ATBPO: Have Night Ranger still got it?

AOR legends Night Ranger is one of the more consistent bands to have risen to success among the 80s California hair metal scene. Having 13 studio albums under their belt including this year’s ATBPO, it is even more of a rarity that their outputs have been at a consistently high quality.

I caught them at Hard Rock Hell and I’ve been a fan ever since so I’ve been excited about this release for a while!

Launching hard and heavy with a fantastic guitar riff and a heavy drumbeat to back it, ‘Coming for You’ is a fantastic opener. The dropouts for the verses were great, especially with the low, fuzzy bass filling the gaps in the guitaring. The harmonies in the second half of the verse and pres build up perfectly to a huge, very catchy chorus. The backing vocals add so many layers to it but, given that they are saying the song title, they may be a little quiet. I also have to say that the lyrics for this song did feel a little cringy, a little basic and unlike them. It’s easily forgiven though given how great the instrumentation and catchiness it is. The bridge incorporates some acoustic guitar into the mix as it slows stuff down, adding a great further layer to it all and bringing back more classic Night Ranger feels. The solo is also fantastic, technically great and it fit with the song perfectly. We get a final big chorus and another awesome outro guitar solo to take us home. This is how you start an album!

Single ‘Bring it All Home to Me’ opens on some Bryan Adams style power chords and vocals before the drums explode in perfectly behind them. The fun pre leads to a VERY glam chorus, the harmonies and catchiness giving off massive Poison vibes. They have a similar bridge again after the second chorus that emulated the chorus but also had some very Queen-like harmonies. Another ripping, duelling solo follows, somehow even better than the previous one. I cannot get over just how catchy the chorus is with the harmonies, one of the biggest, best choruses I’ve heard all year so far. Another brief, awesome guitar solo takes us home again, and this track was even better than the first, easily making the playlist!

Lead single ‘Breakout’ opens on the most Night Ranger riff I’ve ever heard, and it’s f’in awesome. The verse is quick and punching, it all sounding very 80s with the synth but also uplifting in both the sound and lyrics. The pre leads to the chorus, the intro riff being the main part of it aside from the song title being shouted between bars. Another solo follows directly after the first chorus and it’s awesome, though I was spoilt by the last one so it didn’t stand out as much. The riff just before the last pre was awesome though, I have to say. The second half of the final chorus was also incredible, the guitars working overtime with an awesome riff, maybe my favourite of the album so far. This whole song was awesome, and another that makes the playlist, more for the guitar work than anything else!

‘Hard to Make it Easy’ goes almost country/blues rock after the opening AOR riff, the beat being bouncy and full of crunching guitars and a lot of awesome piano. The chorus comes out of nowhere but was great and catchy, this one giving off lots of Status Quo vibes. It’s just a fun song all around. Although I have to admit, it did feel a little repetitive by the end, there wasn’t much variety in it. It’s a small gripe when it’s so enjoyable, though.

The final single for the album, ‘Can’t Afford a Hero’ is a slower, ballad-y one. The acoustic guitar is broken out fully, a weird opening riff that I’m not sure I’m a fan of dropping away into beautiful chords through the verses and choruses. It somehow gives off both Bon Jovi and Oasis vibes, an odd combination that works a lot better than it should! The chorus is pretty catchy too, though maybe the least so of the tracks so far. There isn’t much more I can say about it, it’s a fun ballad that’s worth a listen if you’re into the slower music.

Unfortunately, the following three tracks, ‘Cold as December’, ‘Dance’ and ‘The Hardest Road’ don’t do much to pick up the pace again. While the first is a little heavier and has a great riff hidden in there somewhere and gives off some Cult vibes too, it doesn’t stand out too much. It definitely feels like an album track. ‘Dance’ straight-up steals from ‘We Will Rock You’ to open, be it a homage, unintentional, or something more sinister, who knows. But outside of that, it gave off ‘Stripper Girl’ (Steel Panther) vibes, which is bad when the parody band makes a better song out of it. But heck, it has a huge, stadium-filling chorus, so it can’t be sniffed at all too much aside from the opening few seconds. Meanwhile ‘The Hardest Road’ is generally just boring, it adds very little to the album and is simply a sign that it has ground to a halt. Maybe it’s just badly arranged, as the first half was pretty steady and enjoyable. I have nothing at all against ballads, but having four slower songs in a row feels a little unnecessary when the first three songs were pretty quick. Hopefully, the last quarter can pick up the pace and quality again.

Thankfully ‘Monkey’ picks up the pace again with one of the best, heaviest opening riffs of the album. The verse keeps up the quick pace, the drums being solid and awesome behind the basic guitars. The pre ramps the song up perfectly into a huge, open chorus, not quite as catchy as some of the others but the half-timing made it sound awesome. One of the best solos I’ve heard in a LONG time bridged the gap between the choruses, long and technical, the perfect showcase of Brad Gillis’ extraordinary talents. Another chorus and an awesome closing solo finished it off. This was a guitar player’s dream, and another to make the playlist!

Unfortunately. the last couple of songs on the album, ‘A Lucky Man’ and ‘Tomorrow’ don’t quite live up to ‘Monkey’ for me. They are another couple of mid-tempo, ballad-feeling songs. There is absolutely nothing wrong with them, and on their own I would probably love them. But, after so many slowish songs on the album, I’ve gotten a little bored of them. I’d happily listen to them again, but they don’t feel all too special to me like some of the others.

Overall: This was a pretty good album, in all. While it doesn’t quite measure up to some of the best albums of the band’s discography, or some of the best albums released this year in general, it is a solid release with a few great, standout tracks. It may grow on me with more listens, as is the case with some of this band’s work, but for now, I shall give it…

Score: 7/10

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