining in devastating fashion towards the song’s end. The clumsily titled Unrequited (Woman of Darkness and Steel) is boneheaded trad metal but not unpleasant, again featuring some fleet-fingered fretwork from Pierce and Turner, but the excellent Just One Kiss sets things back on track nicely, being a shot-through-with-class slice of heavy AOR that just doesn’t sound as forced as some of the other material on offer here. Whether they like it or not, bands of Q5’s ilk returning to the fray in 2016 are always partly going to be about nostalgia, and as such Just One Kiss is the most successful track on the album, all Boston harmonies and muscular riffing, and guaranteed to have you reaching for those old Q5 albums as soon as you hear it. Marvellous stuff.
The uptempo heavy metal of Fear is the Killer keeps things moving nicely, but it’s merely an amuse-bouche for the titanic Land of the Setting Sun, which is a s good a piece of trad US heavy metal as you’re likely to hear in 2016. K’s vocal is assured and commanding, the solos from Pierce are destructive, the song is a winner, and this reviewer is starting to smile stupidly. A Warrior’s Song is next up, and again the spectre of Saxon looms large, K’s voice having a real Byfordesque burr to it. It’s another stomping, strident piece of heavy metal, and again everything clicks into place here. However the track segues into a five minute instrumental, entitled Mach Opus 206 and… do we really need this sort of thing in this day and age? Live, as a quick drinks break for the singer, instrumentals still a have a place. On an album, all momentum is dissipated, all ground made over the course of the last couple of songs is lost.
Ah well, closing track Get Next To You claws a bit of goodwill back, and Pierce once again leaves nothing on the control room floor with another inspired bit of soloing – classic Q5 Soloing, in fact – and the listener is left with an overall positive response to the record. It’s patchy, for sure, and probably two or three songs overlong, but when they hit the spot, as they do often enough to make this just about a viable listening proposition, Q5 do still have the capacity to set heads banging and fists punching. A qualified success.
New World Order is out now.