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Friday, March 25, 2011

The Soda Bar - 02 Thrill of the Feel - Sons of Angels (Crush 40) Review

A good deal of you have probably never heard of Crush 40. Crush 40 is a Japanese-American band, founded in the late 90's. The guitarist, Jun Senoue, started the band, collaborating with Hardline vocalist Johnny Gioeli. Crush 40 isn't very public. They have never sold any songs on iTunes, there's no billboard charts at all, barely mentioned by critics in their career, if not ever. However: the band did earn popularity by collaborating music for the Sonic the Hedgehog games, in particular the Sonic Adventure series. Next thing you know, the fans for Crush 40 grew, and was on to Crush 40 like a blood-starved leech. And, after the fan base grew, Crush 40, along with vocalist Johnny Gioeli's other bands Axel Rudi Pell and Hardline, would all soon became underground smash hits. To this day, The Best of Crush 40: Super Sonic Songs (collaboration album), became one of the biggest underground albums.

Slowly but steadily, this debut album would become the band's biggest breakthrough. This album is what earned their popularity amongst fans and underground music. This album helped earn a newfound respect for hard rock, where said genre was slowly being replaced by grunge, metal, and alternative (not to mention glam and pop). Thrill of the Feel was a devoted, all-or-nothing, to-the-core hard rock album that bands like The Scorpions, Led Zeppelin, and Rush made popular.

Now, for those who have a copy of this (and I'm sure many fans do), you'll be very confused by the cover saying 'Sons of Angels'. That was the original name for the band before a band of the same name (they had abandoned the name in previous years) took back their title, forcing them to change it to Crush 40 (note: named after Jun's favorite soda, I think). And it's a magnificent album, to the heart.

What's amazing about Thrill of the Feel is when they just go with it. Johnny Gioeli's voice is breathtaking, in every sense of the word. He sings with a mature, exceedingly crisp voice that is up to the standards up to Thom Yorke of Radiohead, or Klaus Meine of The Scorpions. Senoue is an excellent guitarist, and it shows. The guitar riffs in Thrill of the Feel, and the solo, are some of the greatest of all time. Senoue not only plays good, he plays with heart. You can tell when they're at their best. The two band members, not to mention the less spoken-of drummer Hirotsugu Homma and bassist Naoto Shibata, are truly devoted to their work.

Another good thing about this selection is its wide variety of riffs, melodies, change of tune, and tone of voice. From the hard-riffing, progressively fast beat of "Dangerous Ground", the epic sound effects and fist pumping riff in "Open Your Heart", and the almost acoustic, peaceful melody in "Watch Me Fly", there is rarely a repeated strategy used to the songs. And the instrumentals are amazing, showcasing some awesome work from Senoue himself. And Thrill of the Feel was what really kicked it off for the band. This attracted fans like a blood-starved leech once they knew about them. Tracks like "Open Your Heart", "All The Way", and the mini-epic "Open Your Heart" are constantly mixed by popular artists and the most-asked for at various concerts and tours. (Though their last show was cancelled by the Japanese disasters, but Jun's family is fine!)

Most fans also know Crush 40 by their second self-titled album, but comparing this to Crush 40 is like comparing apples to oranges. The track listing on the albums are nearly identical, but Crush 40 was more public than Thrill of the Feel (maybe it was due to the possibility that Thrill of the Feel was self-released, and Crush 40 wasn't?). The only differences are an extended intro to "Dangerous Ground", that for some reason wasn't included on the Crush 40 album, and the instrumentals are gone from their self-titled album, but replaced with two-three new tracks. So don't expect different music or mixes on the albums.

A couple of problems are still evident with the album. For starters, the bass is virutally nonexistent. Shibata's potential felt more dominated in this album by Senoue's awesome, but overpowering guitar work. The instrumentals are also far too short and not perfect by any means. The guitar and vocal work is great, but the drum work feels very thin, but this could be due to the below-average production on this album.

Thrill of the Feel is an excellent album. A superbly crafted, unique, digitally intelligent album. Sure, it's flawed, but the numerous good aspects of Thrill of the Feel totally dominate the confusing, bad aspects. (My problem's the bass, but that's another story...) It's a fantastic debut from a band that may not have Rolling Stone put them on the front page, but they've still got the underground fans to look after, don't they? 4.5 / 5, Highly Recommended

Recommended Tracks

It is hard to pick a favorite track, but I'd have to say either Open Your Heart or All The Way helps define the album more. Otherwise, the order is good.

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