Revolution Saints – Light In The Dark (*NEW-CD, 2017, Frontiers) elite AOR/Christian Hard Rock
Thank Heaven's for The Revolution Saints. Their debut album was great, but LIGHT IN THE DARK is on a whole new level..... The lyrics are better, the vocals are better, and the music is WAY BETTER!!!!!!! This album Rocks!!!!! The first album was overloaded on ballads but on Light In The Dark, Doug gets to show what he can do when he is allowed the Freedom to Cut Loose on Guitar. This is the best Melodic/Hard Rock album of the year. Deen's vocals are stronger than ever and so is his drumming and Jack gives the ol' bass a good workout also but for me Doug Aldrich is the highlight because he was held back from his normal guitar style on the first album but the band was given full creative allowance on this album and IT SHOWS!!!!!!!!! THIS IS A MUST HAVE FOR MELODIC ROCK FANS!!!!!!
ANGELIC WARLORD REVIEW
Combine the terms ‘super group’ and ‘AOR and melodic hard rock’ and you create a recipe for great potential, and not just to create great music but also to produce a high volume of great bands. Enter Frontiers SLR and its long term track record working within the AOR/melodic hard rock super group segment, at least when factoring the likes of Two Fires, Seventh Key, Pride Of Lions and Starbreaker in addition to its latest act to fall within the designation, Revolution Saints. Yes, Revolution Saints might be the most recent in what amounts a crowded field, but what helps set it apart is a star-studded lineup exclusive to bassist Jack Blades (Night Ranger & Damn Yankees), guitarist Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake & The Dead Daisies) and lead vocalist and drummer Deen Castronovo (Journey, Bad English and Ozzy Osbourne).
More often than not an AOR and melodic hard rock act is defined by its vocalist, and such is the case with Revolution Saints and front man Deen Castronovo. With a becoming classic tenor style somewhat akin to Les Carlsen (Bloodgood) - soaring and soulful but also capable of reaching down for some lower register grit - Castronovo could easily have fronted his previous group Journey, with whom he spent 18 years, and no one would have cause for concern. It is an understatement, for instance, when in a recent online interview the artist suggested that ‘I’m a drummer that happens to sing pretty good’.
His departure from Journey, on the other hand, was a bit ignominious. A June of 2015 arrest for domestic abuse that later spiraled to include charges of rape, sexual abuse and unlawful use of a weapon, led to his eventual discharge from the group. He proceeded to enter rehab, and subsequent to a sentence of four years probation, he underwent domestic violence and drug counseling.
As the old saying goes, ‘sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you find yourself and rediscover the things that are really important in life’ and such is the case with Castronovo, whom began a period of recovery in his life in which he focused on sobriety, his family and ultimately his faith. In other words, the story of Castronovo, who in the liner notes to Revolution Saints fall of 2017 sophomore album Light In The Dark thanks ‘My savior, my Restorer, my champion, Jesus Christ’, is not one of having fallen from grace but rather of redemption. A quote in a recent online interview with the artist sums things up best:
“Do you know, for me, Christianity is not so much a bunch of actions you do, as it tries to teach you just living spiritually, in my opinion. A lot of rules and things you say and do, it was always a very spiritual thing for me. And when I got hard into drugs and started partying hard, I put my hand out to God and, do you know what, you see what happened. If I’m any testament to anything, it’s that when you take yourself out of your true spiritual self, you lose everything. You may not think you do, but you lose everything. And then after you’ve lost everything, you lose everything else. It’s sad. So, I just really reconnected with Christ and spirituality, and that’s it. I roll with the day about it.”
On Light In The Dark, Revolution Saints impresses as a professional form of melodic hard rock I have heard, or at the very least ranks alongside Novella (One Big Sky) Fear Not (self-titled) and Guardian (Fire & Love) in this capacity. Yet, the AOR and melodic hard rock label might also be limiting, particularly in light of how the group also reveals a heaviness that touches upon melodic metal or at the very least is certain to attract devotees to the form. At the same time Revolution Saints presents with an intricate side to its songwriting (sort of like the Holy Solder debut) that makes its material a bit more interesting than some within AOR circles, noting AOR super group cohorts Romeo Riot whose debut Sing It Out received a favorable (but not quite to the same extent) 80% Angelic Warlord review.
Light In The Dark opens to nine songs good as it gets as far as all things melodic hard rock is concerned. It begins with the albums title track, which jump-starts to several seconds of guitar feedback that sets the heavier rocking tone the remaining distance, with overall feel uplifting, inspired and emanating of up-tempo verve. Castronovo’s vocal talents are made evident on “Light In The Dark”, ranging from buoyant high notes to earthy lower register gravel.
“Freedom” slows impetus with its mid-tempo emotional edge. If anything, the song is heavier in comparison - this is where those melodic metal elements come into play - but it is also smoothed with placid layers of piano and keyboards to create a commercial effect (the group released it as a single and corresponding lyric video). The passionate tinge to the ‘freedom, sweet freedom, coming my way’ refrain ranks with the albums best. Note that the song ends to narration from Ezekiel 20:13.
