REVIEWS – HUMAN FIRE
Psychic Rebel Publishing – Museum of Rock
For those of you that missed the melodic hard rock of bands like Journey, The Promise is a band that you need to hear. ‘Let’s Talk about Love’ is a great hard rock song with excellent vocals and lead guitar. ‘Kiss Me and Kill Me’ is a heavier song with great lyrics and more awesome lead guitar work. ‘Arms of a Stranger’ builds slowly before an excellent riff comes in and takes the song off to new heights. ‘Looking Glass’ has a great interesting rhythm and vocals that are fun to sing along with. The Promise are another band that played at the Ultrasound 2000 convention and sounded just as good, or maybe better, than they even do on their studio albums. This is a band that still has fun with its music and it shows.
The Promise are really rocking through on their latest effort “Human Fire”. Never has the band and the production been such tight, and sound so good. This Cd has what it takes to be one of the best recordings out of the U.K. last year. And with a great singer and band together, what more do you need to make this cd something worthwhile. Rock on mates!!!
I was unexpectedly fascinated by this album, to which I had a listen without any expectations. First of all, the first-rate melodies, the beautiful harmony, and the ensemble with a feel of speed! Although they feature two lead guitarists, the vocals are delicate and thus their music does not sound loud and the modest keyboards add a feel of spaciousness. Their music could be defined as “American melodic rock which was stubbornly preserved for more than ten years in Scotland and sublimated.” But the very British feel of shadiness touches your heart. This album contains a wide variety of songs: Tracks 1 and 2 which are hard and catchy enough for good openers; Track 4 with a refreshing feel; Track 5 which rocks spiritedly; Track 8 with a shady and atmospheric feel; Track 9 which is most likely to make the whole audience get up on their feet; Track 10 with a dramatic, prog feel…. so, you cannot stop listening till the end. Moreover, every track is coloured with exciting guitar works. Steeping myself in happiness of having found a secret treasure, I cannot help wishing the band wider recognition with this second album of theirs.
Yuki Wada, Kanagawa Prefecture
Raging Heart (UK)
Now then, now then, here’s the deal – you read (or should have) last time’s studio report, and my initial reactions on this CD whilst still in the mixing stage. Thusly, you’ll know just how very cool this album is already, and shouldn’t actually need this post mortem on the finished product, but here goes anyroad.The CD opens with cicadas (crickets) and a hint of exotic instrumentation, then the infectious riffology of “Let’s Talk About Love” tears your speaker cloth early, and it’s obvious that this band are quality. You can smell it like the leather of a new jacket.. Ian Benzie’s vocals are so polished you could shave in them! “Kiss Me & Kill Me” follows with an almost Nightrangerish geetar sound that’s a pleasure to hear courtesy of Gareth & Nods. Oh yeah, and a chorus you’ll still be singing next year. “Hold On To Love” is the ‘two’ part of ‘the old one two’ and whilst you’re reeling from the impact, there’s “There Goes My Heart” which, played on a big enough PA, could glean tears from Mount Rushmore. “When Love Takes a Hand” is up next, and apart from the increased axe histrionics, you’d be forgiven for thinking this was Survivor, in terms of the feel and quality of the thing. Next is “Hole in My Heart” which is a slight oddity – a massively powerful Y & T like riff leading into a Tygers Of Pan Tang ish frontice piece, before the chorus with its unfamiliar vocal signature – odd but damn good! “Let The Night Go On Forever” is practically West Coast in approach, but the guitar is complete with balls of steel, and five years ago, this would have kept many a Canadian balladeer off the top spot! “Only A Woman” is hot on its tail, with a great spangly keyboard sound and a hook made from melted down battleships, leaving the weighty “Looking Glass” to haul to through summer rock territory (with an added slice of guitar, natch!) The practically epic “Arms Of A Stranger” (no, not that one, the one with the Jovi keyboard line), is left till the end to consolidate everything the CD is about, HUGE being the operative word.
The Promise have been a very well kept secret. Now, the cat is outta the bag, and its bigger than the Beast of Bodmin on steroids. This band are going to destroy their doubters at The Gods ’99. Be there and witness the event for yourself. Massive.
