Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Fighting The System With a JADED HEART

German melodic hard rock outfit Jaded Heart has been around for 25 years and during that time transformed from a pure AOR/MHR combo to a melodic metal band and has in the process gone through numerous member changes. Remaining from the original line up is only bass player Michael Müller. Today Jaded Heart is a German/Swedish joint venture but let´s first take the time machine to around 1990 and the Berlin Wall had just fallen. Jaded Heart was founded in Duisburg, Germany by brothers Michael Bormann (Redrum, ex-Bonfire, ex-Letter X, Zeno, Silent Force among others) and Dirk Bormann. Both of them had previously played together in high school band High Voltage which evolved into T.A.X. and then evolved into the seed for Jaded Heart. The year after the brothers were joined by Michael Müller on bass (ex-The Sygnet) and ex-Mad Max drummer Axel Kruse. Michael had also made a name for himself on German TV with a cover of Bon Jovi's "Dead or Alive" (Watch it on youtube!).

Jaded Heart started out gigging, writing songs and searching for that elusive record contract. Michael Bormann left the band in 1993 to join Bonfire and even recorded an album with them that to this day remain unreleased but is heavily bootlegged. That did not last long though and in 1994 Bormann was back in Jaded Heart.  Now everything happened quickly and the debut album Inside Out was recorded and released in 1994. After that release, Chris Ivo joined the band on keyboards but Dirk Bormann left the band. Jaded Heart struggled on using guest guitarists (including Dirk) until they found Boris Kepic before recording IV in 1999. Michael Bormann later founded Charade with Bonfire guitarist Angel Schleifer and together they have released two albums with that band. Jaded Heart decided to strike it while it´s hot
The Michael Bormann fronted version of the band
Picture courtesy of heavyharmonies.com
and the second album Slaves and Masters saw the light in 1996 on which Alex Beyrodt (Sinner, Level 10) provided guitar along with Dirk Bormann. Both these albums received rave reviews and contained top class melodic hard rock in the vein of Bon Jovi and 80´s Europe with a strong commercial appeal. Unfortunately, the music climate at the time (both in Europe and North America) was not forgiving for this kind of melodic hard rock therefore hampering album sales. The musicianship was top notch, the songs as strong as ever with a modern production but it did not promote the band to stardom, unfortunately.

Jaded Heart struggled on and released the absolutely stunning albums Mystery Eyes (1997) and IV in 1999. In my opinion IV is still the strongest effort in the extensive back catalogue. I might be biased for this was also the album that made me discover the band in the first place.  In Europe, the music industry was finally showing a growing interest in traditional melodic hard rock and heavy metal once again with HammerFall paving the way for a whole new scene developing in the late 1990´s. The band lost a bit of pace with the average The Journey Will Never End in 2002 which contained a cover of "Larger Than Life" by the Backstreet Boys. Chis Ivo was replaced by Henning Wanner on keyboards before that album was recorded.  They hit back with the great Trust in 2004 before it was time for major changes in the Jaded Heart camp. Founding member and frontman Michael Bormann was subsequently fired by the band and in came Swedish lead vocalist Johan Fahlberg (ex-Scudiero, Denied, Radioactive). A new album with Fahlberg was issued in 2005 entitled Helluva Time.

With the change of frontman Jaded Heart also slowly became heavier and before releasing 2007's Sinister Mind Boris Kepic left the band and was replaced by Swedish guitarist Peter Östros further pushing the band in a heavier direction towards a sound similar to Pretty Maids. Still sticking to the hooks and melodies both these albums were an example of excellent European melodic metal. Johan Fahlberg has a different but great voice which kept the band on a high note despite the loss of the great Michael Bormann. With the excellent albums Perfect Insanity (2009) and Common Destiny (2012), Jaded Heart maintained their position as one of Europe's leading melodic hard rock bands. After releasing a DVD in 2013 where a show was filmed on their support slot for Axel Rudi Pell it´s now time for new full-length album Fight The System.

Fight The System:
The first thing we can note is that there has once again been major changes in the line-up of the band. Founding member and drummer Axel Kruse has left the band to concentrate on the reunited Mad Max and has been replaced by Bodo Sticker (Callejon) and they have added another guitarist in Japanese guitar slinger Masa Ito thus making Jaded Heart for the first time a twin guitar band. The split with Bormann created a lot of animosity shown in extensively aired interviews and things are not at ease with former members yet but I have always been a fan of both versions of Jaded Heart. For me, there is no reason to dislike the early version of the band nor the later. Fighting The System is a blast of pure melodic metal with some really strong songs on it albeit not the strongest in the discography. For fans of hard rock and metal, there is no doubt this album should be very high on the list of albums to check out. If you are not a current fan there is plenty to discover on this disc. You get top notch musicianship, very melodic but still heavy songs with memorable hooks and great riffs and nice solos from Östros/Ito. It's evident that the first part of the album clearly supersedes the latter part and you will find the strongest songs on the first half.