“Ride On” mirrors an exuberant side to Revolution Saints. With its generous marrying of guitar and organ, “Ride On” reminds of Motherlode’s “He’s Coming Back” (off The Sanctuary from 1986) but imbued with the focused tempo to Rob Rock’s “Ride The Wind” (from his 2007 solo album Garden Of Chaos). In other words, it is a great song. Such an excited scene gives Aldrich opportunity to unveil his torrid soloing abilities.
“I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” is first of two piano ballads. More often than not, I end up liking as opposed to loving most AOR ballads due to their formula nature, but not so Revolution Saints with its detailed approach to the form. Yes, the song brings all the expected ingredients in terms of piano, keyboards and copious melody - albums lush production stands out in the process - but it is also richly textured in carried out a full six minutes with enough rhythm guitar to taste and Blade’s weighty low end bass presence. Rounding things out is an emotional Holy Soldier like (think “Eyes Of Innocence”) guitar solo.
“Don’t Surrender” combines equal parts gritty and bluesy with a rollicking tempo to make a near anthem-like statement. Uplifting and regal is the impression, as Castronovo stretches and reveals the full heartfelt range to his delivery, while affluent vocal melodies adorn the inviting refrain. A distinct seventies vibe cannot help but rise above the surface in the process.
“Take You Down” maintains the positive vibe mentality. Accented by burly guitars and lofty bass underlined by hints of organ, the song teems its distance as a pleasing melody and nothing less a striking refrain remain the tenor. I cannot help but be reminded to a heavier version to fifth Bloodgood album All Stand Together (1991).
“The Storm Inside” represents this reviewer’s choice track. The song proves a catchy anthem rocker, revealed in its esteemed if not revered verses and stylish refrain that slows to a near crawl as the groups plush vocal harmonies again make a plush statement. Instrumentally, Revolution Saints remains in fine form as Castronovo showcases his technical timekeeping abilities and Aldrich more of his crazy good soloing.
“Can’t Run Away From Love” is my favorite of the two ballads, albeit both are well above the line. It reminds of classic Driver ballad “I Believe In Love” (off the 1989 demo tape and later 2008 release Sons Of Thunder) and not just in terms of affluent melody but also a similar regal feel and use of underpinning rhythm guitar with complementary piano and keyboards. FM radio, where are you…
What we have in “Running On The Edge” is another commercial hard rocker giving prominence to the qualities that help separate Revolution Saints: catchy and uplifting but with enough heavier rocking edge to remain fresh with repeat listen (not to mention avoiding the trappings of overproduction). I wish this were the direction Stryper had taken with In God We Trust.
Light In The Dark ends with two tracks I rate in the very good category in light of the brilliance to the opening nine. First, “Another Chance” is a pointed hard rocker with a bass guitar driven groove and piano in the back end, while following is “Falling Apart”, smoother and more even with a keyboard laced mid-tempo leaning that touches upon semi-ballad territory.
Revolution Saints, obviously, are not a Christian band but similar to aforementioned Romeo Riot, might be best described as a mainstream group with a believing vocalist. Castronovo’s faith does make its presence felt on several tracks, most notably “Freedom” –
My heart is cryin’ out for more
A life that I’ve been fighting for down the core
The scars that only you could heal
The wounds that only we can feel is all too real
Somebody save me from myself
Take away this living hell
Your grace will break this spell
- and albums title track:
I thought there was a light to see
Buried deep inside of me
Share the faith and rise above
All you need is love
I threw away everything I had inside
Change for the good to better my life
Taking every chance I’ll get it right
Others seem to draw upon the wisdom gained from life’s experiences (I do not consider the owl gracing the cover art to be coincidental in this regard). It begins with “The Storm Inside” -
I lost my sleep, I faced the night
Running down my spine the search for what is right
All through my soul I knew I had to
If you try to reach the sky longing to be real again
You’ll be strong to brave the storm inside
If you try to touch a star dreaming it could never end
You’ll be free to weather the storm inside
- but also includes “Another Chance”:
I’ve been on the edge
I’ve seen what I had to see
I hit the ground
There was nothing left for me
Against the odds I’ll climb another mountain
I know I need another chance
Tear the walls down throw away the pain that’s inside
I know I gotta have another chance.
Revolution Saints sophomore album Light in the Dark feel less like a project put together by a random group of musicians and more like a full band effort, as revealed in the seamless musical chemistry between Castronovo, Blades and Aldrich. A high level of professionalism rises to the surface as a result, with the gist strong production values, top of the line musicianship and some of the finest AOR/melodic hard rock songwriting you will hear. If a fan of any of the styles presented or artists mentioned then I cannot help but give Light In The Dark a stronger recommendation.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Light In The Dark track listing: “Light In The Dark” (3:56), “Freedom” (5:17), “Ride On” (3:50), “I Wouldn’t Change A Thing” (6:13), “Don’t Surrender” (4:08), “Take You Down” (4:39), “The Storm Inside” (4:40), “Can’t Run Away From Love” (4:35), “Running On The Edge” (4:25), “Another Chance” (4:09), “Falling Apart” (5:12)
Deen Castronovo - Lead Vocals & Drums
Doug Aldrich - Guitars
Jack Blades - Bass