Music video for Nowhere to Run.
Whenever I read that there’s a new Rock supergroup, I can’t help but feel a bit skeptical. A lot of incredible musicians have formed projects that sounded great on paper, but ended up being quite underwhelming, perhaps due to having “too many cooks in the kitchen” or that it didn’t have the drive and focus of a main musical project.
Be that as it may, supergroups are often quite uneven, so you can imagine my trepidation when I heard the news that Frontier Records, quite likely the biggest Hard Rock label in the market right now, is set to release in June the first album of Hard Rock group Iconic, featuring Nathan James (Inglorious) on vocals, Michael Sweet (Stryper and former Boston) on guitar and backing vocals, Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake, former Cher, Night Ranger and Trans-Siberian Orchestra), Marco Mendoza (former Blue Murder, Whitesnake, John Sykes, Thin Lizzy, Journey and so many more) on bass and Tommy Aldridge (Whitesnake and former Ozzy Osbourne, Motorhead, Thin Lizzy, Yngwie, Black Oak Arkansas, Gary Moore and many more) on drums.
This isn’t a band. Throw a couple of cigars and a few Champions League trophies and you have Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan side of the early 2000s. That lineup is THAT talented.
So, I’ll admit that I was really hyped despite my ever-present gripes with the concept of supergroups and I was willing to give their upcoming debut, Second Skin, a fair chance. But I’ll have to say that the first single, Nowhere to Run, really put me in the band’s corner.
If you have followed the careers of these musicians, you know that Hard Rock is their jam and what they are mostly known for, and while this single doesn’t show much of a departure from their own individual projects, it does highlight some slight changes in direction that are quite interesting.
Michael Sweet has mentioned in interviews that there is a strong Blues influence in this album and that might be true as we’re yet to hear the upcoming record, but Nowhere to Run doesn’t really show said influences–it is actually a very straightforward track with some strong classic Metal influences. It is closer to the likes of Maiden and Priest in terms of guitar work than, say, Deep Purple o Led Zeppelin.
But it is not surprising that the song as a whole flows so well. Aldridge, Mendoza and Hoekstra have all been part of Whitesnake in different points of the band’s history, so there is that musical familiarity, plus James and Sweet’s approach to songwriting and musical directions is not too dissimilar to theirs. So, from a creative perspective, they all come from similar musical circles and that might be why this song flows so well as a whole.
Tommy Aldridge is one of the all-time greats in Rock when it comes to drumming and Mendoza might be one of the most underrated bassists of his generation, so they carry the weight of the rhythm section extremely well and the song has a very nice groove, especially with that drum intro by Aldridge. Musical memory is no joke and is shown with these two rolling back the Whitesnake years.
I have been a longtime fan of Michael Sweet and while I like his singing quite a lot, I’m on board with him “just” performing as a guitarist in Iconic because I think his guitar playing is actually quite underrated and he deserves a lot more praise for that. And well, Hoekstra is one of those late bloomers in Hard Rock and we have seen him blossom into one of the finest guitarists of the genre in recent times, so seeing him make dual guitar harmonies with Sweet is a delight.
In fact, I would argue that the guitar harmonies, with that strong Priest influence, are the biggest selling point of the single. Add Joel’s great solo and you have something cooking here. It’s a very guitar-based song and it definitely does the job in that regard.
Of course, you have Nathan James here and that is very good news. Inglorious is a very interesting group that has gathered a lot more attention in recent years, but I hope Iconic give Nathan the kind of recognition he deserves because he’s not only a very good singer, but his voice is also quite charismatic and transmits a lot of feelings, which not everybody can do. He has been compared with David Coverdale, but I don’t think he is a copycat or anything of the sort–he has his own style and does a great job here.
Having someone like Sweet as a backing vocalist is a luxury not everybody can afford, but him and James perform admirably here and there is a melodic bridge where their vocals intertwine in great fashion. Definitely ear candy.
It’s hard to say how the entire album is going to fare until we listen to it, but I have to say that the guys of Iconic made a very good first impression with Nowhere to Run. It’s a great mid-tempo song with strong riffs, vocal harmonies that flow effortlessly and a rock solid rhythm section.
Second Skin promises to be one of the most anticipated records of the year.