Young Guitar (Japan)
These days, hard-pop albums of the past are being reissued as CDs one after another. But this is a NEW album. This one, filled with melodic hard rock tunes, follows their debut album “The Promise,” released in 1995. Its simple sound production hallucinates you to think they are from the 80’s. The lyricism produced by the twin guitars and the feel of transparency (or clearness) created by the keyboards are very impressive. Their melody structure featuring the vocals has no unnecessary parts. Like albums of such bands as Thin Lizzy, which I heard had influenced them, their latest album has a wide variety of songs. Recommended especially to those who like Ark Angel or Sugar Creek.
The second album of a Scottish five-piece band after four years’ silence. Cheerful and lively, but their “damp” rock music is their strongest appeal. The keyboard player supports their pop (or catchy) side with brilliant arrangements, but no matter how they try to play pop, they cannot be pop enough, probably because they are British. Those who admires British hard rock, especially such
bands as early SHY, will feel relieved with this album. Usually this kind of music does not move me; some of the tracks, however, did fascinate me. Melodic rock tune “Kiss Me and Kill Me” is a masterpiece. Their music is no heavy or no metallic, but its quality is very high.
78/100 Taka Okuno
Thanks to Yuki Wada for the translation of the above Japanese reviews
Let me first state that I never heard this band before. I do know that they are from Scotland but thats all…First time listening to the album I was a little bit disappointed. I thought that there was no really strong songs, even though the “style” was right. I also thought that singer Ian Benzie had a weak voice that felt too strained most of the time. Well, as usual albums that don’t come across as classics first time tends to sneak up on you, this one certainly did. My sincere apologize to the band, there are several top songs and the vocals… well, I can’t think of anyone that would have done a better job. I confess to have mistaken the personality of the band for lack of talent… That’s why I refuse to review and publish anything too soon.
So, what about it then? The overall sound of the album is tight and heavy. A lot of great guitar riffs and strong melodies. I don’t know how to explain this, but in my mind there is no way that The Promise could be anything but British. As I said, I can’t put my finger on the reason and to be honest I don’t care. But the most obvious traces are found in “When Love Takes A Hand”. A track that might be described as Deep Purple (“Perfect Strangers” era) goes AOR. Absolutely amazing track! I like the more up tempo songs the best but that might be a “moody” thing… I do love “Only A Woman” too. Tracks like “Let’s talk About Love” and “Kiss Me And Kill Me” really makes things rock! I’ve seen reviewers that have compared this band with several others but to me they’re more a band that have taken the best pieces from the british music inheritance and worked it into their own formula.
To sum things up I would like to say that this is a great album, filled with personality. Not so eager to please first time listeners but we all know that it’s the 100th listening time that counts. An essential album for everyone that like British AOR.
85/100 – Thomas Persson
Silk & Steel (Germany)
The PROMISE return after a number of line up changes from their debut release and deliver a more AOR orientated release. This can be seen on the opening track called ‘ Lets Talk about Love’ . Very much an improved style to their debut. ‘ Kiss me and Kill me ‘ is another great track very much in the vein of FM/STRANGEWAYS. This likeness can be heard on tracks like ‘Hold onto Love’ and the beautiful ballad ‘There Goes My Heart ‘, with the vocal work of IAN BENZIE being a standout on both the tracks. The guitar work is also quite impressive( Gareth Davies & Nods Graham) especially on tracks like ‘When love takes a hand ‘ and ‘Hole in my Heart’. More quality tracks follow including ‘ Let The Night go On Forever ‘ & the riff-o-rama ‘Looking Glass’. ‘Arms of a Stranger ‘ finishes off the Cd, being a bit of an epic track clocking in at just under 9 minutes, but still very listenable.
Overall, this a very good melodic hard rock CD. The PROMISE have developed into an excellent outfit. No one overshadowing the other in terms of musicianship. ‘Human Fire’ is a fine Aor (with the very slight prog influences) release. Production is also of very high standards. Great work guys !
85 % – Richie Galas
(Review by Verdict : highly recommended to fans of FM / Strangeways
THE PROMISE have finally released their long-awaited follow-up to their fantastic debut a few years ago. And to be honest is worth to wait such a long time, because the second album of these Scottish AORsters is a great album which should take the band to higher places. Like the band told me in an interview we had a few issues back in our magazine, the album would consist of some heavier melodic rockers, some pure AOR songs with lots of keys and a few pure AOR ballads. And indeed we can hear all sorts of songs like these. There are 10 tracks on the CD, which was produced by guitarist Gareth Davies and Niall Mathewson. Mark Ashton from NOW&THEN/FRONTIERS Records was the executive producer. The CD starts with the uptempo melodic rocker “Let’s talk about love”, which has a very catchy excellent AOR chorus. Next song “Kiss me and kill me” is a fantastic uptempo classic AOR rocker with a killer AOR chorus that won’t get out of your head after you heard it once. The chorus reminds me a little of the MARK FREE song “Dyin’ for your love”.
Next up is “Hold on to love”, a superb classic 80s AOR/Radiorocker that sounds like a mix between early FM, early SHY and some SURVIVOR thrown in for good measure. Really a song to die for, just listen to those piano-keys, they are just perfect and this is what pure AOR is all about. Following song is the pure AOR ballad “There goes my heart”, a lovely song to dream away.
The beginning of the song “When love takes a hand” has a rhythm like SURVIVOR (circa ‘Eye of the tiger’), during the chorus though it is more tough AOR/Melodic Rock which still is really great. Then we get to hear the first average sounding song on the CD, namely “Hole in my heart”, this is heavier Melodic Rock with no special feelings.
Things slow down with the following two songs. First there is “Let the night go on forever”, a calmer late-night AOR ballad like FRANKE & THE KNOCKOUTS, TOTO, DAKOTA and THE AUTOMATIX. Some lovely 80s AOR keys can be heard in this song, while the chorus and song itself is very relaxing.
More of the great 80s AOR keys can be heard in the following fantastic track “Only a woman”. This song is also quite relaxing, but a bit more uptempo AOR ballad in a way bands like JOURNEY and STRANGEWAYS played them in the 80s. To put it in other words, this is another pure AOR track of the Scottish AORsters.
Then we get to hear the second average track on this CD, which is “Looking glass”, but the closing track “Arms of a stranger” makes this CD complete. This song takes you really into 80s AOR at the start with the classic AOR keyboard/guitar interlude a la AVIATOR and AIRRACE, while the rest of the song is just great uptempo AOR. This final track has a playing time of almost 9 minutes, which is quite out of the ordinary for an AOR song.
With this new album, THE PROMISE is up there with FM, SHY, AIRRACE, STRANGEWAYS. The band has a pure AOR sound at times, including everything that made this genre so popular. There are catchy AOR melodies, hooklines, choruses and harmonyvocals, basically everything that a pure AOR band needs to have and THE PROMISE has it all on this new album. Concluded there is only one thing to say about this fantastic album. It’s a must to have for the AOR fans!
Majestic Magazine (Holland)
Frontiers/Now & Then is really busy to show us that they still have the best nose for great talent in the
AOR/Melodic Rock biz. Johnny Lima, Terra Nova and The Promise all released in the same month… Hattrick! It’s been four years since the first album by The Promise was released and to be honest, I’ve never heard it. But I will go looking for it, ’cause if it has the same quality as Human Fire it’s a necessary purchase.
The album is full of great melodic monsters like for example Boulevard used to do. I name that band in particular because it’s odd how much Ian Benzie’s voice sounds like that of David Forbes – lead singer in Boulevard – at times. And hearing the ballads one could swear this really is the new Boulevard. The more uptempo songs have their own identity though. The album starts off with two of those. Let’s Talk About Love is a great opener. Fastpaced, with wailing guitars and big drums – it’s the kind of tune I like to hear an album start with. Kiss Me And Kill Me is even better. A little slower but with great hooks. I can’t get enough of this song and especially the climax at the end almost blows my mind… But before that happens Hold On To Love comes by. This is one of the songs I already told you about. The resemblance with the Boulevard stuff is remarkable which can also be said of There Goes My Heart. Listen to the last note Ian Benzie does here. It’s beautiful! But only mentioning the leadsinger/bass player would do wrong to the other bandmembers. Especially during the faster, heavier songs we can enjoy the talents of both the lead guitarists (Gareth Davies and Nods Graham) and the drummer (Colin Fraser) while Steve Craig fills every hole with his keys.
The album just goes on and on at the same level, except for the not so good Hole In My Heart, which I personally see as nothing more than a filler,considered the quality of the rest of the album. Fortunately it sticks to that one song. The last four are really fantastic with Only A Woman being one of my favorites. Usually one bad song is good for the loss of one M. But due to the very high level of the other songs the damage is reduced to only a half one. Please, don’t let us wait another four years for the next album…
MMMMҐ – Fred Monster
Hard Roxx UK, Issue No 42, May 1999
Four years in the making, a time span that would destroy most bands, luckily for The Promise they’ve had the full support of their record label during that time and full credit must go to Now and Then for allowing them to do that.If you liked the debut but thought that vocalist Ian Benzie was a little on the monotonous side, this album should come as a bit of a shock because alongside the guitar playing the vocals are one of this album’s strongest points and Ian Benzie has put 110% effort into his performance on this album.
