ARABIA – Welcome To The Freakshow (2011)
“Welcome To The Freakshow” is the follow-up of Arabia’s debut album ‘1001 Nights’, which was released about a decade ago, a fine example of arena rock with powerful vocals.
Arabia 2011 is basically original vocalist and leader John Blaze and whoever happens to be onstage/in the studio with him. The line-up had changed several times as nothing really clicked into place for John, and as he stated recently, the recording of the 2nd album became a freakshow of events, but ultimately he found a groove with great guys who shared his musical tastes.
In writing the record it’s apparent that John Blaze went through many phases in his life reflecting on how he got to where he was, as well as never forgetting to keep things fun. As we all know, rock n roll is meant to be an escape and a release from the day to day madness of our normal lives.
Musically, the album itself is a harder edged beast than the band’s debut.
This is felt from the off with the opener and title track “Welcome To The Freakshow”, a hard rockers delight that gets started with the obligatory intro, then the full force of the song is unleashed with a big tuned out guitar lick before Blaze unleashes a powerful vocal. There’s a lot of melody here, but teamed with a darker undercurrent, making you sing along one minute and look over your shoulder the next.
Strangely, second track “No Place Like Home” is a ballad, a personal favourite and in my opinion the best track on the album. The intro gets this one underway before the gentle, almost sombre vocal from Blaze really hits home on this one. It’s a great moving track that’s talks about where your heart really belongs.
The album continues with the dark hard rocker “Last Temptation” with its fiery licks and thumping rhythm section. The lyrics talks about a conflicting relation with Jesus. Interesting.
Then it’s the moody “Strange Days” with some modern arrangements featuring an even much darker vibe than the previous tracks. Somehow reminds me 2YK House Of Lords in the chorus.
The album really covers all social and religious aspects, for example, on the meaty lick filled “Jesus Wept”, or the dense ‘Blood Runs Blind’, which is a realization about Aids and knowing someone who was infected with this tragic disease.
Now here’s a monster of a track, “Scarecrow”. This one has a Zodiac Mindwarp / Alice Cooper ‘Feed My Frankenstein’ feel about it. Big chunky bass lines running through it against Blaze’s angst filled vocal and ‘end street’ backing vocals. A murderous five minutes helped out by an atmospheric and effective intro. This serial killer story gives the album a nice peak in the middle, with Blaze putting as much venom and evil in his voice as he can.
It’s back to the traditional Hard Rock with “Crush”, again big licks drive this one, with a melodic guitar solo.
“Beggars Bag” is full of grinding riffs, with a Sabbathesque feel to it, right from its heady bass and deliberate stirring guitar. Another dark hard rocker, a bit muddy and not completely convincing.
The album closer, the all revved-up “Drive” is a pedal to the metal heavy track that mixes Judas Priest-like vocals with some tuned down guitars. I don’t like it.
With “Welcome To The Freakshow”, Arabia has changed radically – for the most part – their sound from the 2001 debut. This is more straight hard rock, dark, with good choruses nonetheless.
The album is well produced, mixed and recorded, with experienced musicians (check personnel) doing a professional job.
The new sound / style is more fitting with today’s Hard Rock scene, being this not necessarily better for the old fans. Still prefer the debut’s orientation, but I think this new album is going to appeal a larger audience.
You like the new direction or not, but “Welcome To The Freakshow” is a solid album, no doubt about that, and certainly well worth checking out.
01 – Welcome To The Freakshow
02 – No Place Like Home
03 – Last Temptation
04 – Strange Days
05 – Jesus Wept
06 – Scarecrow
07 – Crush
08 – Blood Runs Blind
09 – Beggars Bag
10 – Drive
John Blaze – Vocals
George Cintron (Pound Of Flesh) – Guitar, Backing Vocals
T.J. Jordan (Scarecrow) – Guitar
Danny Miranda (Blue Oyster Cult) – Bass
Dennis Feldman (Heaven, Michael Bolton) – Bass
John Micell (Meat Loaf) – Drums
Bobby Marks (Keel) – Drums
Steve Palmer (Steppenwolf) – Drums
BUY IT !