Tony O'Hora
Escape into the Sun

Finally, we have a winner. I’ve been mowing through the latest batch of Locomotive releases and each has been more uninteresting than the last when finally I hit the debut solo release from former Praying Mantis singer Tony O’Hora.

The record came about when O’Hora started exchanging musical ideas via the Internet with guitarist and producer Magnus Karlsson. The result of the collaboration is a blend of progressive and melodic rock that, at times, will certainly remind the listener of Dream Theater (the riff of album opener “Broken Soul” nearly echoes “Pull Me Under”), but never goes full-on prog.

O’Hora’s vocals are better than many in the genre. Though, admittedly, they’re occasionally weaker than I would like, as on the title track and the choruses of some of the heavier tunes, where they sometimes seem out of place. But they are fairly distinctive if the style you’d expect. For me, the real star of the record, though, is Karlsson, who lays down good riffs and some nice, tasteful fluid leads with enough finger-pretzeling to please any guitar snob.

As with most records in this style, the ballads have problems because they usually end up sounding just a little too 1980s. But when they drop into a nice groove as on “No More Innocence” or the strong opening of “Dreamless Night,” this record is pretty tight.

Just when I think I’ve got it pegged to that, though, the album takes a slight turn with the seventh track, “More Than We Know” as the piano intros and slicing riffs remind me of a blend of the 1980s Savatage styles. Much of the second half of the album, songs like “Evil Love” and “Black Wings” follow that track. They even bring in a little Priest on “Black Wings,” which is probably the strongest track here, but O’Hora really shouldn’t try those Halford highs on the chorus. He’s better with the growly “Ripper” Owens-style doubled vocals on the verse.

O’Hora and Karlsson end up delivering a pretty good set of songs combining a high level of musicianship with melodic metal that doesn’t sound tired and stale. This would be a great record for people who like Dream Theater’s shorter, punchier songs, but don’t care for the long instrumental jams.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
June 27th, 2006

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