Released: 2002, Frontiers
Well, It had to happened, Frontiers has finally stumbled. Not a total collapse but after a long, long successful string of very impressive, incredibly high caliber melodic hard rock/metal acts, Frontiers have introduced the less-than-impressive band, Mecca to the world.
Mecca are based in Nashville which is kinda odd. I assumed they would be European. They are a five piece, comprised mostly of no-name studio session guys including ex-Toto bassist David Hungate. Sometimes there is too much of a good thing! Mecca like many of their counterparts on the label are great. Everything is in place, good songs, good production etc… and yet this band suffers more from what they are missing, not from what they are doing wrong. In fact, they are making all of the right moves, but they are very predictable moves. The cover and packaging are good for what they include photos, lyrics, credits etc but the design, layout and graphics are really boring. A computer-animated desert? Dull.
The production is good but bland. The band really lack identity something they desperately need to make then stand apart their peers (competitors) in the genre, bands like Giant, Hurricane, Talon, Wicked Mary, Two Fires, the Jeff Austin Project, Pulse, Ten etc… The lyrics are technically fine, but dull and uninspired. Song titles like, “Without You” , “Can’t Stop Love” and “Silence of the Heart” give you an idea. The performances and very technical and precise but could certainly benefit from an injection of loose and dirty rock ‘n’ roll. The fast songs like “Velocitized” lacks balls and the ballads lack the soaring, heartfelt dynamics that are critical for a band like this that makes their music in the mellower end of the hard rock spectrum. It seems typical of many studio projects, they need to go get their hands dirty and add grit even just a little would make a difference. The band has 6 guys but only one guitarist! These songs could benefit from waaayy more guitar crunch.
One interesting point are the vocals. Fergie Frederickson and Joe Vana share lead vocal duties. Joe sings on five cuts, Fergie sings on four and they share one. The vocals are fine and in the mid-range not without power but certainly smooth and in a sense don’t convey the passion necessary to catch my ears. Fergie is technically very good, he sounds like Elton John in many places, but it does not sound like he is singing from the heart to me. It sounds like he is reproducing the words on the page into sound almost flawlessly but without really trying. You think with the relatively unique situation of having two vocalists they could come up with something better, but it sounds like one guy is singing his songs and the other guy is singing his own songs.
As it stands, my 50% rating is fair. They have everything they could ever want, all the elements are in place but Mecca really do not have what it takes to stand out. It is not surprising that the 50 minute disc is comprised of ten tunes, every tune following a pretty basic verse, chorus, verse pattern and coming in at about 4.5 to 5 minutes long. 80’s radio friendly fans, melodic hard rock and AOR enthusiasts please check it out…it IS good for what it is. For METAL fans who like to dabble in this AOR genre once in awhile, look elsewhere.