‘Let’s Talk About Love’ opens the album in fine style with its atmospheric intro that leads into a storming keyboard and guitar riff coupled with an instantly memorable chorus, making this one of the album’s stand out tracks. Compared to the debut this has got a harder edge to it with songs like ‘Kiss Me and Kill Me’ and ‘When Love Takes a Hand’ proving the point with the latter having an almost orchestral feel to it in places.
‘Hold On To Love’ has some great vocal harmonies and a poppy feel to it, while ‘There Goes My Heart’ is a sentimental style ballad. ‘Let The Night Go On Forever’ features lush harmonies and prog style guitar with a superb solo from Nods Graham, that leads nicely into ‘Only A Woman’ with its Journeyesque intro, and its songs like that prove how much this band have improved since their debut.
Saving the best till last The Promise unleash the 8 minute epic that is ‘Arms Of A Stranger’ which has a moody intro – a bit like ‘Private Investigation’ – before a scything riff and keyboards cut in, giving the song an almost pomp feel. Nods Graham puts in some of his best guitar work; from the classical guitar mid section to the stunning solos that litter this song he doesn’t get any better than this.
There are a couple of throwaway songs on the album in the shape of ‘Looking Glass’ and ‘Hole in My Heart’ but compared to the other 8 excellent songs on this album that’s only a minor hiccup as this album is by far The Promise’s finest hour.
8/10 Rob Evans
Raging Heart Issue 4, January/February 1999
The first track to fly from the speakers is “When Love Takes A Hand”, and the first thing that becomes instantly obvious is the greater depth and increase in overall power from the slightly laid back debut. The sound is now much fuller, with rich layers of guitar and keyboard throughout, accompanying a glittering vein of vocal gold. In fact it is in the guitar and vocal department that such enormous progress, sonically has been made; although drums are crisp and hard, and bass is thunderous (natch!), the keyboards are cool in their newly understated role, coming to the fore in later tracks. This track is full frontal, ‘shield wall’ attack, the song itself akin to a Tommy Shaw composition with added fire – the last word in my note pad about this ditty is “storming”!
Next song up is “Only A Woman” with its cloak of keyboard intro (almost Giuffria-esque) settling nicely to a substantial classy AOR groove. For those aged ones amongst us, the song structure is reminiscent of the Phenomena material, and is balladic with clean, fluid guitar lines, infused with power. The solo is a killer, as indeed is the end piece that sews together a huge guitar break with pumping rhythm section and serious vocal histrionics. Oh Yes!”Kiss Me And Kill Me” is next, with a hefty groove driven crunch that is fairly heavy, but never loses the melodic impetus. The hook is instantly memorable, and the chorus is nothing short of massive. Guitar work is of the scorching, heavy weight type, much favoured by Y&T and sounds almost Nightranger-ish in places. Add a few Jovi approved “Whoa, whoa’s” and what we are left with is a dance floor favourite in the making
A piano and strings intro washes into “Hold On To Love”, giving way to drums and a guitar with wings! This song is definitely an explorer into Survivor country, with a chorus bigger than the Statue of Liberty, and the potential to collapse dance floors worldwide! The vocals and backing vocals are definitely heaven sent, and the guitar is their messenger! Marvellous!
The last of the finished tracks begins with ciccadas (those cricket things in cowboy films – the ‘cheep cheep’ noise at nights) and a surprisingly Metallica like, guitar grinding riff. This is hard and fast, with a big chorus, a heartbeat bassline, quick trip drums and more of that magic guitar work, again in the Y&T/Nightranger attack mode, but with more time changes, and a lengthy mid section instrumental work out, wickedly offsetting some fine guitar/keyboard interplay.
Breathless – oh yes, but well worth the ride. I was also played some of the other material, at time of visit unmixed, and was equally impressed with the calibre of the songs, but you’ll have to wait for the full CD review next time for that one. Buckle up people, The Promise have appeared in your rear view mirror and it’s gonna take some serious fuel to catch them this time. Another rave – why not? With material this good, I’d be doing you a great disservice not to. Marvellous.