(c) 2019 LionsPride Music
- How Many Miles To Heaven
- Come Closer
- Woman, You're The Devil
- Take Me
- Sweet People
- That Feeling
- No Way
- Locked & Loaded
- Lost The World
- Reach Out The Sky
Harris Mos--Lead Vocals
Tony Gavalas--Guitars, Backing Vocals
Orpheus Lazz--Drums, Backing Vocals
Greece's Silked & Stained was the surprise band of 2017 for me, and the most read review of 2018...heck, the most read review of all time...here at Glitter2Gutter was the review of their debut album, Love On The Road! A very good melodic hard rock record, Love On The Road quickly bolstered the band to some rather impressive heights in Europe, and even garnered them a smattering of recognition here in the States (although no melodic rock bands really get that much attention on the national level here in the US these days). Heck, the album sold so well in Europe that the first pressing actually sold out within six months, according to their press release. Every thing seemed to be trending in an upward direction for the band. But then, lead singer Bill Tsaklidis left the band for personal reasons, and I found myself wondering how this surprise band was going to handle the loss.
It turns out, I didn't really need to be concerned, as the band quickly recruited Harris Mos to fill the vocalist void, and Silked & Stained has already returned with a brand new album, Goes Up To Eleven, due out on Halloween of 2019.
Almost immediately after putting the new album in to play, it is noticable that the sound on Goes Up To Eleven has a bigger, fuller sound than their debut effort. Don't mistake that for me saying that the band sounds slick and polished now, because that is not the case, and the band still retains a rawness and edginess that I truly enjoy. But to deny the production is smoother and more refined would be a lie. Also gone from this new record is the excessive use of keyboards that threatened to do some serious damage to a couple of tracks on the debut. Yes, there are still keys here, but nothing that takes center stage or detracts from the power of Gavalas' guitar, which is one of the key elements that makes this band go.
The album kicks off in a big way with "How Many Miles To Heaven", which intros with an acoustic guitar line that sounds VERY much like "We All Die Young" from Steel Dragon, before soon morphing into a big, heavy riff, a la Whitesnake, and then transforming into and excellent 80s-styled rocker. As I stated above, everything here sounds bigger, and this track showcases that right off the bat; the drums are of the big arena variety here, and Galavas absolutely goes off on an extended guitar solo after the second chorus run. Heck, even the brief keyboard drop-ins are big, sounding very much like the intro to "Tom Sawyer" by Rush. New vocalist, Mos, sounds very confident and very at home on this track...and throughout the record...utilizing a slightly lower, more bluesy style than that of his predecessor, which works to great effect. There are no rafter-scraping wails or ear-piercing screams here, but that was never the style of Silked And Stained anyway. Mos' voice is definitely on full display right from the get-go, and I have no doubts that he will be able to handle the older material from the band as both singers are in that lower tenor range. Still, even after just this one track, I find myself thinking I'm going to really enjoy what Mos brings to the band. Before we wrap up, that "We All Die Young" riff returns as the song begins its closing run, and it become immediately apparent that Silked & Stained has not missed a beat here.
Next up is "Come Closer", which is one of the few tracks here that still really incorporates a true keyboard presence, and even then it is mostly limited to the track's intro and then as a supporting instrument in the chorus sections. Probably the most commercial sounding track on the record, "Come Closer" has a definite 80s melodic hard rock feel to it, with big harmony vocals and a smooth guitar tone that hearkens back to so many of those great summer driving songs of my youth. Again, Mos' voice fits the mood and tone of the track perfectly, and Galavas tears his way through a particularly tasty solo which blends flashes of speed with some soulful, melodic string-bending. I'm not a huge fan of the hard fade close to the track, as I think a big, sweeping guitar outro would have served the song well, but this is a minor point made mostly as a fan of multiple guitar runs in any given song.
The album's lead single, "Woman You're The Devil" is up next, and the band kicks things into another gear for this song. Grittier, edgier than the polished "Come Closer", this is a prime example of what I think Silked And Stained does best. As is the case with many English-as-a-second-language bands, the lyrics here are a bit muddled in places (read along with the lyrics video below and you will understand what I am talking about), but the gist of the track is easy to pick up on, and the lyrics certainly aren't distracting. There is a strong bass presence in this track, and once again, the drum work from Lazz is top-notch. But as is typical with Silked And Stained, it is the guitars of Galavas that really propel this hard rocking track to another level. It's hard to give the guy too much credit, as I think he is one of the truly great guitar players that most people have not heard yet. Make it a point to really focus on his skill as you give the following video a run through.
"Take Me" starts off with a big drum intro before some jangly guitar work from Galavas draws the song forward, leading into Mos' smoky, bluesy vocals on the first verse. I love the groove of this track as it builds to its first chorus run, as the bass is given a definite voice here. The chorus is a catchy, poppy sing along that I am betting will become a staple of the live show. A burst of speed catches fire in Galavas solo before a final run through the chorus punctuates this quick rocker that just eclipses the three minute mark. Short, sweet, and to the point, "Take Me" is an earworm for sure, and one that I find getting stuck in my brain pretty much every time I run through the record.
