Alcatrazz – “Born Innocent” (Silver Lining Music)
Battle Helm Rating
Famed as being the voice that at one time fronted Rainbow, the Michael Schenker Group and Impellitteri, Graham Bonnet is one of hard rock’s greatest, and on this 4th studio release for Alcatrazz, he proves why he is well deserved of that recognition. Formed in 1983 by Bonnet, keyboardist Jimmy Waldo and bassist Gary Shea (both of New England fame) who also play on this release, Alcatrazz’s initial line up also featured Yngwie Malmsteen and Clive Burr, although the talent pool by no means dried up after that – indeed, Bonnet’s long career has allowed him to draw from a breath-taking range of names to feature on this album including Steve Vai, Chris Impellitteri, (the late) Bob Kulick, Jeff Waters, Dario Mollo (Tony Martin, Glenn Hughes), Donnie Van Stavern (Riot), Berklee College of Music Assistant Professor of Guitar Joe Stump and virtuoso Japanese guitar maestro Nozomu Wakai (Destinia) – wow!! Although their first studio venture since 1986’s “Dangerous Games”, the supreme musicianship on show here wins hands down across the 13 incredible tracks, all of which still ring true to Alcatrazz’s original melodic hard rock / metal style, but each with a signature touch of the guest performers. Right from the massive rock out of ‘Polar Bear’ driven by Stump’s thick riffs, his epic melodies offer more than a hint of Riot, especially given Van Stavern’s pumping bass presence, while Bonnet himself is nothing short of flawless, soaring with his own highs while matched by Stump’s own neo classical wailings along with a solo amply demonstrating his academic credentials! Increasing in speed, along with a river of guitar melodies, it’s the turn of Wakai to bring a classic eastern touch added to by Van Stavern on ‘Finn McCool’, while Bonnet’s passion is undeniably etched by his highs and harmonies before Wakai screams into neo classical fretboard insanity – awesome! Bringing in some serious Zepp heaviness along with some funk and prog on ‘The Wound Is Open’, expect a monster groove accompanied by organ keys as Bonnet stretches his larynx to bursting – in fact, the rhythm is so overpowering, even Stump’s shredding axe work and Waldo’s keytar strain to get through – but man, it all works a treat on this huge, huge rocker. Crunching in as heavily on ‘Body Beautiful’, the riffs and bass just chug away merrily (and menacingly) until the catchy but harmonious chorus is delivered by Bonnet’s soul in a brilliant contrast that could only be pulled off by a few – Rainbow being the one to spring most to the mind. Either way, my excitement cannot be contained on “Born Innocent” – this is one giant piece of hard rock for sure!