ISSA – ‘Sign of Angels’
Released through Frontiers Records
Issa: lead vocals
Peter Huss: guitars
Tim Larsson: keyboards
Nobby Noberg: bass
Uli Kusch: drums
1.) “Angels Crying” –This track opens with a simple pick slide and tom-tom pattern. The main intro section consisted of the entire band playing a very simple melodic rock arrangement. There is an arrangement change for the musical pre-verse. Though the keyboard is the main instrument for the musical pre-verse is the bass line that is the main arrangement. Issa’s vocal accents are amazing! Instead of changing the music arrangement for the verse Peter kicks-in the guitar which gives the effect the band changed the arrangement. Issa double tracked her own backing vocals giving her voice a very huge sound. There is a small musical fill connecting the first chorus with the second pre-verse. For the second pre-verse the band changed the keyboard arrangement. After the second chorus there is a small musical build-up section that leads into the lead guitar solo.
2.) “I’m Alive” – This track is the first single taken off the disc. This intro consisted of a very simple rhythm guitar riff over the top of a keyboard chord. For the musical verse instead of changing the rhythm riff of the intro Peter overdubbed a second rhythm riff. The musical verse also consisted of a percussion section. These guitar riffs along with Issa’s vocals get more intense as the verse progresses. Uli kicks the drum line in for the musical chorus. The musical change along with the vocal hook of the chorus had a very early Vixen feel to it. There is a small lead guitar change for the second verse. There is a small breakdown section connecting the second chorus with the third chorus. A very cool fade effect was used to lead into the third chorus. Though this is a great sounding song and I see why they picked it as the first single. The arrangement is screaming
3.) “Give Me A Sign” –This track opens with a very short keyboard lead in before going straight into the verse. Over the top of the keyboard arrangement there is a small acoustic guitar arrangement. The acoustic guitar was used as a fill-in instrument and there to give the musical verse a more full sound. Peter kicks-in a small electric guitar riff for the short build-up that leads into the first chorus. The drum line of the second verse was done with a tom-tom pattern. There is a breakdown section after the second chorus that leads into a repeat of the first measure that opened the song. In my experience in listening to music I do not believe I have ever heard anything like this. Much like the track before it this track consisted of no lead guitar solo. The coda consisted of a vocal fade.
4.) “River of Love” - This track with a pre-intro section that consisted of a single rhythm. On the third riff a second guitar riff kicks-in Peter overdubbed a second riff. This second riff though it is over top of the first is more of a rhythm riff. For the main intro the only musical change is the band kick-in. Issa sings several vocal accents over the top of the main intro section. There is a rhythm change for the musical pre-verse. After the intro the guitar does not kick back in until the musical verse. The chorus was very short yet packed a powerful hook. There is a lead guitar solo after the second chorus.
5.) “What Can I Do” – The intro to this track consisted of a simple rhythm guitar riff along with a keyboard effect. The keyboard effect used the intro a very abstract sound. There is a small musical change connecting the intro with the musical pre-verse. If you listen close you can hear the exact same violin effect Jimmy Page used on Led Zeppelin’s song “Kashmir” taken off of Led Zeppelin’s sixth album titled, ‘Physical Graffiti’ originally released February 24, 1975. The band used the same arrangement for the musical pre-verse as the intro. The only difference is underneath the musical pre-verse there are small tom-tom and guitar fills. Instead of changing the arrangement for the musical verse the band just kicks-in the guitar rhythm and drum & bass line. There is a small musical rest connecting the verse to the chorus. There is a rhythm arrangement change for the musical chorus. There is a section of the chorus where the producer slowed the track down adding a nice effect to the coming hook. After the third chorus there is a very short breakdown section that leads into an overdubbed lead guitar solo. The coda is a repeat/fade of the intro section.
6.) “Closer” – Instead of an intro section this track opens with a rhythm guitar riff underneath a lyric line. The bass & drum line kicks-in on the fifth lyric line. The drum line of the first half of the musical chorus was done as a tom-tom rhythm. The on this chorus of this track was a little heavier than the rest of the songs so far. Issa double-tracked her vocal lines on the next second verse giving them an echoed effect.
7.) “Unbelievable” – The piano arrangement of this intro is very reminiscent of something like what you would hear on a soap opera. There is a small piano arrangement change for the musical verse. The band kick-in is at the musical chorus. This is a huge ballad however; the volume on Issa’s mic was turned up way to loud. I’m currently listening to it through headphones and had to turn the volume almost all the way down to get rid of the screech effect in the mic. I’m not going to knock the producer or mixer however my opinion is the vocals need a subtle sound to go along with the piano. However I keep in mind that I am listing to the song through headphones and when I go to listen to it through the stereo it may sound different. If that be the case I will add a footnote at the bottom of the review.
8.) “How Will I Know” –This track opens with a small keyboard that leads into a tom-tom fill. The intro maybe one measure long. For one reason or another I guess the sound. However the keyboard of the intro reminded me of early eighties pop. There is a rhythm guitar change for the musical chorus. Though the keyboard arrangement continues there are several rests in between the main notes of the pattern. Peter changes the guitar arrangement from a rhythm riff to a lead rhythm for the musical chorus. Issa double-tracked the first lyric line of the second verse. There is a breakdown section connecting the second & third verse.
9.) “As I Live and Breathe” – This track opens with a pre-intro consisting of a single rhythm guitar riff. The riff is very reminiscent to the one Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser wrote on Blue Oyster Cult’s beg hit “Don’t Fear The Reaper” released off of 1976 LP ‘Agents of Fortune’. For the main intro and musical verse the band continues with the rhythm guitar of the pre-intro except over the top of it Tim plays the same rhythm. This makes the keyboard the main instrumentation for the musical verse. Underneath the first lyric line Uli switches from a snare crack to a lay over rimshot. The chorus had an eighties Heart/Vixen feel to it. For the second verse Peter overdubbed two different rhythm guitar riffs. This gives the second verse ac very full sound. There is a huge lead guitar solo connecting the second and third chorus. After the third chorus there is a second lead guitar solo over top of the coda.
10.) “Flying High” –Before going into the musical intro this track opened with the special effects of a motorcycle starting up. The musical intro consisted of a very simple intro arrangement. There is a small rhythm change for the musical verse. The way the rhythm guitar was written lets several of the bass notes of the bass line bleed through. The rhythm guitar of the verse just kind of lays back. The chorus of this track was a little short and really did not work for me. I do not want to belittle the band however the only real highlight on this song is Issa’s vocal overdubs through the choruses. There is a short solo however, sorry Pete, it does not compare to Issa’s vocals.
11.) “It’s Not Me” – This track opens with a very simple rhythm guitar riff. On the riff repeat Uli begins playing sixteenth-notes on his crash cymbals. The musical verse kicks-in on the third repeat. Pete overdubbed a second rhythm guitar riff over the first one. This second riff was heavier than the first. The musical verse has a solid groove to it and flows very nicely underneath Issa’s vocals. Through there is a musical change for the chorus. You cannot deny that it is Issa’s vocals and her double-tracking that makes not only the chorus but the song!!! After the second chorus there is a small double-tracked twin guitar solo.
12.) “ Fallen Angel” – The intro that opened this track was very short. The musical rests in between the cymbal crashes gives it an abstract feel. Because of the way the rhythm guitar riffs are written it lets the drum and bass line bleed through becoming almost the main instruments. There is a very cool musical change connecting the musical verse with the musical chorus. There is a lead guitar solo connecting the second and third choruses.