1/10/2015

Melodic/Hard Rock Review: Fair Warning-The Box

Release Date: June 24, 2014
Label: Steamhammer

Hard rock is the type of music genre that never goes out of style and good hard rock bands produce some great timeless music.  It is the kind of music that feels right no matter what year is it listened to and always sounds fresh.  Release a song now, twenty years ago, or twenty years from now and it is as hot as ever.

Fair Warning is the type of band that creates this kind of music.  Formed in Germany in 1991, they released their self-titled debut a year later and Rainmaker in 1995.  Their line-up consists of Tommy Heart (vocalist), Ule Ritgen (bass), Helge Engelke (guitar), Andy Malecek (guitar), and Jurgen “C.C.” Buhrens (drums).  The Boxis made up of their next four studio releases and a live album – 1997’s Go!, 2000’s Four, 2006’s Brother’s Keeper, 2009’s Aura, and 1998’s Live and More.  With over five hours of music, The Box will take care of all your hard rock needs.  

When it comes to the music of Fair Warning, one listen to “Angels of Heaven” is all that you will need to fall in love with their sound. It is one opener that soars, from the guitar to the vocals, and it is the type of song that sticks in the memory.  The sound is so large and filling that if you do not take a liking to this song, then I do not know what to tell you.  With lighter sound and stellar use of synthesizers, “Save Me” is a melodic rock gem.  It is the type of song that really hits its stride in the chorus and provides a great opportunity to sing along. Just roll up your car windows and belt it out.  “All On Your Own” is reminiscent of 80s hard rock ballads. 

If you are having a bad day or are feeling down, then “I’ll Be There” is just the song for the occasion.  The opening chords ooze with positive vibes. The music has a fun, festive sound with good energy and is nothing short of uplifting. Following it up is the haunting, “Man on the Moon.” “Without You” is a rocking love song that is very relatable, maybe too so for some. It does a great job of painting a picture of heartache and longing, and really dazzles with its guitar solo. “Somewhere” is another stirring melodic rock song in the same vein as “I’ll Be There.” “Sailing Home” is an amazing marriage of melodic and hard rock.  It rivals the opener in quality to make the two best songs on the album.  

Four, the 2000 follow-up to Go!, is a solid mix of old and new. It is consistent with the sound of their previous release, while injecting new blood in to keep things fresh and lively.  The opener, “Heart on the Run,” is a great example of this with its mesh of hard rock with a melodic sound, keeping things fresh. “Through the Fire” and “Forever” are catchy rock songs with a guitar parts that really shred.  With a slower tempo, “Tell Me I’m Wrong” is one ballad that has a great emotional resonance.  

“Dream” is certainly as pleasant sounding as a dream can be, with some wondrous guitar action and vocal harmonies.  “I Fight” is very enjoyable with its powerful vocals, sweet chords, and booming drums, not to mention the rip roaring guitar that completely steals the show.  It is a real gem on this album.  “Eyes of Love” is a typical melodic rock fare that does not stand out too much.  The catchiness of “Find My Way” along with its vocal harmonies and crisp guitars help to make for more of a memorable song than the previous, one that will leave a lasting impression.  “For the Young” really switches it up with its bagpipe opening.  The vocals are front and center, backed by military-esque drumming.  It brings this album to a close in style.

Brother’s Keeper is their first album after getting back together following their split in 2000.  There regrouping is marked by some differences in their sound in the six years since Four.  “Don’t Keep Me Waiting” comes out with more of an edge to it than their usual melodic sound.  The melodic element is still there, of course, but the sound here is definitely heavier. Channeling the Force, “Generation Jedi” has a nice crunchy groove to its sound in keeping with the heavier riffs. “All of My Love” is a love ballad that harkens back to the earlier albums.  I think that it slows down the pacing and disturbs the energy gathered by the first two songs.  

“Rainbow Eyes” and “Push Me On” do a lot to bring the rocking energy back to the album, as vocals and music soar alike.  “Wasted Time” is a little too vanilla for my tastes.  “The Cry” and “The Way” are both pretty good songs that mix up the old melodic/hard sound with a new found edginess.  “Tell Me Lies” is loud, fast, and has a nice kick to it to get the juices going.  “In the Dark” is the song the really shows off the edgier, and more hard rock oriented sound on this album.  I think they should have went all out and made a completely hard and heavy album for it to be better and stand out more in their discography. 

2009’s Aura is their second album since regrouping and comes out rocking with “Fighting For Your Love.”  It is a nice throw back to their late 90s sound.  “Here Comes The Heartache” is quintessential Fair Warning, soaring vocals, great riffs, and cool harmonies.  Despite being a love song, “Hey Girl” is able to keep a good rock vibe by slowing building up the sound from soft to hard rock.  

After a few lackluster songs, “Walking on Smiles” injects some life into this album with its fun atmosphere, positive vibes, and vibrant lyrical imagery, and kicks off a good run of songs that strengthen the latter part of the album such as “It Takes More” and “As Snow White Found Out” with sweet melodies and choruses.   “Station to Station” is a real standout thanks to its memorable baseline.  “Falling Reprise” is a nice and peaceful send-off.

The Boxwould not be complete without their 1998 live album, Live and More.  It features a healthy sampling of songs from their first three albums, Fair Warning, Rainmaker, and Go!. The songs “Angels of Heaven,” “I’ll Be There,” “Man on the Moon,” and “Follow My Heart” represent the Go! era.  They all sound very good compared to the album versions with an almost studio quality in sound. “Don’t Give Up,”, “Desert Song,” “Get A Little Closer,” “Stars and the Moon,” and “Guitar Solo/Burning Heart” give a good overview of Rainmaker, showing off their early 90s sound. There is some really fine album-oriented melodic rock in these songs, and the guitar in “Burning Heart” is just killer. If one thing is clear from Live and More, it is that these guys really know how to put on a show!

If you are looking for a good deal, then Fair Warning’s The Box is the way to go.  With over five hours of quality hard rock that spans roughly two decades of music, it is a must have for fans of the genre.  This is also a chance to get to know a group that might have flown under your radar back then, because they are worth it.  

4.5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: Angels of Heaven, Sailing Home, For the Young, Don’t Keep Me Waiting, Here Comes The Heartache

Brian McKinnon

January 10, 2015

Review Provided By Write A Music Review

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