Grimmstine - s/t 3/5
4. Got nothing but time
5. To catch a killer
6. You'll never know
7. It's over
9. You give me love
10. Straight as an arrow
11. 'Til they take my wings
12. Take this air
13. Afraid of the dark
14. This don't look like love to me
15. To sing a lullabye (Immy's song)
There have been some unusual stories about how band members have met and gone on to form bands over the years – Dave Mustaine throwing a plant pot through David Ellefson’s window, Burton C. Bell singing U2 in the shower – and Grimmstine have a pretty interesting one to add to the history books. Whatever the chances were of English vocal demigod Steve Grimmett being in Fargo, North Dakota (what was he doing, arranging a staged kidnapping?) and catching unknown guitarist Steve Stine’s band Dozer onstage, the result was the 2 of them hitting it off and proceeding to piece together a full-length CD by sending their various ideas back and forth across the Atlantic.
And while it is a charming story alright - the veteran teaming up with the unheard of – the result is a bit of an overlong mish-mash that feels more like a collection of individual songs rather than a proper CD. At 72 minutes in length, it is a slightly exhausting listen, and it certainly feels like the band have just written as much as they possibly can and used everything they’ve come up with rather than picking the best of their collaborations and honing them to a fine point.
The individual performances are faultless, with drummer Dave Johnson offering a vigorous display to back the 2 main musicians. Grimmett of course needs no introduction, his near-ageless vocals just as impressive as they were on his debut solo CD ‘Personal crisis’ a couple of years back, and Stine turns out to be an excellent lead guitarist who can certainly come up with a few colourful flourishes and lengthy, fret-dancing solos.
The songs tend to vary quite wildly in style from one track to the next, but to perhaps oversimplify things a little, they can be divided into 3 main categories – the more overtly metal efforts, those that are more hard rock oriented, and the ballads. It’s fair and a little sad to say that none of the songs are anything legendary, but there are plenty of enjoyable songs to be heard. Rather than any of the heavier tracks standing out as immediately strong or weak, it is more likely that a song will open on some blistering guitar section but then not quite live up to its own promise.
Opener “911” (don’t you mean “999”, Steve?) and particularly “To catch a killer” and “It’s over” open on such outstanding flurries from Stine, and the latter makes best use of it to build onto a galloping full-on metal track. “911” is one of the songs where they liberally mix the rock and metal elements, with the swaggering chorus a little at odds with the pounding double-bass and particularly the heavy breakdown section. Other highlights included Stine’s superb extended solo on “Prisoner” and the meandering bass line (played by something called Hat) on the lumbering “Got nothing but time”.
The weakest moments come with the ballads and half-ballads, of which there are no less than 5, and not one of which enjoys any sort of success. To a man all unbearably twee – from the unsubtle love stories “You’ll never know” and, erm, “You give me love”, to the soft, soft cheesy rock of “’Til they take my wings” and the slimy Whitesnake-vibe on “This don’t look like love to me”, these songs really drag down the overall quality. Any one of them would perhaps be forgivable (as I suppose is Stine’s touching but nevertheless musically inappropriate tribute to his baby daughter on the closer, “Immy’s song”), but the sheer mass of them threatens to make the CD collapse in on itself at any time.
While there are plenty of impressive moments on this debut, they are almost completely counter-weighted by a sizeable chunk of listlessness. The recording process has undoubtedly contributed to this, and the presence of a proper producer to crack the whip and weed out the weaker material would no doubt have ended in a far more streamlined final product. Hopefully if Grimmett and Stine continue on with this project beyond a single CD they will be a little more selective in the material they put on the finished product. There is a 45-minute CD in here somewhere that would come with a far higher recommendation, but in its current state caution is advised.
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