If I happened to be a record company executive back in the early nineties I would have lived my life for one purpose- and that would be to sign the Bay Area commercial metal/hard rock band Regime. Seriously. After former Soldier lead guitarist Rick Hunter initially put Regime together in 1990, he joined forces with keyboardist Dan Tatum and proceeded to write the original material encompassing the bands brilliant eight song demo Straight Through Your Heart. Talented frontman Robert Valdes was later brought on board after responding to an add Hunter and Tatum placed in a local newspaper looking for a lead vocalist.
Comparing very favorably to the likes of Stryper, Holy Soldier, Joshua, Impellitteri and Fifth Angel, Regime has in Hunter and Valdes one of the finest guitarist-vocalist duos this reviewer has heard. Hunter proves quite the talented musician who takes the speed of Joshua Perahia (Joshua) and Chris Impellitteri and combines it with the flair and feeling of Rex Carroll (Whitecross) and James Byrd (Fifth Angel). Without a doubt a first rate guitarist, what makes Hunter truly stand out, however, is his accomplished songwriting abilities in that all of the material on Straight Through Your Heart holds up under noteworthy melodies that refuse to leave your head. Robert Valdes, a classic tenor with abundant range to his voice, can flat out sing like a bird. And while it would not be unfair to compare his vocal style to Ted Pilot (Fifth Angel), he easily ranks with the likes of Michael Sweet (Stryper), Steve Patrick (Holy Soldier) and Rob Rock. Tatum brings the same high caliber talent to the project, his keyboard work adding just the right amount of texture to the bands sound.
The eight songs appearing on the demo version of Straight Through Your Heart were originally recorded on 4-tracks, but for the CD re-issue overlay tracks of rhythm and lead guitar and background vocals were added to enhance the sound. With the additions in question, I can honestly say that Straight Through Your Heart ends up the best sounding 4-track recording this reviewer has heard. My philosophy regarding demo recordings, which often lack the polish of label backed releases, is to be very forgiving when it comes to the area of production. In other words, it is important to know when to enjoy the music for what it is, and in the case of Regime, that music is of the highest quality.
A great deal of credit goes to Retroactive Records for digitally re-mastering Straight Through Your Heart and releasing it for the first time on CD. Two outtakes in "Close To You" and "Louder Than Hell" that were to appear on the bands second demo (which was never completed) are included along with five live tracks from the bands first gig in Corte Madera, California. Finally, Hunter re-recorded an instrumental entitled "Moodswing" specifically for the project.
"Castles In The Sand" opens Straight Through Your Heart with a superlative melody line. Taking off in up-tempo fashion, an exquisite blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards carries the song forward until it peaks for an immaculate chorus in which Valdes displays the abundant range to his voice. Hunter bolsters the song with his melodic flavored lead guitar work.
Regime follows "Castles In The Sand" with a very well done cover of the Soldier song "Borderline". When compared to the original version from Babylon (Soldier's second demo), the Regime version comes across slower but not as heavy, the presence of background vocals in its chorus giving the song a more commercial feel. (Please note that the background vocals are not mixed so prominently that they ruin the song as happened with Soldier's version that appeared on the California Metal II compilation. The problem in question was the fault of the production team and not that of the band.)
A huge commercial flavored melody line also dominates the power ballad "Give Back Your Heart". Introduced to a combination of piano and keyboards, the song gains impetus until the rhythm guitar kicks in and takes it to a chorus that back in 1988 would have dominated FM radio. Hunter's fiery minute long guitar solo brings to mind Joshua Perahia.
After a pristine blend of bass guitar and keyboards leads "Waiting For You" through its verse portions, a crisp rhythm guitar enters the mix in time to drive an infectious non-stop hook filled chorus. After a few seconds of crowd noise bolsters the song at its halfway point, Hunter fades into the mix with a stylish guitar solo.
The sweeping synthesizers opening "To Love Again" are joined after several seconds by an edgy rhythm guitar. Slowing to an acoustic guitar at the start of its first verse, the rhythm guitar returns and propels the song to a strong commercial flavored chorus reinforced by Stryper-like vocal harmonies. Keyboards introduce an instrumental passage ending to a solo from Hunter reminiscent to Rex Carroll at his best.
The albums title track quickly jumps out of the gate to a near perfect blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Once the keyboards drop from the mix as the song reaches its first verse, momentum builds until it culminates for a fast paced chorus proceeding at an upbeat tempo. Thirty seconds of blistering lead guitar work helps out the song over the top.
Straight Through Your Heart peaks with the catchy melodic hard rock of "Lay It On The Line". The upfront mix of rhythm guitar initiating the song takes a backseat in the mix at the start of its first verse. The rhythm guitar returns, nevertheless, as "Lay It On The Line" approaches a superb hook filled chorus that will pull you in and refuse to let go.
Carried from front to back by an upfront mix of edgy rhythm guitar, "Love Comes Down" is by far the albums heaviest track. After Valdes gets things going with a scream, a ton of energetic momentum pushes the song forward until it culminates for a vocal harmony driven chorus with a huge catchy hook. A keyboard solo opens an instrumental passage ending to a rapid Impellitteri-like guitar solo.
With its upbeat party metal feel, "Close To You", featuring an above-average to good hook in its chorus, lacks much of the musical depth of the material preceding it.
The four minute guitar harmony driven instrumental "Moodswing" combines a catchy guitar riff with a bluesy side to Hunter's playing we have not always seen in the past. If Hunter ever recorded an entire album of instrumental material along the lines of "Moodswing" I would buy it!
"Louder Than Hell", another remake of an old Soldier song, is similar to "Borderline" in that it moves in a slower but more commercially accessible musical direction. The song still includes the same standout hook in its chorus along with an energetic instrumental passage driven by a fiery guitar solo.
The CD closes to live recordings of "To Love Again", "Give Back Your Heart", "Borderline", "Castles In The Sand" and "Love Comes Down", that, while a bit rough around the edges, I am glad the band chose to include.
Am I out of line to suggest that Regime might have been even better than Soldier? And it has always been my opinion that Soldier was a great band! Irregardless, the question forming in my mind is what would the songs on Straight Through Your Heart have sounded like with Soldier front man Jimmy Arceneaux on lead vocals? (Providing that Soldier had gotten the label deal it deserved. But that is another story.) I think what it all comes down to is that Arceneaux was the better vocalist for Soldier, a band with a faster and heavier more guitar driven sound. Valdes, on the other hand, better complemented the more commercial metal and hard rock sounds of Regime. In the end, Regime broke up before it could sign a deal despite generating some label interest.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Castles In The Sand" (3:38), "Borderline" (3:38), "Give Back Your Heart" (4:28), "Waiting For You" (4:04), "To Love Again" (4:32), "Straight Through Your Heart" (3:41), "Lay It On The Line" (3:44), "Love Comes Down" (3:12), "Close To You" (3:14), "Moodswing" (4:26), "Louder Than Hell" (3:36), "To Love Again (live)" (4:53), "Give Back Your Heart (live)" (5:00) "Borderline (live)" (3:49), "Castles In The Sand (live)" (3:41), "Love Comes Down (live)" (3:41)
Rick Hunter ? Guitars
Darryl Roberts ? Vocals
Danny Tatum - Keyboards