BRIDGER – Bridger

Bridger is a melodic hard rock band which brings together musicians from two different camps. Guitarist Glen Bridger and bassist Greg Manahan are both known for their involvement with the latter-day line-up of classic rock band Head East (though in a live setting only, since as a recording unit the band has been inactive since 1988), while vocalist Terry Ilous is somewhat of a cult figure in melodic rock circles, having worked with XYZ. Given the people involved, this outing by Bridger could have been great. However, after only a few songs have passed, it seems to be one of those albums which feels like it’s dragged on forever. Even the once brilliant Terry Ilous sounds like he’s going through the motions, often only putting in a fraction of the effort he put into his early XYZ performances.

After four numbers of woefully predictable hard rock, things improve somewhat with the country rock influenced ‘Without a Sound’, which is better arranged than anything else on offer here. The guitars are more subdued, a piano fleshes out the sound rather nicely and ample space is given to a friendly steel guitar part played by guest musician Mark Murtha [best known to AOR fans as the guiitarist for London Drive, an oft forgotten band who released one album via BPM Records back in the mid-90s]. Terry Ilous’s vocals are slightly improved here too, but soon enough, everything reverts to being rather flat once the band launches into ‘I’m Free’, a track which makes them sound like a poor imitation of Blessid Union of Souls.

‘Gonna Get Better’ is the album’s punchiest track, with Ilous turning in a vocal which has a nasty sneer, but he’s still very much under par. In the hands of a more interesting band the amount of riffing and half-decent guitar solo could have provided a golden moment, but Bridger sound hopelessly uninspired. The harder riffing also shows up the less-than-perfect production values too. The strings and piano ballad ‘Once In A Lifetime’ shows a completely different, much softer side of the band, with Ilous’s curly vocal hitting the mark surprisingly consistently. The piano playing is decent enough, though not really in the big leagues with Journey’s Jonathan Cain, but Glen Bridger’s acoustic guitar flourishes are more than commendable. Given that it’s one of the tracks which raises the bar a little in terms of arrangement, it’s a shame the song is still pedestrian and unimaginative.

Closing the disc is something which you’ll probably never want to hear more than once. In tribute to the legendary Ronnie James Dio, the band soldier their way bravely through a cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Heaven & Hell’. On the plus side, it’s here Terry Ilous sounds the most like he did back in the day, but nothing else deserves any credit, especially not the slightly grating drum loops used throughout…

Who’d have thought an album featuring Terry Ilous could be so underwhelming? There’s rarely anything which truly lights a fire in the way you’d hope. Fact is, though, at least 70% of this album is dull. The songs are often so by-numbers they’re almost instantly forgettable, the production is middling and even Ilous’s voice lacks most of the power it once had. They say you should never judge a book by its cover but Bridger – both the band and album – is as uninspired as its “three minutes with a photograph and software” packaging – for which, let’s hope no professional designers got paid. Those who are very easily pleased may find something of worth here, but truthfully, ‘Bridger’ is just another melodic rock album to add to the already landfill’s worth of melodic rock albums which are destined to be forgotten.

August 2011