The Berklee College Of Music has some pretty illustrious alumni flying the flag; John Mayer, Steve Vai, and Journey drummer Steve Smith, being just three of numerous musical greats that previously attended the prestigious place of learning in Boston. Scroll through the list of alumni on the official website, and you will find many more names from all genres of music that have graduated and gone on to make big splashes in their respective lakes. Berklee graduates, Flight Of Fire, might just be starting out on the long and bumpy road of the music business, but they are already off to a great start. Nominated for “Best in Americana/Folk/Acoustic” at this year’s Hollywood In Music Media Awards, the young quartet triumphed on the evening, and walked off with the award for ‘My Last Gamble’.
The track is lifted from the latest release ‘Path Of The Phoenix’, and while it may only be seven tracks in length, it sure as hell is the most varied thirty minutes I’ve heard in a long time. ‘Something for everyone’ is very much the order of the day, with ‘Path Of The Phoenix’. Classic metal? That would be ‘Ten Thousand Voices’, ‘One More Sip’ and ‘Daughters Of Venus’. Old school chugging guitars, galloping drums, machine gun bass, a hint of Dio here, a touch of Disturbed there… ‘epic’ in every sense of the word. The vocal harmonies are what help make Flight Of Fire stand out from the pack though, and the crisp production gives them an edge, as they soar around the listeners head. Lead vocalist Maverick (how come no-one ever wants to be Goose, eh?) possesses an almighty vocal range, equally at ease with the higher notes as she is with the more earthy lower end of the scale, as proven on ‘Rockstar Life’, which features some rather nifty vocals during the intro. Thankfully, Maverick doesn’t suffer from the same over-singing that blights so much music today. She carefully reigns in the vocal gymnastics (the kind that makes me want to stick sharpened pencils up my nose before slamming my face onto something hard every time Jessie J, for example, opens her mouth to sing). ‘Rockstar Life’ is much softer. It’s fun, catchy, and instantly gets the feet tapping. Job done.
Not just content with keeping the loud pedal floored, Flight Of Fire slow things down with ‘My Last Gamble’ and the spine-tingling ‘In Spite Of You’, two acoustically driven, but very different, moments. The former has a fantastic hand-clapping, foot-stomping vibe that gets better with each listen, while the latter is a stunning, personal moment which has Maverick raising her middle finger to everyone that put her down, similar in ethos to ‘Dear Daughter’ from Halestorm. Another name to throw into the hat would be that of Rush, early Rush especially. Some of the vocals towards the end of ‘One More Sip’ echo his lordship Geddy Lee (Lee fronting Iron Maiden though), as does parts of ‘Better Off Without You’. Some of the songs have complex changes in structure that come out of the left field. For instance, the aforementioned ‘Better Off Without You’ has a short drum solo that you would never have seen coming. It works though! Oodles and oodles of bass noodling from Tia Mayhem, combined with copious amounts of guitar fireworks from her identical twin Tanya Venom, help give the album an air of the unexpected. More than one occasion, I found myself going back to the start of a song to make sure that I heard a particular part correctly. Yep, that is a drum solo right there!
Eclectic, and hugely impressive, this is an album and a band defying pigeonholing.
‘Path Of The Phoenix’ is available now on Spotify, but you don’t want to do that. Head over to the official Flight Of Fire website, and get it direct from the band. Cut out the middle man, and deal with the organ grinder, not the monkey.
Review: Dave Stott