Running Games

Anmeldt av Jens Nepper
(Frontiers Records, 2021)

Karakter: 5/6

JOEL HOEKSTRA 13 album cover.jpgIt is simply a treat to immerse oneself in Whitesnake guitarist Joel Hoekstra's solo outputs and "Running Games" is unarguably his best and most fully formed opus yet - and that is saying something considering how good the debut offering "Dying to Live" was.

Backed by a strong and musically muscular line-up consisting of Vinny Appice, Tony Franklin, Russell Allen, Derek Sherinian, and Jeff Scott Soto, the 13 band as we shall refer to it rip through eleven superbly executed compositions that all possess a great flow and an abundance of dangerously cool riffs and delightful vocal hooks. In terms of sound and style, parts of this album recall Dio's 80s records (in particular the classic "Holy Diver" and to a lesser extent the melodically gorgeous "Dream Evil" LP) whereas other sections and passages bring to mind Whitesnake's "Slip of the Tongue" due to their inherently blues-influenced tones and melancholy vibes. Most of all though, it sounds like Hoekstra and his talented ensemble doing what they do best and having the time of their lives playing marvelous hard rock music together. The level of enthusiasm and determination is so prominent throughout that one can almost reach out and touch it.

"Heart Attack" boasts a massive groove and a fantastic chorus while the aggressive "Take What's Mine" is a tasty heavy metal treat. The slightly darker "Cried Enough for You" is one of the more moving pieces on the record and "I'm Gonna Lose It" is without a shadow of doubt one of the catchiest tracks that I have come across this year. Only the title song, which is the album closer, feels slightly anticlimactic compared to the rest of the material.

The production is potent and strikes a good balance between clarity and crunch, and this is an expertly crafted and memorable selection of varied hard rock that pays tribute to the past while simultaneously looking to the future. I am REALLY digging "Running Games"!



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