If they’ve heard more than one song, the general public only know Journey for their radio-friendly power ballads. But rock fans have always been aware of the other side of the band; the classy hard-rock outfit capable of filling quite major venues with their high energy live shows. In their eighties heyday there was sometimes a tension between these two aspects of their music. Interviews suggested the record company constantly demanding more ballads while at least some of the band wanted to rock out rather more. With less commercial pressure nowadays to be radio-friendly, this, like many of their recent albums, shows more of the hard rock Journey rather than the commercial power-ballad Journey.
After regrouping a few years back they’re now on their third singer since Steve Perry’s retirement. Following from Steve Augeri, forced out with vocal problems trying to reach Perry’s high notes, and Jeff Scott Soto, who never quite sounded right, comes Arnel Pineda. On his second studio album with the band he still sounds close enough to Steve Perry to make it sound like Journey, but on this disk he has enough of an identity of his own to be more than a mere clone.
From the opening guitar barrage of “City of Hope”, it’s clear that the songs on this disk are written more for live performance rather than for daytime radio airplay. The following “Edge of the Moment” is in a similar vein, the sort of genre-defining hard-edged highly melodic AOR that Journey have made their own. There’s room for plenty of Neil Schon’s shredding jazz-metal guitar with songs typically stretching for five or six minutes, but they don’t neglect the stadium-friendly big choruses either. Other highlights are the Zeppelinesque “Chain of Love”, and “Human Feel” with the African-style drums and Hammond backed riff. The last three tracks are pure gold; the epic power-ballad in “To Whom It May Concern”, the quintessential Journey pop-rock of “Someone” and finally the monstrous instrumental “Venus”.
The album’s by no means without it’s flaws. Jonathan Cain’s keys take too much of a back seat at times, and the album could have done with a bit more light and shade. And like too many albums it’s just a little overlong, and could have done with losing some filler towards the middle of the album. The mediocre “She’s a Mystery” in particular really shouldn’t have made the cut.
This album might leave some Glee or X-Factor fans disappointed, but reality TV viewers aren’t exactly Journey’s core audience. The is really an album for fans of melodic hard rock. While it doesn’t quite reach the standard of 80s classics like “Escape” and especially “Frontiers”, this album shows Journey are still as much a force to be reckoned in the studio as they are live, with a quarter of a century after their commercial peak.