Picture if you will a custard cream biscuit. Now the custard cream is an excellent biscuit and I challenge anyone to argue against that. It does everything a biscuit should do: it’s small enough to fit into a cup of a tea, its thick enough to be dunked a few times and it has those lovely little holes on the top which serve no real purpose but do look nice. Imagine now that the custard cream has only got one biscuit layer and the sweet ‘custard cream’ filling – that’s right, your worst fears have come true and the top layer of biscuit has been removed. Well, put simply it’s not right is it?
And that, dear reader is the crux of my review for the album released by WallnerVain – something isn’t right. Originally only available via the official website the album was self-titled. Now upon general release it’s called ‘Rising’. So for those of you that are wondering who WallnerVain actually are, I shall explain…
Will Wallner and Vivien Vain both hail from Europe originally, with Wallner calling England home and Vain hailing from an island off the coast of Croatia. The music gods duly brought them together and so they started writing material together. Apparently they wanted to ‘ignore current trends and write hard rock songs which they could be proud of.’ A noble intention I think you’ll agree. Eventually, through their gigging around LA, they met the Appice brothers (Carmine has appeared with Vanilla Fudge and Ted Nugent notably and Vinny with Dio and Black Sabbath) and the brothers agreed to appear on the debut album. This extended to other guest musician and the album features such names as Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Billy Idol, Ozzy Osbourne), Rudy Sarzo (Quiet Riot, Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake), Tony Franklin (Roy Harper, Jimmy Page, Tony MacAlpine), Jimmy Bain (Rainbow, Dio), Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Black Country Communion, Alice Cooper, Kiss) and Tony Carey (Rainbow). So whilst the names of these guests might not be very familiar there is a fair amount of Rock royalty band wise there.
The album is a 9 track release (with two tracks just being short musical interludes) with Wallner playing guitar and Vain handling the vocal duties. And here we come to the issue (deep breath), the vocals just do not match the quality of the musicianship on display here. Make no bones about it, as a hard rock album there is some utterly fantastic displays of guitar playing and drumming on here. This should come as no surprise when you review just who some of these guest musicians have played with – you don’t get to play with Dio, the Sabbath, Rainbow, Kiss or Ozzy if you can’t handle your licks (OK, well maybe I lied about Kiss). There isn’t a track on here that doesn’t display everything that is good about Rock n Roll music – powerful guitars, solid drumming and toe tapping rhythm. However…
Vocally, Vain just isn’t suited to singing over such powerful tracks as these are. Cue much snarling and teeth grinding from the female musicians out there at this slur but anyone who reads my articles (hi mum) will know that I have reviewed a number of female fronted bands and always offered an honest opinion on them as vocalist first and foremost. Vain sings in a high octave but not with the same power as one needs to really make an impression on these songs. When the vocal pitch changes to a more ‘normal speaking tone’, it lacks passion and force. Name any rock band you care to mentioned – pick any number of the aforementioned ones – and one of the things that strikes you is just how well the lead singer holds their own against the music. Often it is the case that the singer and lead guitarist battle for recognition, for the lime light, with their performances. Page and Plant, Stanley and Frehley, Rose and Slash – the list goes on. On this album though Wallner destroys Vain with his guitar playing and really, it’s the only thing you remember once the album finishes.
It’s a good hard rock album and certainly, blasting out of the stereo you will find yourself head banging along and playing air guitar in no time. I just don’t think you’ll find anyone pretending to be the singer. …and that, like a custard cream with no top, just isn’t right….
Words: Brian McKay