A brief history lesson. Almost 30 years ago fiveguysreleased an album that raised the bar and changed the face of melodic rock/aor....whatever you want to tag it, that band was Dare, unknown musicians apart from chief songwriter and frontman Darren Wharton who had a stint in the latter days of the Thin Lizzy legacy. They burst onto the scene and turned the genre on its head ,rewriting the rule book on how to write rock songs with melody , for whatever reasons they never reached the heights that magazines ,critics and fans alike thought they would have .
That album was Out Of The Silence and in 2016 that debut still holds high regard in many fans hearts and one of ,if not my favourite album of all time,it still gets regularly played in the car , on the ipod and when i am scrolling through you tube .
Dare in the 21st century have been sporadic at bestwith rather long periods between releasing albums , though those albums, Belief and Beneath The Shining Waterwere heavily fused with acousticand celtic undertones, I found myselfloving the slight change of direction,so I was intrigued when reading that theguitarist from the debut Vinny Burns, had returned to the fold, to see if that style would remain or hark back to the debut.
Thankfully for myself but i fear not for a lot of the debut album fans, Sacred Groundkeeps that mix of celtic influence with a more mature sound with Vinnys' blistering guitar work prominent throughout but never over doing it and where the emphasis is always on the song and never individual parts.
Album opener 'Home' begins with an atmospheric windwhile that familiar high pitched guitar from Mr Burns breaks throughbefore the unmistakablevoice ofDarrenwharton givesa feeling of warmth , if anything though Home wasn't quite the album opening track that I expected and left me wanting to press forward on more than one occassion, that isn't to say it is a weak song by any means, it just needs a little more time and a few more plays .
'I'll hear you pray' is far more like the Dare I have grown to love over the years, with a slow start building into a mid tempo masterclass in how to blend lyrics that are heartfelt and poignant with a backing track that includes Vinny at his sublime best with a soaring solo.In this song alone , I was telling a story in my own imagination that was very reminiscent of the films Highlander or Braveheart, where any one of these songs from the album wouldn't appear out of place.
Darren has written every song on this album and while his lyrics have always conjured up visions of mist covered mountains and an aging love story entwined within every song , On Sacred Ground he has excelled himself, producing some of his finest work and Vinny ,Nigel Clutterbuck on bass and Kev Whitehead on drums are making Dare sound like a band again whereas on Belief and Beneath The Shining Water it seemed more like Darren and Richie Dews under the moniker of Dare with backing musicians.
'Days of Summer' and' On My Own' ( current new single and getting airplay on Planet Rock) are the two songs that are going to get you singing along, especially with On My Own , featuringone of those choruses that burrows it way into your psyche and before you know it you are singing it without even knowing it. I can tell you this now, with its infectious almost country feeling verse and that big singalong chorus, this is going to be a crowd favourite when played live.
Whenasked if I wanted to review Sacred Ground, I had intended to live with the album for a week , leaving it on play in the car , however within thirty minutes ofgetting it I had to write something about it, that is how quick I connected with this album.
Dont expect 'Sacred Ground' to relive the glory days of the debut, that time has its place in melodic rock history and plans are afoot for OOTS to be revisted and re-recorded ,it has more in common with the later releases including 'Arc Of The Dawn' ,continuing the celtic (for want of a better word) feel ,but with a much stronger sentiment and with a far stronger emotional attachment to the lyrics, you also get a feel how much of an influence Phil Lynott had on Darren during his time in Lizzy, and you can almost picture Phil singing some of these songs in that amazing voice he had.
Each song tells a story, whether it be eternal love, friendship, or lost loved ones, what Darren has created are songs that will each have its own meaning to the listener and I myself interpretted many of the songs to moments of my life, sad and happy. In 'Every Time We Say Goodbye', Darren has written the most passionate and heartfelt songs of his career in my opinion and a song that instantly had me thinking of lost loved ones with a faint tear stained cheek.Without a doubt my favourite track of the album.
Among the 11 songs on the album, there isn't a poor one, there are one or two that will need to grow with me more over the next few months , like 'Until' , 'Like The First Time' and the aforementioned 'Home'', but in all honesty, the other 8 pulled me in and refused to let go, especially 'I'll Hear You Pray', 'Every Time We Say Goodbye' along with album closer 'Along The Heather' which features Paris Wharton on lead guitar, another clue to Phil Lynotts impact on Darren.
So overall, Sacred Ground is everything I expected and a little bit more from Dare, while it isn't ground breaking, or anything new and refreshing in the AOR genre,but,and it is a BIG but, it is everything that only Dare can do and they do it just so, so well. Masses of melody and majestic sounding songs with the ability to be feltpersonally by the listener as if they were written for and about them. Dare are away for far too long at times and are sadly missed in the UK in the live arena, whilst they are here, buy a copy of Sacred Ground and revell in all that is Dare. You will not be disappointed. 9/10