Fuckin' hell, this is sultry stuff. It has the smooth bite of the finest Arabic coffee; deliciously rich and dark, strong with the promise of a sleepless night to follow. In short, this album is pure undiluted class.
A quick look at his CV will tell you that Oliver Hartmann is a workaholic. He is a man that does not seem to be able to sit still and must have been fucking torture as a kid.
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Born in Germany, Oliver is a multi instrumentalist as well as a songwriter but it is his voice that is his trump card. A less bluesy take on Coverdale's, it has a deep underlying Tom Jones (yes, that's right, Tom Jones. You got a fucking problem with that?) quality that gives the vocal performance a richness that is nigh on impossible to resist.
Balance is Hartmann's fifth solo album, but the umpteenth album he has been involved with since his emergence in the late nineties. It seems all that work and experience has paid off too because this album is full to the brim of standout blue chip melodic rock.
'Shout', a cover of the Tears For Fears classic, gets an injection of Metal it has been crying out years for and 'Dance On The Wire' nicks Skynyrd's 'Sweet Home...' riff and uses it to give the album a bit of a laid back acoustic break without effecting the groove.
'After The Love Is Gone' slides over your senses like a silk sheet as you lay in yer pit after some seriously slow action with your preferred partner of choice and the jangling drive of 'Like A River' captures the uplifting feel that percolates throughout the project.
Overall, balance has a huge heart of soul that is criminally lacking from a lot of Metal these days. Oliver Hartmann seems to understand that to give Metal soul does not mean it has to lose its grunt. It's a mix that Frankie Miller would appreciate, though sadly many others wouldn't.
There is not a dud on 'Balance' and even the lighter waving closer 'The Best Is Yet To Come' has a grandiosity that is difficult not to admire. Let's hope its sentiment is not just a hollow boast or an empty promise.
Sadly this album is in no way innovative; it is too late for that but what it does, it does extremely well and would make the perfect introduction to AOR as well as make a worthy addition to any veterans archive.
If you are partial to a bit of high quality AOR then this album will be right up your street. So, now you've read this do you not think it's time to get that criminally underused caffatiere out and treat yourself to a cup of Arabia's finest brew whilst getting lost in the richness of 'Balance'.