Label: Frontiers 2011
Review by Kimmo Toivonen
Toby Hitchcock, the vocalist of Pride Of Lions, hooked up with Swedish songwriter/producer Erik Martensson of Eclipse/W.E.T. fame to create his first solo album. Even with the Atlantic ocean between them, the collaboration has worked out pretty nicely. Actually, it has worked amazingly well, as you're not likely to hear a better new AOR album this year. "Mercury Down" has it all - the songs, the production, the edge and The Voice of Toby Hitchcock. I remember the first Pride Of Lions when he was a bit over-the-top, reaching for the big notes even when it wasn't really needed, but now a few years later, he delivers a consummate performance.
While the songs are highly melodic and pure AOR, they rock hard too. Guitars are upfront and the sound of the album is bombastic. The album isn't swamped with ballads, there's actually just one slow song and it has its' fair share of power too.
As my rating probably tells you, there isn't a weak song to be found on the album, but let's take a quick rundown of my favourite ones. The opening track and the first video song "This Is The Moment" is the best song I've heard in months. Massive chorus, intense pace all the way through and and more pomp and power than a hundred lesser AOR songs put together. The dramatic "Let Go" sounds a bit like Survivor but with bigger guitars, while the aforementioned ballad "One Day I'll Stop Loving You" has the kind of a chorus that could knock down walls.
"I Should Have Said" has a bit of a Journey vibe but with Martensson's heavier production sheen, and the same could be said of "Just Say Goodbye", both superb tracks. "Tear Down The Barricades" is the album's heaviest track, reminding me of Talisman and Dio. Martensson, who apparently handles all the instruments on this album, is really on fire, throwing some fantastic guitar tricks to this track. The closing duo of "A Different Drum" and "Mercury's Down" is something special too, both blessed with superb choruses.
If the sheer brilliance of the music wasn't enough, the lyrics of the album are very good as well. It's not your average AOR album with mushy love songs, although most of the songs deal with relationships, just different stages of them. Take "This Is The Moment" for example - it's an anti-love song or at least a "falling out of love" song, and Toby sings it with conviction.
I will make a prediction: "Mercury Down" will be my album of the year 2011. I wouldn't mind being proven wrong, but it's gonna take a hell of an album to push this one from the top. Bring it on...