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Now here is an interesting band which has made a re-emergence, like a boxer coming out of retirement after years away from the ring. Journeyman vocalist, Rob Rock, who’s known as “The voice of melodic metal” and has been in such bands as Axel Rudi Pell and Impellitteri, and most recently churning out a few solo releases; created Driver back in 1989 with guitarist Roy Z. Ramirez. Roy Z has also been quite a journeyman, and has been in a few bands over the years, such as Bruce Dickinson and Halford.
Back in 1990, Driver were noted to be one of the top local acts in Los Angeles; and released a 's/t' demo tape featuring 5 tracks. Despite their success locally and abroad, no major record label would sign them due to the sudden rise of the grunge rock scene that had begun to dominate the music world. As a result, Driver was put on the shelf and the band members went their own way.
Crossing paths over the years since then, Rob Rock and Roy Z decided to reform Driver in 2008 and finally release their debut CD, almost 20 years since originally forming the band. Bringing back original drummer, Reynold "Butch" Carlson, the band has been rounded out with bassist Aaron Samson and keyboardist Ed Roth. The end result is Driver’s debut release, called ‘Sons of thunder’.
Anyone who knows Rob Rock’s music style would know that ‘Sons of thunder’ is classic melodic hard rock straight out of the late 80s. Nothing new, nothing ground-breaking, but when it is melodic hard rock it never really is. The 5 tracks on Driver’s original demo tape have all been re-vamped and re-recorded and put onto this release; keeping much of its originality intact. Being nostalgic, even the newest tracks on the CD have that “slow volume fade out” that we all remember was the known thing back in the 80s.
‘Sons of thunder’ contains 11 tracks plus an intro, which clocks in at around 44 minutes. This is both a tad disappointing but also expected with the type of music we are dealing with. As always, Rob Rock sings perfectly on this release, his emotional and melodic voice laying out each track and driving it home; almost making you feel you really are back in the late 80s. Musically, it is exactly what you’d expect from an 80s classic melodic hard rock band. Cheeky riffs with a groove feel, mid-length wailing solos and a steady rhythm section that glues it all together. The addition of the keyboards works well here as it adds a bit of depth and emotion, especially to the original tracks that were given a makeover ("Heart’s on fire", "Only love can save me now", "Fly away", "I believe in love" and "Warrior"; now known as "I'm a warrior").
The 4 tracks which I feel stand out on ‘Sons of thunder’ are “Never give up”, “Tears that I cry”, “I'm a warrior” and “Heart’s on fire”. The 6 new tracks were all written in mind to accompany the original 5 that were re-worked for this CD. That being said, the new 6 sound just like they were meant to if they had been in fact written for the original demo tape back in 1990.
Now that Rob Rock and Roy Z have come back to an unfinished project and finally completed it after nearly 20 years, it must give them some form of satisfaction. However, I found Driver’s long-awaited debut to be typically normal of what melodic hard rock is meant to be. Yes, there are some top tracks and great passages musically, such as riffs and solos, but overall it seems to go just by the numbers. Fans of Rob Rock should feel right at home with Driver as it is much of the same as his other projects over the years. For fans of melodic hard rock/metal, this should also give you some level of satisfaction.
Originally reviewed for www.metalcdratings.com