Black Swan – Generation Mind (Album Review)

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When the Black Swan was hatched in 2020, the debut of this super-group for the new decade made some real waves. Schenker vocalist Robin McAuley was carried capably by Dokken bassist Jeff Pilson, along with fellow Dokken alum Reb Beach, also infamous for Winger, Whitesnake, Night Ranger and almost countless other credits. Massive drumming was handled by Frehley and Mr. Big powerhouse drummer Matt Starr, and still is. The debut album did a number of new things, in some familiar flavors, to the end that it scored very well with the Sonic Perspectives team. The same band remains intact, and has delivered a new album for 2022.

“Generation Mind” promises to be a more focused and polished offering than the band’s original debut, but let’s find out how it measures up. This one-hour collection of twelve tracks is meant to be one of the biggest arrivals for 2022 from Frontiers Records, as it should be with this talented lineup.

The album scores some bonus points for creativity with a one-minute instrumental introduction, which may be called “Before The Light,” but seems to reach back a little bit to the Zeppelin catalog and “In The Light,” albeit a darker more ominous interpretation of the same feelings. Of course, when Reb starts weaving in some leads halfway in, his signature tremolo work almost gets some Jason Becker vibes happening, which is cool. When the second track, the first “real” track starts, entitled “She Hides Behind,” it has Reb’s fingerprints all over it. As with the previous Black Swan release, as well as other Reb projects like “The Mob” (with Dug Pinnick), Reb tends to employ riffs and song structures which are great rockers in their own right, but perhaps not adequately the right proggy flavor for the underrated composer known as C.F. Kip Winger. For pushing seventy years of age, Robin McAuley certainly has zero reservations about pushing his vocal cords to the limits, and his voice remains solid and more than up to the task. Reb’s solo in the piece is his usual solid work, filled with his signature blend of high-speed legato runs complemented by the occasional right hand tapping and trem flutters and pull-ups.

The title track, “Generation Mind,” is a traditional mid-tempo arrangement, with AOR flavor comparable to what the Revolution Saints have been doing with Reb’s old bandmate Doug Aldrich. The musicianship is solid, with another musically-pleasing guitar solo in the middle section, but one has to wonder if it’s vain hopes for video/radio exposure which leads the song to be fairly unexciting, all things considered. It does nothing especially new, or attention-grabbing, which is unfortunate for a title track, but unsurprising for a track intended to be accessible to the masses. On the topic of songs with videos, “Eagles Fly” has a much more compelling song structure. It has a bit more energy, and variety in the overall rhythm section. Of the two album tracks with music videos (and presumably lofty expectations from the label), “Eagles” is without a doubt the better written of the two.

The next track, “See You Cry,” gets back to AOR accessibility with a track that can be best compared to Def Leppard’s “Pyromania” era, although it is clear Jeff and Reb weren’t shy about inserting some Dokken feel as well. Speaking of Don Dokken’s disciples, they inserted even more of the same vibes into “Killer on the Loose,” which could have been a solid part of the “Back for the Attack” album. Although Reb is very much his own animal as a player, he retains quite an uncanny knack for being able to borrow certain technical elements of playing from Mr. Scary, the man Reb humorously praised as “His sound was on fire, he looked like a scary Indian and his name was Lynch.” From dialing in a gain setting that’s a bit more 1980s Dokken, to dissecting chords, and putting a touch of vibrato on them, Reb really has Lynch’s number, possibly without even thinking about it. It is impressive.

The following track, “Miracle,” has a darker feel, with impressive bass guitar work, and an innovative verse structure. The gang vocals are a net positive; they add to the song without feeling cheesy. In a departure from the album’s overall trajectory, we have “How Do You Feel,” which rather than asking us questions in a “Frampton Comes Alive” sort of way, instead is a blues-based jammer, like if one of the Dokken ballads had been written by Richie Kotzen and Adrian Smith. The song has a cool little meltdown/bridge section built around another quality Beach solo. Even if it isn’t one of the designated hitters of the album, or something more accessible, it’s one of the better written tracks on the record. Kudos to Reb and Jeff on some cool backing vocals.

“Long Way Down” has some definite later Winger vibes. It could easily fit in on “Karma” or “Better Days Comin.” Parts of the track are driven with a relentless energy, which keeps things moving with a nice momentum all the way to the ending, where the whole track sort of comes off the rails and proceeds to tumble down the side of the mountain with increasing speed and chaos. Praise here to Starr for keeping the tempo increasing steadily without ever getting crazy about it.

For the track “Crown,” well, the introductory riff is a bit like if Eddie VH helped write the infamous riff from “Seventeen.” Maybe just a touch of Ratt’s “Lay It Down.” On this cut, with the support of backing vocals, Robin’s parts are some of his strongest on the album. As nouveau hair metal goes, this track is pretty cool, and probably one of the more solid contributions to the album as a whole. “Wicked the Day” opens with what is essentially the same opening as “Kiss of Death” from “Back for the Attack.” This riff and tempo carry us through the rest of the track, which aside from its overall resemblance to “Kiss of Death,” make for a quality classic metal rocker, with Reb having great fun abusing the Floyd Rose on his Suhr guitar at the end of the track.

The final song, “I Will Follow,” opens with clean electric guitar playing which reminds one of Jake E. Lee’s introduction to “Killer of Giants” from the “Ultimate Sin” album. Aside from the stalker tendencies of the song (“Wherever you go, I will follow,”) the heavy core sections of the song are pretty cool. Reb saves on of his better solos for last, with some unexpected note selection (do we hear string skipping?) along with a gnarly cocktail of pinch harmonics and tremolo flutters. The chorus returns for another round to bring the album to its conclusion. No, wait, it fades out and comes back for some more clean Jake E. Lee stuff. The End.

So, what do we have here? This album is solid, and a great listen, but the bad news (if there is any) is that it does not seem to punch quite as hard as the first Black Swan. It happens. Aside from being a little derivative here and there (and what doesn’t, at this point, especially in this genre), the riffs, choruses, and overall song design could have used just a smidgen more creativity and variety. But really, we are nitpicking, because this is a great little album for working out, road trips, backyard BBQ, or whatever. We just needed to elaborate that while this album scores very high for us, it falls just a little short of where we scored “Shake the World.” This is another great record, it just shook our world a little less than its predecessor. Be sure to check it out on April 8.

Released By: Frontiers Music SRL
Release Date: April 8th, 2022
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Robin McAuley / Lead Vocals, Background Vocals
  • Reb Beach / Guitars, Background Vocals
  • Jeff Pilson / Bass, Acoustic Guitar, Keys, Background Vocals
  • Matt Starr / Drums, Percussion
  • Casey McAuley / Additional Background Vocals

“Generation Mind” Track-list:

 1. Before The Light
2. She Hides Behind
3. Generation Mind
4. Eagles Fly
5. See You Cry
6. Killer On The Loose
7. Miracle
8. How Do You Feel
9. Long Way Down
10. Crown
11. Wicked The Day
12. I Will Follow

8.8 Excellent

If you are a fan of any of the music from Jeff Pilson, Reb Beach, Robin McAuley or Matt Starr, from Dokken to Whitesnake to Winger to MSG, you should check out this supergroup’s latest release. The new Black Swan is packed with riffs and authentic classic metal vibes

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8
  • Production 9
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2 Comments

  1. Great review and fantastic band. Their sophomore album is amazing and I love the first two singles from Generation Mind. I’m just wondering, how do you review an album that hasn’t been released yet?

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