"Sweet People" changes things up considerably, and I have to be honest in saying that this is the track on the album that I had the most difficulty deciding how I felt about it. In ways, it reminds me a lot of an 80s/early 90s U2 track, from the female backing vocals to the production style and the songwriting approach to the quasi-spiritual feel of the lyrics. Despite my initial misgivings, I find myself liking the song quite a bit, and I will not be surprised if this track becomes a big hit with the band's female fan base, especially in the live setting. It's a nearly perfect track to transition from a hard rocker to a ballad (or vice versa), and there isn't really anything to dislike about the song, even if it is a bit hard to categorize. Galavas has a pretty cool guitar solo here, and this song is definitely square in the middle of Mos' wheelhouse, vocally. You may have to give this song a few chances, but I think most people will admit, even if it is begrudgingly, that they like this song in one way or another...even if they can't put a finger on exactly why.
"Forevermore" is the first ballad of the record, and it is solid. A piano is utilized throughout the track, giving it a nice 80s power ballad feel, complete with the big, sweeping guitar crecendo after the first verse and leading into the big, layered chorus. There is a definite Kix "Don't Close Your Eyes" feel to the rhythm guitars and the tempo of the track, but it is certainly not a rip off. The backing vocals are really nicely done here, and the guitar solo has that big MTV power ballad sound. Mos is given the chance to really shine here and he doesn't disappoint as he delivers a powerful performance without drifting into the sappy, saccharine territory of so many "baby, please don't go" ballads of yesteryear. While I don't find myself yearning for the power ballad the way I might have back in the day (I said MIGHT HAVE), when one is well done, it does a good job of breaking up the tempo of an album that is otherwise basically heavy mid-tempo to high-speed rock. "Forevermore" is one such song.
"That Feeling" is one of the best songs on this record, as it does a good job of capturing the feel and flair of the best of 80s hard melodic rock, with the guitar tone and songwriting style reminiscent of early Dokken. I'm not saying Galavas is Lynch, and Mos is not Don in his prime, but they also don't pretend to be something they are not. As such, Galavas and Mos both hold their own very nicely here, with the rhythm section also handling their duties perfectly, supporting the frantic flash of the guitar solo and the power of the lead vocals expertly. This is a great song, and while I could do without the seemingly pointless "f*bomb" in the chorus, I think it is this type of song where Silked And Stained is at their best. Good, good stuff here!
"No Way" is another up-tempo rocker...complete with a cowbell intro...that features some nice rhythm guitar work and solid drumming, but honestly, this is the first song I would point to as being "filler" material. Mos' is a bit snarlier here than on the rest of the record, and it sounds a bit out of place. The chorus is pretty simplistic, and I am instantly reminded of the way Klaus Mein would sometimes kind of drag out words in the chorus of a song, especially early in the Scorpions' career when he wasn't as comfortable with his English. Galavas has another solid solo, but even that isn't enough to push this track past "good, but not noteworthy" status. Definitely not something I would bother to hit the skip button for, but not something I'm likely going to hit repeat for, either.
I really wish the band would have gone straight from "That Feeling" right into "Locked & Loaded", as this is another example of some of the best songwriting and musicianship that Silked And Stained has put onto a record. Again, a definite throwback to the glorious melodic hard rock of the mid-80s, this is another Dokken-esque track that finds itself in a fight with "That Feeling" and "How Many Miles To Heaven" for song of the album. I really dig the hard rhythm guitars that intro the best Galavas solo on the record, and while the chorus is again fairly simple, it is simple in a way that is also nostalgic and very reminiscent of some big 80s rock gems. There is also some nice bass soloing at the back end of the guitar solo as a moody, almost haunting vocal bridge propels the song back into the pre-chorus and chorus sections. This is just a really good song and...you know what? I'm going to call it. This is the best song on the record. I really dig this track.
Rather than give in to the temptaiton to close things out with a ballad or some mid-tempo romp, Silked And Stained close out Goes Up To Eleven with a really good rocker with Mos' letting his vocals soar a bit in places on "Reach Out For The Sky". Again, the "f*bomb" is dropped into the pre-chorus for no apparent reason (do Europeans throw that word around as casually as American rappers?), and the barked "REACH...FOR...THE...SKY!" sounds a bit forced...and, okay, I could have done without the brief Hammond sounding keyboard section after the guitar solo...but overall the song is a strong closer and leaves the listener with something pretty tasty rolling around in their head when the record ends.
If Goes Up To Eleven is an indication of where Silked And Stained is heading with their sound from now forward, I can guarantee I will be seeking out their albums for as long as they want to keep putting them out. Showing a healthy respect for the great melodic hard rock of the past, but also being mindful of who they are and what they want to do going forward, Silked And Stained has made a fan of me with two consecutive really good records. In the end, Goes Up To Eleven is a fine follow-up to the band's big debut, and in many ways it exceeds everything that was done before. From improved songwriting to a bigger, fuller sound, to better production, Goes Up To Eleven is a nice step forward for a band that has to be considered one of the class acts of the new wave of melodic hard rock bands in Europe, and Galavas cements himself as one of the truly great...if under-recognized...guitar talents to cross my review desk in recent years.
Rating: Definite crankage here! Goes Up To Eleven goes up to 8.5 for me!