Alpha Tiger – Alpha Tiger (SPV)Friday, 1st September 2017
Breaking the self-titled debut credo like some other veterans in the metal realm as of late (Diamond Head, Obituary, Striker), the fourth album from German power metal group Alpha Tiger signals significant shifts stylistically, a natural progression if you will following the departure of main vocalist Stephan Dietrich in 2015. His last record with the band iDentity had hints of a sonic expansion through the piano/organ touches and pop melodies for “Closer to Yesterday”, but it seems that the quintet felt the need for further commercial refinement on this batch of songs- which along with a new singer in Benjamin Jaino could be a bitter pill for the long-timers to swallow.
Where organ play used to be a surprise supplementation, it becomes a featured component on “Comatose” and “Aurora” through guest Johannes Walenta– making the guitars often a secondary component to the Uriah Heep/ Deep Purple flourishes. The rhythm section still goes for broke in mid-tempo to slightly faster spurts, also adept at settling into a comforting groove against the cascading acoustic/electric back and forth action for “Welcome to Devil’s Town”. It’s tough to dispute the strong guitar skills of Peter Langforth and Alexander Backasch – the dotted note harmonization that opens “If the Sun Refused to Shine” gives off an 80’s electronic vibe that mesmerizes, while tasteful power chords and lead work punctuate the emotional ballad “Feather in the Wind” that picks up to an anthem crushing pace for the final minute.
Where Alpha Tiger may struggle to keep the fans engaged is the marked difference in ability and range for Benjamin Jaino. There’s no question the man can sing – but his higher range has a suspect variance that seems more well suited to a melodic hard rock/sleaze band than something that can be more power-oriented. The distant/ echo effects for the modern-sounding “Singularity” showcase another shift, making this scribe feel like the band doesn’t necessarily want to be in the power metal category anymore. The songwriting and performances push Alpha Tiger into material that could be mistaken for American modern rock radio careening head first into those 70’s keyboard passages – a bumpy ride that may not gain massive appeal to the late teens or old timers. Even choosing to record the album completely analog and use an abstract illustration for the cover prove this is a different outlook for these musicians.
The second chapter of the band, Alpha Tiger isn’t necessarily Pink Bubbles Go Ape, but it certainly seems like the band’s older, more traditional power days are fleeing fast in the rearview mirror.