The somewhat odd coupling of an album’s overarching, apocalyptic theme and the 1980s-tinted, feel-good hard rock wasn’t exactly an option on my bingo card predicting the stylistic modus operandi on the new album by JASON BIELER & THE BARON VON BIELSKI ORCHESTRA, to be released on January 22nd, 2021, via the prestigious Italian hard rock label Frontiers Music s.r.l. The album title, ”Songs For The Apocalypse,” didn’t exactly prepare me for what was to come. A title like that calls for some brutal and desolate deathcore or, at least, thoroughly melancholic post-rock with intense emotional crescendos, right?
This studio outing is the second solo album of Jason Bieler, who is probably most famous for having played in the ranks of the American glam metal outfit SAIGON KICK. Okay, there is no escaping the fact that his name didn’t ring a bell at first. The band’s 1992 hit ”Love Is On the Way” is probably to blame. Whenever the hard rock ballad started airing in a rock club back in the day, I was on the way out. Although, in retrospect, I have to give the song and the band some credit for those awesome vocal harmonies. Bieler‘s sophomore solo effort carries that particular legacy quite magnificently – ”Songs For The Apocalypse” is abound with vocal layers that resonate with just the right ”Pet Sounds”-era THE BEACH BOYS vibes. Throw in a good pinch of the best practices of vintage hard rock, a hint of proggy flavors, and a bit of rock’n’roll cabaret – and there you have it: ”Songs For The Apocalypse.” There is no particular need to write overly gloomy and dark songs about the end of days, is there? It might be a little bit late to jump on the ”Fin de siècle” bandwagon, besides – ”laissez-faire, devil may care” attitude works better than world-weariness and fashionable despair, at least when you decorate it with some class-A hard-rock toppings.
The instrumental intro track, ”Never Ending Cycle” guides us to Bieler‘s hard-rock realms with cinematic soundscapes that evolve slowly and nicely, resonating with a somewhat similar vibe to some of those vintage QUEENSRŸCHE songs. In fact, the drumming on the next track, entitled ”Apology,” is provided by the QUEENSRŸCHE vocalist Todd LaTorre. The song, however, nods a bit more deeply towards EXTREME with its cool pop hooks and tight guitar riffs. Oh, EXTREME bassist Pat Badger features, in turn, on the tracks ”Stones Will Fly” and ”My Only Hope,” on which he undoubtedly feels at home. In fact, the album credits read like a hard-rock/metal family meeting. The album features A-list musicians such as Dave Ellefson (MEGADETH), Devin Townsend, Butch Walker (ex-MARVELOUS 3), Bumblefoot (SONS OF APOLLO), Clint Lowery (SEVENDUST), Benji Webbe (SKINDRED), and Kyle Sanders (HELLYEAH). With a little help from a bunch of musician friends like these, it’s no wonder that the album delivers; it is consistently brilliant from start to finish. Still, a few tracks stand out for being particularly awesome.
”Bring Out Your Dead” steamrolls forward not only with the aid of a killer guitar riff but with a genuine singalong chorus, proving to be every inch the true heir to those massive 1980s hard-rock anthems. Bieler steps onto the home turf of BON JOVI and scores beautifully. ”Annalise” is probably my favorite track on the album for its eerily haunting drive provided by those relentless guitar arpeggios. Actually, the following track, ”Down In A Hole” keeps up the momentum quite nicely – so, who am I kidding? The album is simply pure gold with no tracks to skip. Even the slightly absurd, instrumental interlude, ”Horror Wobbles The Hippo” sounds cool with its jazzy twists and turns. The additional guitar doodlings and ominous soundscapes are provided by guitarist Emil Werstler. Then, being a long-time fan of SKINDRED‘s crossover craziness, I cannot help but fall in love with the album track, ”Beyond Hope,” which features Webbe‘s trademark ragga-metal vocals. With each new listen, I find new things to like about the album: prestige riffs, vocal hooks, and proggy U-turns in the best DREAM THEATER fashion.
”Songs For The Apocalypse” is a fine collection of hard-rock flamboyance, tales of fantasy and imagination not told in plain language but adorned with every kind of extravagant embellishment and sonic curliance – a fine soundtrack for the end of days, that is.
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Never Ending Circle
- Bring Out Your Dead
- Stones Will Fly
- Down In A Hole
- Anthem For Losers
- Horror Wobbles The Hippo
- Beyond Hope
- Crab Claw Dan
- Born Of The Sun
- Baby Driver
- Alone In The World
- Very Fine People
All instruments and vocals by Jason Bieler
Frontiers Music s.r.l.
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