Track by track comments:
Jaded Heart 2014. Picture courtesy of Jaded-heart.com.
The album opens with the melodic and heavy rocker "Schizophrenic" which has an annoying tendency to stick in your head and it´s hard to get it out. I guess that´s a good thing! It starts with a nice riff and some great "flowing" keyboards from guest musician Henrik Larsson. The vocal style of Fahlberg on this particular song in parts remind me of Geoff Tate of Queensryche. The títle of the song very much tells what the lyrics are about. It is followed by another great rocker in "Control" which sees Rick Altzi (Masterplan, At Vance) providing guest vocals. After a short intro, the song kicks off with nice double guitar harmonies from Ito/Östros. A melodic bridge leads into a nice chorus with Altzi/Fahlberg trading vocal lines. A song about being controlled by someone else and a very strong start to the album. Up next is my favourite song on this new album called "Not In A Million Years" which is a midtempo rocker with a huge infectious hook and a chorus line I simply can´t get out of my head after listening to the album. The song kicks off with a nice keyboard fill and an interesting riff with the verse sung in a gritty tone and some heavy riffing in the background. A song of total love and devotion to that special individual you might sometimes find. Up next is "Losing My Faith" another midtempo rocker which starts off with an aggressive vocal from Fahlberg leading on to a more melodic bridge and a nice, melodic chorus with some nice choirs supporting Fahlberg's voice. A very serious lyrical theme in this song which is about losing your faith in humanity when all it does is wage war upon each other.

Fight The System continues with the uptempo rocker "Nightmare´s Over" which is the fastest song so far and it has a nice melody line and again an interesting chorus. The lyrics deal with near death experience and about seeing an angel that fades away when you are being brought back to life. "Never Free" starts with an acoustic guitar, almost ballad-like opening, which is quickly followed by a nice grooving riff and a cool bassline from Müller. The mellow verse erupts in a melodic bridge and chorus. A nice effort! The lyrics deal with the situation of trying to run from your past and memories which you, of course, cannot do. This means you are never free. It is followed by "´Til Death Do Us Part" which is an ordinary feel good melodic rocker and maybe the weakest track so far. The lyrics deal with the obsession that love can create sometimes and a twisted mind that will not let go. It is followed by "Terror In Me" which is a heavier song with some aggressive riffing from Ito/Östros but due to a weaker chorus not the strongest song on the album in my opinion. The song title reveal what this song is about and when you get to the point where you don´t care if you live or die anymore.  Up next is "Haunted" which starts off with a great guitar riff but lacks the melodic power of most of the previous songs. Again the song is about suffering from your memories that keep haunting you.  It is followed by "Crying" which sees some double bass drumming from Stricker and now we are back with a more contagious melody line in the bridge where Fahlberg really shines. The lyrics see the world through the eyes of an avenger and your goal is to make them pay. The final song on the regular edition is "In The Shadows" which is again a midtempo melodic rock song with Fahlberg providing the "odd" vocal on the chorus line. A nice outro with the choir singing "oh-oh-oh". The lyrics are all about being in pain and time is running out for a cure.
Bassplayer Michael Müller
Picture courtesy of the bands facebook page

If you have bought the limited digipak edition you will get two more songs. First there is the cover song from German band Extrarbeit called "Polizisten" (Cops) and the first song done by Jaded Heart in the German language. It´s an interesting piece of work but just not my cup of tea. Closer "Flee And Run" is a good melodic midtempo rocker and better than some of the songs on the regular album. It starts off with a riff with some nice keyboard harmonies in the background which continues throughout the song. A nice chorus with ganglike vocals throughout the bridge leading up to the chorus. If you can get a hold of the digipak it adds a quite substantial value.

So what does this say about the whole album and compared to previous releases? You know what you get when you buy a Jaded Heart album (that meant in a good way). The band never strays too far off the traditional formula (even if "Polizisten" is far off) and you always get strong songs that are easily digestible. On this album, the band has come up with 5-6 really strong songs that would fit very well into a live setting. I think the latter part of the album loses a bit in song quality (from a very high level that is). The lyrics often deal with difficult situations whether it´s love gone bad or something else. It also paints a very grey picture on the state of the world today and the future for mankind. Fahlberg's voice fit the framework perfectly and the musicianship is top notch as always. The band has lost some very important band members on their journey and always come up with one strong album after another. The consistency and quality are impeccable.

I´m really looking forward to catching the band at Väsby Rock Festival this summer for the first time for me in a live situation. Given the problems and tensions between current and previous members and today's lineup's negative approach to old material I doubt there will be any songs played from the Bormann era which is a pity. The Jaded Heart back catalogue is a virtual treasure chest filled with great songs. Still, there is plenty of great songs to choose from Helluva Time (2005) and forward.  A solid and quality release like this would merit at least 7.5 decibel geeks out of 10 possible. Put it on and crank it to 11!

The Lionsheart

Jaded Heart Homepage

Jaded Heart on Facebook

BUY Fight The System HERE!

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