Released: 2012, Metal Heaven
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
If you were around in the late 80’s, apart from a potentially skewed sense of fashion, you may also have caught wind of short-lived super-group M.A.R.S, and their single album ‘Project Driver’. No? Then from those ashes came Driver proper featuring acclaimed vocalist Rob Rock and guitarist Roy Z – you with me? Well by all accounts the band’s five-song cassette EP released in 1990 is the stuff of legends... you’re off to check your loft now aren’t you?
Let’s wind things on a few years. Having made a storming comeback in 2008 with Sons Of Thunder, this year Driver are itching to get back into pole position with latest melody-driven hard rock offering Countdown. As with their first release, Countdown mixes brand-new songs with dusted-down demos, but with an emphasis on vintage production values throughout you’ll probably not be able to pick old from new out of this line-up.
With an anticipation-cranking guitar riff and on-the-button drums ‘Return To The Sky’ is like being smacked in the face with the full-brunt of the 80’s rock legacy. Driver play it with such conviction though, either no-one told them time has moved on or they truly believe that this kind of music can still be vital, and as Roy Z’s guitar solo confidently cuts through anymore crap if you’ve not become caught up in their way of thinking then you may be from another planet.
So I’d be lying if I claimed Countdown was full of fresh thinking, and it’s true that you get the gist of the album from the word go, but these guys are masters at marrying melody and hard rock hooks. Rob Rock’s vocals could cut glass throughout but particularly hit home on old-school metaller ‘Thief In The Night’, and the hard-rocking ‘Rising Son’. Ballad ‘Always On My Mind’ sounds sincere at least, but is fairly uncaptivating listening, which is perhaps why it ended up a demo in the first place.
On the other hand, although not a ballad, the sentiment of ‘Running From The Darkness’ comes through far more strongly, and shows Driver’s best side lies in the slightly heavier side of things. Guitarist Roy Z’s past heritage with Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford also shines through clearly in the gallop of European bonus track Babylon and the sped-up Hollywood Shooting Star, which is the most ‘metal’ track here, with the exception of title Countdown and its intense, and slightly ominous, chorus.
If this is the countdown though, then I’m most interested into what is coming after. Based on the album’s artwork I’d like it to be some kind of alien revelation, but I’ll settle for album number three.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs