Guitarist Marc Vanderberg is back with a new album ‘Highway Demon’ which was released on Dark Sign Records on 7th September. This time Marc has gone for just the one vocalist, Raphael Gazal and this gives the album a different feel to his previous release ‘Devil May Care’ which featured many guest singers. Marc also plays all of the instruments on the album. A talented guy!
The album opens with the title track ‘Highway Demon’, roaring guitar, great melodies, and a very catchy chorus, this is all what I would expect from Marc. Raphael delivers a strong raw vocal but it is the power of the riffs that carry this one. A solid opening and one that certainly makes you want to hear more. More comes in the shape of ‘Blue Eyes’ which has an 80s feel to this big sounding track, Malmsteen influences are very apparent. ‘Bad Paradise’ is an up-tempo track with dark lyrics about the struggle of mental illness. An interesting contrast and well-arranged musically. ‘The Last Battle’ is full of melodic riffs, layers of vocals and a variable pace. I like this one very much, the vocal really suits the style of the song. ‘How Do You Feel’ has a poignant backstory to the lyrics and is a very emotional track. There is a soft guitar opening before the music swirls and fills the track out but it is dominated by the vocal. I would like to have heard more of the music, the shredding is emotionally exceptional.
‘Indispensable’ was written for his wife so the lyrics are a bit sloppy but the track isn’t. It’s harder and heavier than many on the album and leads into ‘You’re Like Poison’ (hopefully not written for his wife!) which has a repeated riff, and a very catchy chorus. However, I feel like I’ve heard it before, perhaps it’s the “You’re like poison, running through my veins” lyric, the arrangement may be very different but it has a feel of haven’t I heard this before. Probably the song I like least on the album.
‘When I Turn The Key’ is back on track, raw and heavy, speedy drumming, rampaging riffs. “Pedal to the metal” sings Raphael, and boy is it! ‘The Final Chapter’ is a class track; pure melodic rock with a classic feel to the chorus and riffs by the bucket load. The final track is an instrumental ‘Total Eclipse’ which rounds off this album nicely.
The album took me a few listens to appreciate. On first play there were 2 stand out tracks, ‘Blue Eyes’ and ‘The Last Battle’ but it grew on me the more I listened. There is no questioning Marc’s playing, he is an awesomely talented multi-instrumentalist. His guitar playing is outstanding and the guy is obviously heavily influenced by Swedish shredder Yngwie Malmsteen. The thing that stops it from being a ‘great’ album is the vocal. Raphael has a good voice but I think a more powerful, melodic singer, someone with the power pipes, would suit some of the more emotional ballad feeling songs better; I was waiting for that big build of vocal which didn’t quite arrive. I do like the rawness in his voice and it does work with many of the songs but in my opinion, not all.
A nice touch to the album is a booklet which accompanies it. Not only does it give the writing credits and the lyrics but also a brief back story to every song. It adds to the whole thing when you read it whilst listening.
The Last Battle
How Do You Feel
You’re Like Poison
When I Turn The Key
The Final Chapter