Space Vacation – White Hot Reflection (Pure Steel Records)Monday, 2nd May 2022
Musicians currently wrestle with whether to release albums during the throes of a global pandemic or wait until the major wave subsides. Makes sense as disposable income can be tight for many – and usually entertainment options are the quickest to go. Followers of Space Vacation will reap benefits though from a five-year gap between records – releasing a 13-track effort for White Hot Reflection containing almost an hour of tunes ready to raise smiles, fists, or moods thirsty for some classic heavy metal with melodic hard rock and power vibes.
The four-piece sees the return of Hellfire bassist Kai Sun to the ranks, while his rhythm section compatriot Eli Lucas feels much more comfortable in flexing his abilities as a performer and arranger to the greater good of these songs. Able to navigate any twist, groove, or proper driving mechanism allows for some thunderous, galvanizing action – “Playing with Fire” an early highlight, the stellar interplay making for some serious guitar hero-like sequences, the additional organ/keyboard support very Rainbow-esque. An uplifting, major key melody drives “Middle Ages” as another difference maker, Kiyoshi Morgan and Scott Shapiro as guitarists playing on electric and acoustic guitars with a West Coast, sunny disposition while the lush melodies and harmonies convey a mix of older 50’s/60’s rock and classic Queen. The right infectious guitar sequence, supporting chord progressions, and proper catchy verse to chorus melodies are stronger than ever throughout this track listing – it’s hard to not be tapping or singing along on initial exposure to “Burn with Me” or Sunset Strip-oriented “Walk Away”. Scott has really worked on the warmth and textures to his voice – evoking a mysterious, darker feel for certain verses on “Don’t Say It” that allow the galloping, driving riffs and tempo a chance to breathe, intertwining diverse aspects of Megadeth and early Night Ranger in the process. And when you want to hear a bit more progressive sophistication for the instrumental work, especially some sick neoclassical licks and Steve Harris-like bass action, check out the epic, twisting seven-minute closer “Out of Time”.
We don’t get to hear many bands these days that place as much stock on strong vocal melodies/harmonies to support a classic metal foundation quite like Space Vacation. White Hot Reflection has enough 70’s/80’s influences to appease the old guard, and hopefully something different than the next generation can also rally behind the group.