Khymera – Master Of Illusions
Khymera started off as a side project courtesy of Italian multiinstrumentalist Daniele Liverani (Empty Tremor/Genius – The Rock Opera) and singer Steve Walsh, mostly known from progressive rock legends Kansas. However, since 2005 it´s has been handled by the immensly capable Dennis Ward (Magnum, ex-Pink Cream 69) and this particular album is the fifth to come out since the debut made a splash in 2003.
So what can you expect as a listener then?
The record company, Frontiers is worldleading when it comes to hard rock and AOR so you certainly won´t find any blastbeats, breakdowns or didgeridoo solos on this record, that is one thing for sure. Instead the listener is treated to 11 pieces of slickly produced, highly melodic hard rock that owes a lot to the hair bands of the glorious 1980´s.
Album opener “Walk Away” kicks things into gear with some nice, energetic riffing and Ward delivering some great vocals. And that is one of the things that is continuously awesome throughout the 47 minutes of playtime. Dennis sings with the best of ém. He´s a bit of a mix between Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids) and Marcie Free (Unruly Child, Signal) and second track, the sublime “The First Time” indeed sounds like the lovechild of Pretty Maids and Unruly Child.
Next up is the titletrack and this is where things really comes to a simmering boil. Imagine Def Leppard and Gotthard collaborating on a Tom Cruise movie soundtrack in 1988. Great song and one of the highlights of the album. The following “The Sun Goes Down” doesn´t really do anything for me. It´s competent but very much a filler.
Things look up immediately though as “Paradise” is one catchy little bugger with some heartfelt singing from Mr Ward. “The Rhythm of My Life” goes straight to my “drive-my-car-in-summernight-rain” mixtape with a wonderful chorus with some tasty basslines. That delicious bassplaying raises “Follow The Sun” from bland to fine since the chorus has been done so many times before. And I mean thousands of times here…
As I´m a self professed sucker for power ballads “Father to Son” really hits the spot. I just love the close harmony vocals and warm production. Yeah, the production needs to be adressed. In just about every Youtube comment section regarding bands from Frontiers people are having tantrums about the sound being too compressed, with a complete lack of dynamics of any kind and most of all: so many of the records from their roster sounds pretty much the same. A critique that often is valid and deserved. Not in this case, thankfully. It´s not perfect but still really good. Crisp, airy with just about the right amount of punchy bass and middle.
“After All This Time” is another filler, completely harmless and not bad in any way, just a bit “meh”. For “Victim of Your love” Dennis does his best Joe Elliott impression in another Def Leppard-y song. Think a B-side from the “Adrenalize”-album. Good but not something I will have withdrawal symptoms from should I never hear it again.
“Just Let it Happen” ends the album on a slightly heavier note with another top notch bassline and another great chorus.
Listen, Khymera is not trying to re-invent the wheel or even be remotely original. What it comes down to is the bare bones of superb vocals, catchy melodies and nice arrangements. And they succeed at this without even breaking a sweat.
Therefore this album deserves 7.5 Magnum bassplayers out of 10.
Title: Master of Illusions
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock
Duration: 47 minutes
Label: Frontiers Music Srl
Land of Origin: USA/Italy
Date of release: 6/3 2020
Standout tracks: Master of Illusions, Father to Son