I think ‘Human Fire’ is harder edged than The Promise debut, but also richer in sound, and sits comfortably among all the other European album releases from that year.
Written by: gdmonline
ARTIST: The Promise
ALBUM: Human Fire
SERIAL: FRCD 024
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Scotland
LINEUP: Ian Benzie – lead and backing vocals, bass * Gareth Davies – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals * Nods Graham – lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals * Steve Craig – keyboards * Colin Fraser – drums
TRACK LISTING: 01 Lets Talk About Love * 02 Kiss Me And Kill Me * 03 Hold On To Love * 04 There Goes My Heart * 05 When Love Takes A Hand * 06 Hole In My Heart * 07 Let The Night Go On Forever * 08 Only A Woman * 09 Looking Glass * 10 Arms Of A Stranger
WEBLINKS: Site Link
After the promising 1995 debut CD from Scottish AORsters The Promise, they returned four years later with their second offering ‘Human Fire’. It’s not anything to do with human combustion or other such dangerous events, but this lot know how keep temperatures raised within the confines of melodic rock-AOR.
The comparison between this and the debut is only the timeframe in which it was created; ‘Human Fire’ taking two years to complete after indifferent recording sessions during 1996 and a subsequent ‘time-out’ being called for by the band.
The debut already had a host of songs ready from prior years, and these were able to be worked up much quicker. Gone were longtime keyboardist Deanne Munro who ventured to the USA to live, replaced by Steve Craig. Drummer Colin Chapman departed for Glasgow down south to be replaced by another Colin, this time Colin Fraser.
I think ‘Human Fire’ is harder edged than the debut, but also richer in sound, and sits comfortably among all the other European album releases from that year. All aspects of their sound has been beefed up, similar to labelmates Ten but with more AOR tendencies and less grandiosity (if there is such a word).
It takes a full minute for The Promise to kick into gear on ‘Lets Talk About Love’. It’s easy to hear a Night Ranger vibe to this song, including the trading dual guitars of Davies and Graham and the overall song structure. ‘Kiss Me And Kill Me’ borrows some ideas from the aforementioned Ten before returning to a purists AOR sound for the mid-tempo ‘Hold On To Love’. Lead vocalist Ian Benzie sounds great on this one.
The ballad ‘There Goes My Heart’ has definitely been nutured carefully in the studio and the end result is a testament to that. It’s an album highlight for me. The Promise move into Survivor mode for ‘When Love Takes A Hand’. The guitar work here is heavy-handed, more so than Frankie Sullivan can deliver, but the stomping drum work and overall feel is very much attributable to material from the Dave Bickler era.
One of the band’s older tracks ‘Hole In My Heart’ is up for grabs here, from a time when they were known as Freebird. Very much early 80’s hard-rock with an updated production. ‘Let The Night Go On Forever’ is simply gorgeous, a keyboard dominated ballad topped by harmony vocals which sound like a million bucks. Well done.
Then it’s onto ‘Only A Woman’, AOR never sounded so good from north of the English border, sort of like a serious sounding Ian Cussick (another ‘Jock’ to add to the Scottish AOR list). This is a keeper too. Just when you thought it was all ivories and melodies, ‘Looking Glass’ comes along and kicks your ass with some cutting six-string madness.
To be completely different, ‘Arms Of A Stranger’ is a song of contrasts; guitar parts divided up between electric and acoustic (flamenco like if you will), soft and hard musical passages, and all in the space of 8.45 minutes. The band nearly enter the corridors of prog, but the pomp attack as witnessed at the 6.30 minute mark brings things back into perspective. A good song, but you’ll need to give it your full attention over the 8 minute plus playing time.
At the time, the album received encouraging reviews; some giving it top marks while others were less convinced (melodicrock.com for instance giving it a measly 74%). The band went over to the USA and played to an astonished American audience during the Las Vegas hosted Ultrasound 2000 gig. I still remember talking to some people who witnessed their set that day; some saying it was the best performance seen by a hard rock band in a long time. Totally off the charts.
Years later, I decided to review both The Promise albums side by side, and though a decade has since passed when the band finally gave it away (folding in 2002), the boys (and girl.. Deanne Munro) from Aberdeen should be very proud of their music and the results they achieved over nearly 20 years of playing.
Entire Album (Select Tracks)