Album Review: Ted Poley – ‘Beyond The Fade’

This review feels very strange to me, because, well, I technically have to give credit to three artists (and a video game franchise) who AREN’T the one being covered in this review if I really want to be comprehensive on the details front. I’ll keep the details as brief as I can, but you’re probably going to want to skip the next paragraph if you’re already familiar with Ted Poley, since this is going to be a dull introduction otherwise.

So, longer time readers may remember that last month, I talked about The Defiants and their self-titled debut album. I mentioned in it that the core of that band were three different members of the band Danger Danger, being their current lead guitarist, their long running bassist and their ex-vocalist. Well, Ted Poley is basically the vocalist with which Danger Danger first made waves, having joined the band in 1987 to replace Mike Pont (don’t worry if you don’t know who he is, he hasn’t really done anything of note outside of a few demos with various bands) and being their vocalist up until 1993, having sung on the band’s first two records, their 1989 self-titled record and 1991’s Screw It! (which also has probably the worst artwork I’ve seen on a glam metal album to date: it doesn’t relate to the title of the album at all and it isn’t especially well drawn either), although he also laid down vocals for Cockroach, an album which was originally shelved due to a lawsuit from Poley when the band re-recorded the vocals with Paul Laine after Poley left the band in 1993, but finally released in 2001 (containing both vocalists’ respective versions of the album, which was identical in terms of the contents aside from Laine’s version lacking the cover of Jim Croce’s ‘Time in a Bottle). Poley proceeded to do quite a few things after his departure from the band, including lending his voice on the soundtracks for the Sonic the Hedgehog games (which might sound a bit strange for some people, but, bear in mind, the franchise has had quite a few interesting names provide vocals for the franchise, including ex-TNT vocalist Tony Harnell and Hardline/Axel Rudi Pell vocalist Johnny Gioeli, so Poley’s presence makes more sense than you might expect on paper!), but would rejoin Danger Danger in 2004. While his return to Danger Danger hasn’t exactly resulted in a noticeable amount of material (the only album to date the band has released since his return was 2009’s Resolve), he has an active (though not especially prolific) solo career and also provided vocals for the projects Pleasure Doom and Poley/Rivera (which both released albums in 2008). Interestingly, this album is actually the first album that Poley has done since 2009 and the music has been handled by two musicians that should be familiar to have read this site fairly recently, considering they are part of the band VEGA: James and Tom Martin.

Yeah, not going to lie, I actually DID plan this review to be done after the VEGA review purely so I had a point of reference for what to expect here. Considering I enjoyed said VEGA album, it’s fair to say that my enthusiasm for covering Beyond the Fade went up quite a fair bit more than I care to admit! It doesn’t mean I went into the record expecting it to be the best thing ever (frankly, if I want to hear perfection in music, I’ll just listen to A Night at the Opera), but I certainly went into this record feeling confident that I would come out satisfied.

I was wrong. I didn’t get what I expected…I got something even better. It’s not a flawless release, but it is definitely NOT a bad one by any measure: in fact, I’d dare to go so far as to call it an excellent release!

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The sound on the record, unsurprisingly, is pure 80s melodic hard rock. You can certainly hear traces of VEGA’s sound in this record, but there’s actually more of a glam metal vibe than an AOR vibe on here. While I’ve not actually listened to Danger Danger to make a comparison with how this sounds in comparison to their material, I would certainly say that I could see the material on this record fitting in wonderfully on an 80s radio station. Understandably, those who aren’t on board with this sort of thing to start with might find this a bad sign and those wanting something that shakes up the sound a bit might be a bit disappointed, but, if you’re like me and this sort of thing is right up your alley, then this isn’t a big issue!

I’ll admit, I was a little bit concerned that the songwriting on this record would be less impressive than on VEGA’s record, since them both being released on the same day pretty much left me wondering if the Martin brothers would phone it in a bit on one of them and VEGA’s record being full of hits lead me to conclude that this would be the weaker record. I was VERY wrong: not only is every song on this record a hit as well, but I actually think that I’d put Poley’s record over VEGA’s in terms of how much I enjoyed it! Some of the song titles are a little bit unoriginal, I’ll admit (although, let’s be honest, naming a song ‘We Are Young’ is going to bring to mind fun. regardless of who you are in this day and age) and I’m unconvinced about the addition of ‘Where I Lost You’ (it’s not bad, but it feels like a weaker track compared to everything else surrounding it and doesn’t quite fit in sonically with the rest of the record, so it might have been better off being cut from the record), but there’s no song that I actually dislike and, when the record is at its best (‘Hands of Love’, ‘Everything We Are’, ‘Higher’ and ‘We Are Young’ being my personal picks), it easily provides some of the best melodic hard rock I’ve heard all year! The ballads on the record (‘The Perfect Crime’ and closer ‘Beneath the Stars’) are actually pretty good overall, with the latter being a ballad that might actually be one of the best ones I’ve heard for a long time because it builds as it goes along and reach a more-than-satisfying climax. Seriously, the songwriting on this record is excellent and, while it’s not going to win points from fans of more technical styles of music due to fairly conventional songwriting, the final results of the songwriting more than make up for that issue!

The instrumental performances are more standard for the genre, but I can’t say that the musicians disappoint. Drummer and keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio (who also appeared on Sunstorm’s record that is being released at the same time as this, funnily enough) does a solid job on both instruments and I can’t fault him for his work on the record at all! Guitarist Mario Perdudani (known for being a member of Hungryheart, having a solo career and being a producer) does a good job overall, with some very good guitar solos across the record showing him to be a more than capable guitarist (and the fact that he doesn’t resort to the “as-many-notes-as-possible” method for all of his guitar solos is a pretty nice thing to note as well!). Bassist Anna Portalupi doesn’t really get much to work with, but what she does do, she does well. No complaints on the instrumental front, really: these are professional musicians doing their jobs well!

Poley’s vocals…now, I’ll admit, I was a bit concerned here as well when I went into this record, because, while I was familiar with his voice from Sonic Heroes (he sung Team Sonic’s theme song alongside Tony Harnell (yeah, that actually happened!), which I thought was pretty good fun to listen to!), it was over a decade ago when that game was released (…wow, I just realised after typing that that I was 10 when that game was released!), so I was well aware that his voice would have almost certainly changed in that time. The question for me was how much it had changed…so I was quite surprised to find that the answer was “not much”. He doesn’t go for the rockier edge to his voice than he did and he doesn’t have a particularly great range (which is understandable: the guy’s 52 now!), but his voice still sounds genuinely very good overall. Props to the guy for keeping his voice in good shape!

The production on this record is pretty much going to come down to what I usually say: the mastering could be a bit better, but is mostly fine, the bass guitar is too quiet for my liking, the instruments sound like they’ve been recorded by people who know what they’re doing, so there’s no unnecessary distortion on them or anything that indicates the instruments haven’t been recorded properly, the mixing beyond the bass guitar is solid and the overall sound is one that shows that the record was recorded in a proper studio, resulting in a professional sounding production job. Can’t complain there, so props to everyone involved on the production side of this record (I haven’t been told that, unfortunately), because they did great jobs!

Ultimately, Beyond the Fade might actually be the best melodic hard rock record I’ve heard so far this year. I know that is a bold claim to make, but it has everything I could ask for in a melodic hard rock record, it handles everything very well while being a really enjoyable collection of songs and the complaints I do have feel very small in the grand scheme of things. Easy to recommend to melodic hard rock fans? HELL YES!

Beyond the Fade will be released on the 13th of May by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.

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