Really from out of nowhere a band called 8 IS from Rome, Italy was kind enough to sent me their debut CD ‘Frame of us’. I had never heard or read anything about them, but believe that this will change very very soon after this review is posted! I am so glad they did sent me their CD, because it sounds very exciting and impressive and after repeated listens I can guarantee you it belongs to the finest AOR releases of 2010! OK, maybe some will call this typical AOR by-the-numbers, but it is done very well and is equal in quality to for example HOUSTON, H.E.A.T. and TERRA NOVA, although here and there it is even sounding better, thanks to a fantastic sound/production (mastered at the famous STERLING SOUND in New York!) and also excellent musicians (8 IS drummer Franco Casini and 8 IS guitarist Lorenzo Milone, with as guests bassist Andrea Casali and keyboardplayer Emanuele Casali). The band is happily blessed with a very good lead singer, which is very important for AOR music. His name is MARCELLO CATALANO and he can easily sing in the higher and lower registers, needed to make AOR sound sensational. Instrumental it is pure AOR, with the hooks, keys and melodic guitarwork all in place, spread out over the 10 included songs. Obviously they have listened very well to records by SURVIVOR, JOURNEY and such, but actually they also remind me a lot of the early 1990s British AOR scene (bands like PASSION STREET, WALK THE WIRE, ATLANTIC, etc.). All 10 included songs are belonging in the sensational AOR style we all love so much, so let’s walk through the tracklist of the CD from here on…
Opener “Everlasting love” is a great uptempo AOR rocker that sounds like the perfect cross between the very first ALIEN (Sweden), DAYTONA and FROM THE FIRE. This song grabs you rightaway and it does not happen a lot that a CD from the first song on gets your attention and actually keeps you impressed until the last few seconds of that same album, but 8 IS did it with this CD! Although the start is very good, the following tracks are much better and very sensational actually! Following track “I’ll be there”is a beautiful picture-perfect AOR ballad that comes dangerously close to a ROXUS or 80s LOVERBOY ballad actually. This is one of the finest AOR ballads I have heard in a very long time! So we had an uptempo rocker and a ballad, well then it’s time for the midtempo tune and this is “Lady”, a great midtempo AOR tune that somehow reminds me of the German band STATEMENT or the Spanish GOLDEN FARM if anyone can remember them! Track number 4 is called “The final courtain” is also midtempo, but a little more epic, yet with lovely melodies in the catchy haunting chorus, so basically another terrific tune, with a lot of similarities to ATLANTIC’s one and only classic from the early 90s. Then the band adds some 80s Westcoast-AOR in the slightly poppier midtempo “Fallin’ in your eyes”, which once again is blessed with lovely AOR melodies, reminding here a bit of the DAKOTA classic ‘Runaway’ and some TOTO. The guitarwork in this and every other song somehow reminds me of the guitarwork of the 2nd PROPHET classic ‘Cycle of the moon’, just to give you an idea how much Classic AOR is being put into this little record from Italy.
Late 80s STRANGEWAYS comes alive in the semi-AOR ballad “On and on” that sounds better than anything on the recent new comeback album of STRANGEWAYS actually! The CD continues with “If you turn around”, a nice semi-ballad that takes some time to built up, but towards the end we’re getting close to AOR heaven, also this song has JOURNEY/STRANGEWAYS/STREET TALK similarities. “In my life” starts quite promising and a little THE STORMish, with a great catchy hook/pre-chorus, but the na-na-na part of the chorus spoils it a bit, so this is the first song that isn’t sensational. Happily, the last 2 tracks are quite good again, with first the calmer slightly bluesy/soulful semi-ballad “Back to you” that has a touch of mid 1990s JOURNEY and as closing track the piano ballad “Tomorrow comes tonite” (again very JOURNEYish) that shows the band’s lead singer at his very best, which is quite emotional and basically being a perfect AOR singer of whom we will hear hopefully much more in the near future!
All together we have here something very interesting, a sensational AOR release from Italy and the only pity might be that the only real uptempo rocker is the opening cut, but aside from that, this is a pure AOR record that is straight up there with any FRONTIERS RECORDS album! A highly recommended pure AOR CD we have here, so be sure to grab a copy A.S.A.P.!!! More info at: www.8-is.com and www.myspace.com/8is and e-mail them at: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com