Released: 2009, SPV/Steamhammer
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
What’s that old saying? If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all? Hmmm…This could be a really brief review. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. So Tim “Ripper” Owens finally steps up with his first album as a solo artist, PLAY MY GAME. The one time voice of Judas Priest, Iced Earth, Yngwie Malmsteen, among others, Owens has quickly established a name for himself within the metal community. Often riding shotgun in the passenger seat of somebody else’s band, PLAY MY GAME is Owens’ first attempt at creating his own recording identity. He’s got a veritable “who’s who” of guest musicians on the album and the songs are the brainchild of Owens himself. But what should have been a triumphant, metallic tour de force is unfortunately a bland, boring, and at times just plain embarrassing collection of clunkers.
Owens has often been quoted in the press about how he didn’t have an opportunity to contribute much to the writing process with his other bands. After listening to PLAY MY GAME, I quickly came to understand why that was. Regardless of my personal feelings towards John Schaffer or the Tipton/Downing club, they’re all adept, experienced songwriters. Owens? Well…not so much. At least not judging by the schlock offered up here. The songs sound dated, the lyrics are base level, and to much dismay, the all star cast of supporting musicians is never fully utilized. But the most annoying part of the whole thing is Owens’ voice itself. Owens’ voice is unquestionably a powerful instrument, nobody’s questioning that. When combined with the right combination of songwriting arrangements and musicians, his voice can propel a song to astounding levels – take “Death Dealer” or “Cathedral Spires” as testaments to that fact. But when the songs are flat and Owens’ voice is the only attraction, as they are here, it sadly comes across as obnoxious and one-dimensional.
“Starting Over” opens up the disc anticlimactically; a slower power rocker that sounds uncomfortably like a Dokken single from the late eighties (and not in a good way). “Believe” follows as another slower, yet chunkier number. The song plods along directionless, while Owens’ over the top vibrato and over enunciated vocal lines quickly grate on your sensibilities. Songs about alien conspiracies, songs about world destruction, songs about fast cars, all the usual fodder is here. But the songs rarely pick up any steam, choosing to settle comfortably into monotonous “chugga, chugga” riff territory. Even the riff and verse from the title track feel like they were lifted straight out of Drowning Pool’s “Bodies.” There’s a few interesting moments, such as the opening salvo of “The Cover Up,” the down tuned swagger of “The Light,” and the Priestly vibe of “Death Race” but these moments are too few and far between.
I really, really tried to like this album. But as many times as I listened to it, I found myself skipping ahead to the next track desperately searching for something, anything remotely interesting, with no reward. But you shouldn’t have to work that hard to enjoy an album. It’s disappointing; Ripper’s exceptionally talented when surrounded by the right cast, but when that cast is stripped away, you end up with PLAY MY GAME.