Album Review : Collateral

Review by Peter Coates

A blast of classic AOR rock from a hard-working bunch of lads from Kent.

Over here in Australia I keep a jealous watch on the stream of quality rock bands emerging from all corners of the UK, covering classic rock, southern rock, , blues rock and all combinations of the above, playing at countless gigs and festivals throughout the country, and being encouraged by the continuing influence of bands who were their idols and heroes from the 1980s and 1990s, many of whom are still ripping it up around the pub, club and theatre circuit – Thunder; Tyketto; Gun; FM and the rest.

These guys may just be the pick of the current crop!

Collateral released their 4 Shots EP at the end of 2018 which was a taster of some quality melodic rock, delivered with a touch of swagger and some killer riffs that combined classic stadium AOR anthems of US and Scandinavian monsters, with a modern and slightly edgier British rock feel.  When you hear the varied influences behind each of the band members, it sort of all makes sense.

Front man Angelo Tristan has a heavy country music side, and guitarist Todd Winger enjoys the ballsier southern rock of Black Stone Cherry and The Cadillac 3, while Jack Bentley-Smith flies the 80s big-rock flag, and drummer Ben Atkinson is from the darker, heavier end of the metal spectrum.  

2019 saw the band head out on a number of support tours, playing the UK’s Camden Rocks and Ramblin’ Man Fair festivals, and also got selected from 200,000 entrants to support Jon Bon Jovi on his Runway to Paradise cruise, and they are just heading out around the UK with the mighty bluespower guitarist Jared James Nichols (here in Australia shortly with John 5) to give them yet more exposure, and then with Phil X & The Drills (Bon Jovi guitarist), before crossing the Channel to go round Europe opening for Skid Row before they are back in the UK with Scandinavian melodic rockers H.E.A.T.  So the next few months are going to be flat out for the boys.

Mr Big Shot kicks off the record with a crunching riff which breaks down for the chorus to a kicking bass and drum line and leaps into the catchiest pre-chorus and the enormous crowd-vocals of the “Big Shot” chorus – call it derivative if you will…..but the band describes it as a slightly mocking self-parody of themselves and found the song developed a strength that meant it was perfect to open the album.

Another killer riff opens up Promiseland which features some guitar chops over a solid kick-drum through the verse, some soaring harmonies, and a ripper solo for Todd and a whole heap of epic harmony vocals and keyboards.  Classic 80’s rock with a modern grittier southern edge comes to the fore with Merry-Go-Round which sees Angelo deliver a really strong vocal, with some subtle harmonies, and a sensational middle-eight and solo with crushing guitars before the stripped-back final verse.

Angelo originally wrote In It For Love over 10 years ago and the band re-visited it and changed the tempo, so it is a driving melodic rocker with some pounding drums and an odd time-change in the song that sort of works, but gives the track two distinct vibes which while both great in their own right, don’t entirely gel as the one song.

An absolute stormer of a track come out next with Lullaby which is a moodier riff-driven track with some immense drumming and a tasty solo, and the lyrics delivered with a bit of venom – this one will be immense live with the crowd-chorus, and was released as the first single from the album back in May 2019.

The opening guitars of Midnight Queen, the only track from the EP that is on the new record, are melodic and semi-acoustic rather than brutal riffs, and immediately bring to mind some of the classic AOR anthems from Nightranger, Honeymoon Suite, Loverboy, Foreigner and REO Speedwagon, with driving bass and drums, and a tasty line in guitar licks from Todd

A rock ballad was always going to find it’s way onto the record, and Get Back To You has got it all – the breathy vocals over acoustic guitar before the band kicks in for the next verse, the soaring vocals of the chorus, and the melodic guitar soloing over huge keyboards – you can see the lighters in the air already.  The solo leads into the power-ballad chorus and there is a second solo in the delightfully overblown outro which works so well. If it sounds as though I am critical, that is certainly not the case…….it is impossible to hear this and not be picked up emotionally at least a little.

Won’t Stop Me Dreaming opens up with a pile-driving riff that has more hook-lines than a trawler, as it races into catchy pre-chorus and even catchier chorus.  The harmonies are seamless and the beat just forces the head to nod and feet to stamp – this will be a killer track live. Album-closer About This Boy has some of the country music influences, and ends up as a what could be a huge radio-friendly west coast rock song with a feel of The Eagles or their modern incarnation, Midland.  

Angelo has the hair and the voice to go with it, with some wonderful harmonies in many of the choruses, with some quality lead guitar and riffing from Todd, and an absolutely solid rhythm-section in Jack and Ben, with the whole package supported by a huge production from Sean Kenny – this is stadium melodic rock of the quality of the likes of Bad English, with the commercial power of Bon Jovi and Europe, and the balls of Skid Row, tinged with the modern Scandinavian power and harmony of Eclipse or Degreed, delivered with a modern British edge as with the likes of New Device, Vega or Night By Night.The album is released on February 21st and is available on all normal formats and from the band website.