Todd Michael Hall – Sonic Healing (Album Review)

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With so many naysayers out there declaring that rock is dead and in need of a proper eulogy, one might rightly assume that the world of music has grown sickly. Even in what passes for rock radio on today’s airwaves seems more geared towards the accomplishments made 30 or more years ago than giving the time of day to an up and coming outfit looking to bring back the classic sounds of yesteryear. The task of curing such a pervasive cultural malady would seem a foolish one for any one artist or group to undertake, but that’s precisely the direction that Metal Church guitarist and songwriting extraordinaire Kurdt Vanderhoof and current Riot V front man Todd Michael Hall appear to be going on the latter’s most recent solo effort. Drawing upon the influence of such noted 70s rock icons as Boston, Rush, Styx, Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, the aptly named studio effort “Sonic Healing” could well be the shot in the arm needed to usher in another revival of what now seems a bygone era when the riffs were massive, the hooks infectious, and the arenas filled to capacity with throngs of rabid fans.

Far from being a trifling exploration of an old sound by a fold of amateurs, this album is an exercise in paying tribute to the greats by a singer and guitarist who were there to witness the original run of classic rock and have a deep well of talent with which to match the standards set by the originals. Hall’s mighty wailing tenor proves both versatile enough to channel the unique personas of Brad Delp, Tommy Shaw and Geddy Lee, and also distinctive enough not to come off as a carbon copy of any one of them. The degree of power behind each note that is belted out above an impressive battery of hard rocking instrumentation is of the sort rarely encountered nowadays, all but making any would be listener check their calendar to make sure that they haven’t been transported 45 years into the past. Of near equal impressiveness is the guitar work put forth on these songs, showcasing the same level of creative brilliance that Vanderhoof regularly brings to his famed progressive rock side-project Presto Ballet, but with about double the level of aggression.

Perhaps the only thing that keeps this album from being a full on throw back to the 70s, apart from the amped up production value, is that Hall and Vanderhoof emulate a different signature sound from one song to the next, all but to the point of coming off as a tribute album of sorts. The opening cruiser “Overdrive” has a punchy, driving, up tempo character to it that reminisces upon the early works of Thin Lizzy and occasionally leans into almost NWOBHM territory, albeit with a vocal assault that reminds heavily of vintage Tommy Shaw. By contrast, the smooth crooning combined with nuanced guitar work heard on “Running After You” splits the difference between something that could have been heard on Rush’s “A Farewell To Kings” and one of the AOR anthems heard out of REO Speedwagon. The heavy-ended riffing of title anthem “Sonic Healing” and the jazzy rocking shuffle of “Let Loose Tonight” mixes some southern rock vibes in with the pomp-driven guitar sounds of Boston. But the brightest patch of old school rocking brilliance is the bluesy swagger with a side-order of mixed up progressive nuance that is “Love Rain Down”.

For any would be rock fan who wants a bit more from their sonic cuisine than a few chords being banged out beneath a vocalist that showcases as much intrigue as a wall of drying paint, this is a much needed breath of fresh air. Despite the duo behind this impressive opus being in elder end of the rock spectrum, there is such a degree of energy and vigor present on here that suggests a fold of musicians in their early 20s making their first go at the big time. To be fair, there have been a few solid acts putting out material of late that are within the threshold of the millennial generation, but Todd Michael Hall and Kurdt Vanderhoof bring a level of credibility to the art form that is a cut above the rest, showcasing that this is the music that they’ve loved for the majority of their respective lives. Terrestrial radio may have the average Joe believing that classic rock can only be found in the back catalogs of bands who are now approaching their 70s, but this album begs to differ, and a larger audience would do well to take a break from their preferred FM station to give this a spin.

Released Date: May 7th, 2021
Released By: Rat Pak Records
Genre: Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Todd Michael Hall / Vocals 
  • Kurdt Vanderhoof / Guitars

“Sonic Healing” tracklisting:

  1. Overdrive
  2. Let Loose Tonight
  3. All On The Line
  4. Running After You
  5. Love Rain Down
  6. Sonic Healing
  7. Like No Other
  8. Somebody’s Fool
  9. To The Bone
  10. Long Lost Rock & Rollers

8.6 Great

Reliving the past and recapturing the magic of a past era of music are not necessarily the same thing, and the mastermind and six-string wizard of Metal Church fame has joined forces with one of the greatest voices on the scene today to craft a collection of old school rockers that accomplish the latter.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 9
  • Production 8.5
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