Night Ranger - High Road (Frontiers Records)

Sometimes you just can't beat experience and sheer, unadulterated skill...
Release Date: 
5 Jun 2014 - 11:30pm

Night Ranger’s debut album, Dawn Patrol, came out in, I think, 1982. In simple terms, it is one of the greatest melodic hard rock records ever made, choc full of massive songs, and perhaps more importantly for us here at Metal as Fuck, some utterly searing lead guitar interplay courtesy of former Ozzy sidekick Brad Gillis and Jeff Watson. In 32 years and ten other studio albums the band have never topped this effort.

Which automatically renders High Road, the band’s eleventh album, something of a failure, right? Well, in simplistic terms I guess it does, but that’s to deny the sheer, unadulterated euphoric pleasure that’s to be found in listening to this record. On its own terms, as a stand alone album, there won’t be many to touch it in its field this year. Night Ranger sound utterly re-energised on goinzoid anthems such as Rollin’ On, where the crass yet oh-so-heavy riffage of Gillis and newish six string counterpart Joel Hoekstra really does deserve the soubriquet Metal as Fuck; add a magnificent Jack Blades to the mix and you’ve got pretty much the perfect party track, full of singability and yet air guitar worthy to the max. This is Night Ranger smack in the middle of their natural habitat, and it’s great to hear.

Elsewhere Blades puts in a great vocal on the opening title track, whilst drummer Kelly Keagy sings the living daylights out of power ballad Don’t Live Here Anymore. There’s no denying that Night Ranger lost their way through the nineties and into the early part of this century, but songs of this calibre prove that the band really is back and operating at somewhere near peak capacity.  The slow building solo at the end of …Anymore is absolute nirvana for shredheads everywhere, and it brings a tear to the eye of this longterm fan to hear the band firing on all cylinders in such emphatic style.

Uplifting rocker I’m Coming Home delivers in spades too, Keagy leading the front before Blades adds some great backing vocals come chorus time. And then – you guessed it – Gillis and Hoekstra take the whole thing to another level with yet more jaw dropping melodic pyrotechnics. If, after all this time, you still see Night Ranger as primarily purveyoys of film soundtrack-worthy fluff, let your ears be delighted by tracks like this – your cynicism will dissolve in seconds…

I’m not going to get into the minutiae of track by track breakdown with this review – there’s only so many times you can write ‘this track is brilliant’ before the paralysis of ennui sets in – so I’ll just leave you with this: High Road is the best record Night Ranger have produced since 1987’s Big Life, and I implore you to give it a spin. Satisfaction is guaranteed, I promise you.