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Melodic Round-up: November 2015

Dave Ling on new releases from Stryper, Champlin, Williams, Friestedt, Joel Hoekstra’s 13, Lifeline and Voodoo Hill

Stryper: Fallen

With more than three decades of recording history to their name, just about everybody knows by now what to expect from a Stryper album. Straddling the genres of melodic hard rock and heavy metal and enhanced by the superlative vocals of second guitarist Michael Sweet, the quartet from Orange County, California, have carved quite a niche. Indeed, but for the message of Christianity that permeates everything in their sizeable catalogue, they’d surely be a far, far bigger name.

Save for a provocatively faithful cover of Black Sabbath’s apparently pro-Christian tune, After Forever, don’t go expecting any departures from the band’s eighth album. Also responsible for the album’s crystal clear, forceful production, Sweet’s voice remains absolutely first-rate. But certainly on the first play, its material doesn’t quite match up to that of the previous album, No More Hell To Pay, which critical consensus agreed was the best thing Stryper had done since 1986’s career watershed To Hell With The Devil. But hey, let’s not nail them to the cross for that. (710)

Champlin, Williams, Friestedt: *CWF*

It’s been a bumper year for fans of Toto, and this soothingly exquisite album from their current singer Joseph Williams, made in conjunction with former Chicago frontman Bill Champlin and the Swedish guitarist Peter Friestedt, offers a final, tantalising helping of West Coast sunshine. Mandatory listening for those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. (810)

Joel Hoekstra’s 13: *Dying To Live*

Joel Hoekstra arrived in Whitesnake last year thanks to his strong melodic rock connections following a spell with Night Ranger. The guitarist keeps good company on this album, with Jeff Scott Soto and Symphony X’s Russell Allen alternating vocals duties. They’ve created an accomplished set of radio-friendly tunes on Dying To Live, including the sultry Long For The Days. (810)

Lifeline: *Scream*

Two UK-based singers – Shy, Skyscraper and Phenomena frontman Lee Small, joined by Nigel Bailey of Three Lions and Bailey – have pooled forces for this impressive debut album. Scream navigates fearlessly between cultured AOR on the likes of Feels Like Love and Now His Angel’s Gone, piledriving hard rock (Far From Home) and many more variations in-between. (710)

Voodoo Hill: *Waterfall*

With Voodoo Hill the alliance of Italian guitarist Dario Mollo and the newly solo again Glenn Hughes reaches its third album. On Underneath And Down Below and The Well Hughes applies the handbrake to his usual vocal acrobatics, although in the case of the latter track he does so without sacrificing power, which allows the quality of the material to shine without distractions. (710)