Hardline - Life

Hardline Life cover
Frontiers Music srl
Well, Hardline started pretty much as a band of the two Gioeli brothers and through the years has featured some fine musicians, including misters Castronovo & Schon best know from Journey, as well as Josh Ramos and Joey Tafola, among others. Still in recent years, the band has revolved around Johnny Gioeli, who was rather busy this past year and Alessandro Del Vecchio, a guy who writes, arranges and produces a ton of stuff for Frontiers, the label that Hardline belongs to.
Gioeli is blessed with the kind of voice that’s so unique, he could be singing out names from a telephone directory and it would sound like the best thing ever. Great timbre, range, grit and that “hurt”, vulnerability and bluesy soulfulness whenever things are in the minor keys… he’s just amazing. Spreading his talents thin however by singing in many albums and in this particular case also having a lot of stuff co-written with DelVecchio, a guy who might be doing a good job, but is also used in countless projects, means the result is not always on par.
Opener “Place to Call Home” is an upbeat and riffy number that’s pleasant enough. It’s not exactly the most original thing you’ve ever heard, but it does what it’s supposed to do, well enough.
“Take a Chance” was the first song the band released as a song and it’s a rather carefree, melodic mid-tempo tune, with the guitars sounding unnaturally loud and prominent for the style, but it’s good, nonetheless.
“Helio’s Sun” title makes very little sense to me since Helios is Sun in Greek, so… Sun’s Sun? It’s a thumpier mid-tempo track, with quite a bite, a nice riff and a decent chorus that’s cool, but does feel like it could be a little less random and more meaningful.
“Page of Your Life” is a piano ballad and as you might have guessed it; Gioeli does a fine job singing it. It turns electric halfway through and other than sounding rather predictable, there’s nothing wrong with it.
“Out of Time” (was someone watching B2TF?) is a riffy rocker that comes together when the chorus kicks in, but again feels a little too “macho” production wise. I mean it’s clear and everything is discernible, but I’d have liked it a little more delicate and thinner tone-wise and maybe not as prominent.
“Hold on to Right” tries to tread familiar territory and does so, well enough, with the chorus releasing the tension the verses build up.
“Handful of Sand” is a tad more melodic, but doesn’t forget to be riffy and harder edged. It takes a while to resolve and its chorus is not exactly a huge climax, but it’s smartly put together and works.
“This Love” is a hard rocking ballad, pretty heavy and lyrical and Gioeli does his thing. Guitarist Mario Percudani (who also works with Gioeli and Del Vecchio in the Gioeli/Castronovo project) blurts out a pretty nice solo and when the song winds down… it does so in a really cool way.
“Story of My Life” is discount Bon Jovi, but taking into account how bad BJ has been recent, it’s probably head over heels better than anything that he’s put out lately.
“Who Wants Tto Live Forever” is a cover of the Queen classic, just piano and voice. It’s an iconic song and while Gioeli’s performance is pretty faithful, it’s maybe not as ethereal as Mercury’s. He hits all the right notes and obviously his grit makes the climax (where the full band comes on) work really well.
“Chameleon” is an interesting song as it transforms from an acoustic into a heavy song that seems to have the dynamics that the band had on “Double Eclipse” but it’s obviously not that good.
“My Friend” is a nice acoustic piece, a very cool and relaxed number which allows Gioeli to unfurl his great voice and harmonize over his own performance. Great closer.
Japanese fans are treated to a totally stripped down piano version of “This Love”, which, imho, sounds a lot better than the “original” album version. Lucky chaps those Japs.
A fair album that manages to add to the Hardline legacy without taking away anything from the past glories. I object slightly to how rough/heavy the guitars sound on a number of songs, but that’s a minor qualm and frankly unable to really mar the overall result.