Take two two key members of the original Hardline, the guitarist from Italian melodic rock band Hungryheart and a bunch of strong chorus driven songs and you have a more than reasonable recipe for AOR success. Johnny Gioeli’s delivery can sometimes err on the side of being too bombastic, but in comparison to some of his peers, he still possesses a voice that holds up and when teamed with Hardline/Journey drummer Deen Castronovo, he sounds better than ever. It’s that sense of drive that gives this release most of its strength. After just one full listen, it’s obvious ‘Set The World On Fire’ has no real filler material; it’s dozen rockers so often play like a greatest hits of the best bits from the Frontiers Records catalogue from 2011-2016 and for that alone, so many AOR buffs will consider it an essential addition to their ever growing collections. It’s unlikely to be at all far reaching beyond those whom already consider themselves fans of the musicians involved, but in many ways, to expect more would be kind of beside the point. For what it does – at least in terms of songwriting and performance – this is a great record.
Back in the early 90s, the Gioeli Brothers (vocalist Johnny and guitarist Joey) attracted the attention of Journey guitarist Neal Schon. After drafting in Bad English drummer Deen Castronovo and forming Hardline, the band’s debut album ‘Double Eclipse’ was well received by the melodic rock community. It took a full decade until a follow up belatedly appeared and another eight years for the third Hardline album to materialise. You could say that Hardline make Metallica and Guns N’ Roses appear rather prolific. 2016’s ‘Human Nature’ – the band’s fifth studio album – reinstates guitarist Josh Ramos, absent for 2012 offering ‘Danger Zone’. This is something that will undoubtedly please fans, but it does mean that Hardline have featured a different line up on each release. There are some that have long thought that, in this repect, the band are basically Johnny Gioli and whomever he can find at the time of recording – and they’d probably be right – but if Johnny says it’s Hardline, then Hardline it is.
The record company office, sometime early 2014. Approximately 2:47pm, European time. A couple of hours of brainstorming for new ideas has reached a typical impasse. A man in his mid fifties with thinning hair paces up and down anxiously. Without anything fresh to put forth, he calls for assistance. Taking a phone from the pocket of his thirty year old stonewashed jeans, he pokes at the keypad.
“Is that Del Vecchio?” he asks, somewhat expectantly, “we need your help… Do you have any new songs? Bueno. Do you have connections to any European female vocalists we’ve not yet recorded? You do? Stupendo!”…
Since this debut record from Angelica Rylin pays homage to her childhood heroes Robin Beck and Ann Wilson, it’ll come as no surprise that the album, therefore, ploughs a well-worn furrow of melodic rock. With Frontiers Records regular Daniel Flores handling production duties/drums/song-writing and other regulars Alessandro Del Vecchio and Robert Sall also having a hand in proceedings, the whole thing feels like an all-chums-together affair. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, but obviously the combination of a familiar team and a rigid musical blueprint makes ‘Thrive’ feel wholly predictable. So, given that this album breaks absolutely no new musical ground whatsoever, why should you check out Angelica, when there is so much other rock music out there vying for your attention?