Album Review: Tyketto – “Reach”

A lot of people seem to think that anything which sounded like glam metal disappeared from the public eye the moment Nirvana’s Nevermind was released, but, honestly, that’s not what happened. One need only look at Mr. Big’s “To Be With You” for proof of that, as that was released in the last few weeks of 1991 and was a surprisingly popular song, despite being a glam ballad. The truth of the matter is that, while grunge certainly started to gain the attention of big name labels in general after the success of Nevermind, there was still a small period of time after that where glam still was around in the public eye, although the popularity of the genre definitely took a hit after Nevermind was released. The main problem was exactly the same one that killed off post-grunge and nu-metal in the public eye and the retro-thrash metal scene in the metal scene: there were too many bands out there playing the style of music and flooding the market with material that, while not necessarily BAD, was just rather generic and easy to grow tired of, resulting in a backlash to the general sound from those familiar with the scene and a demand for something new. The problem with demand, of course, is that many a record label executive mistakes a demand for something new to mean that there is no reason to stick with the older sound at all and will drop everything to fill its roster with the new, profitable sound, which usually ends up resulting in the same thing happening later on down the line when that new sound goes through the same problem later.

Such a fate was what befell Tyketto, who simply had the misfortune of debuting at the wrong time. Releasing their debut album, Don’t Come Easy, in 1991, Tyketto were pretty much doomed to fall into obscurity no matter how good their album was. That they stuck it out until 1996 and released two studio albums (1994’s Strength in Numbers and 1995’s Shine) and a live album before they broke up is actually quite commendable, but they definitely were fighting a losing battle during their original time as a band. After two brief reunions in 2004 and 2007 (the latter also resulting in the release of a compilation record), the band truly returned in 2008 and produced their first album since their reunion, 2012’s Dig in Deep. Surprisingly, the band still has three of their four founding members in the band now (the only missing founding member being guitarist Brooke St. James), vocalist Danny Vaughn, bassist Jimi Kennedy and drummer Michael Clayton. They are joined by keyboardist Ged Rylands and guitarist Chris Green, who joined the band in 2012 and 2014 respectively.

So how does the band do on Reach, I hear you ask? Well…pretty well, if I’m completely honest! The record still has some problems which I think hamper it in the grand scheme of things, but it’s still a solid record that holds up far better than might be expected.

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The band’s sound is pretty much melodic rock, but with a solid injection of AOR that helps encourage a lot of singing along, a few minor blues rock influences which faintly remind me of modern day Europe (certainly, Vaughn’s voice has more than a few moments where a resemblance to Joey Tempest can be spotted very easily and a few moments on the record remind me a bit of The Winery Dogs) and a subtle bit of country influence on “Circle The Wagons” that results in a surprisingly different approach to ballad writing than is usually heard by most melodic rock bands. There’s nothing really new here, admittedly, but it is done really well and it is very easy to enjoy as a result.

The band’s songwriting is really their core strength on this record, because, while there is nothing which you haven’t heard before on it, it does it so well that it actually feels surprisingly refreshing in comparison to how one much expect it to sound and the end result is a record that doesn’t really break any new ground in terms of songwriting structures, but doesn’t feel like it is rehashing anything at all either. The songs themselves are mostly very strong, to the extent that it would actually be easier for me to list the songs which should have been better (note that I don’t say that they are weak!) than list the highlights, because the quality of the vast majority of the material is so good that pretty much every track is a winner! The only real dip in quality comes when the record reaches “Remember My Name” (which isn’t even a bad song, but it feels like it is lacking something to really push it to the next level) and carries through to “Sparks Will Fly” (though it is stronger than “Remember My Name” thanks to a solid chorus and some good lead guitar work) and “Scream” (which falls back onto the usual power ballad formula that previous ballads “Circle the Wagons” and “Letting Go” tried to avoid relying on and feels a bit dull as a result), although the record recovers with “The Run” well enough that it doesn’t feel like it ends on a bad note.

The performances on this record are pretty solid overall, with one exception (for a good reason!). Green definitely deserves a lot of praise for his excellent guitar work on this record, because the guy definitely knows how to play the instrument very well and it shows whenever he gets an opportunity to shine on the lead guitar, because his guitar solos are incredibly strong, avoiding being too overly flashy while still being technically impressive and fitting the song brilliantly. Honestly, this guy deserves your attention if you’re an aspiring guitarist of any stripe, because he has a huge amount of talent on display here! The bass and drums are reasonably solid overall (and there’s even a few bass solos which give Childs a chance to show off his skills), though they don’t really do anything which will blow anyone’s minds. Rylands generally finds himself relegated to the background in the vast majority of the record, but the few times where he takes up a lead role (like “Scream”) show that he can definitely play the keyboards well, so I think the main issue is just that he isn’t given enough to do on the vast majority of the record, which is a bit of a shame on one level, but I’ll take having a musician not appearing on a track because they aren’t necessary for it than trying to crowbar them into a song where they aren’t doing anything of any worth any day of the week, so I can’t complain too hard about this one, if I’m being completely honest.

Vaughn’s vocals have held up really well, considering the guy has been a professional vocalist for over three decades. Not only does the guy pull off some falsetto notes that you’d think would be beyond him after that amount of time, but he has a truly great vocal tone and strong vocal range that make him incredibly easy to listen to. His voice reminds me a bit of Joey Tempest’s, but with a few hints of a younger Jon Bon Jovi as well. Really, there’s nothing I can fault this guy’s voice for, as, beyond a few occasions when he is clearly pushing for a note that he isn’t entirely comfortable with, there is nothing that he does which I think he does less than well.

The production on this record…really, the only thing I can fault it for is that the mastering feels a bit louder than I would like (although it does result in the acoustic guitars sounding about as loud as the electric guitars whenever the focus is on them, which is rather frustrating for me: a bit more restraint on the mastering could have brought out the dynamics of that much better) and the bass feels a bit too quiet even with my bass enhancing headphones, because the rest of the production is pretty great overall! Aside from the bass issue, the rest of the mix is pretty solid overall, with the drums and guitars having strong roles on the record, but not dominating the vocals too much. The overall sound of the record is very much that of a professional modern day production, but it doesn’t feel too much like a product of heavy studio trickery to sound like the way it does, which is always a good sign in my book! Honestly, had the mastering been fixed and the bass mix been enhanced a bit more, I’d have had no complaints about this at all!

Overall, Reach is a really solid record that might well end up being one of my picks for record of the year. It’s not flawless, but it does a huge amount of stuff very well and there’s not a lot that I can criticise it for, which is far more than I can say for a lot of records I’ve heard this year. This won’t be a record for everyone, but, if you like rock music from the 80s and earlier, then this is definitely a record worth taking a look into.

Reach will be released on the 14th of October by Frontier Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.