ALPHA MOUNTAIN – Alpha Mountain (2022)
Self-titled as the band, “Alpha Mountain” is the debut album from ALPHA MOUNTAIN, the new project from Steph Honde (vocals, guitars, keyboards) whose credentials include playing amongst others with Vinnie Appice (Black Sabbath, Dio), Don Airey (Deep Purple, Colloseum II), Neil Murray (Whitesnake) in the international group Hollywood Stars. He has also opened for Deep Purple, performed on stage with Paul DiAnno (Iron Maiden) and acted as a session musician for Frederíc Slama’s A.O.R.
“Alpha Mountain” is all about Classic Rock, reading in between melodic rock, hard, AOR, and little progressive touches here and there with a sound & style ranging from early Whitesnake, Deep Purple or Uriah Heep to ’80s Black Sabbath, Dio, Rainbow, Glenn Hughes, etc.
Honde has enlisted the talents of vocalist Butcho Vukovic (Redneck Rampage), ex Adagio Eric Lebailly (drums), Pascal Baron (bass) and Fred Schneider (bass on four songs). Combined these veterans of rock waste no time to boldly go where Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio tread before with the blasting opener ”Serenity”.
Brought to life by classic hard rock riffs, strong harmonies, a tightly operating dynamic rhythm section, tasty Hammond organ expressions and a vocalist blessed with tonsils of Jorn gold this song will surely live up to expectations of those growing up with 80’s inspired hard rock.
This grand opening statement furthermore ticks boxes through excellent guitar fireworks from Honde and a mildly expressed feel of melodious Moxy deliciousness.
A few songs later, the mighty ‘It’s Up To You’ rivals this wonderful opening track with sublime grooviness and colorful instrumentation amidst proggy arrangements. It expresses an epic Dio / Black Sabbath feel and atmosphere. It’s a compelling musical declaration that fits the band like a glove, and I reckon to be met by many “thrown horns” in a live setting.
Although, truth be told, the groovy melodic Glenn Hughes style bursting out of ‘All In Vain’, with equally compelling melodies and catchy choruses is an excellent alternative direction for the band if they choose to. Up to them really. It thrives on vicious guitar and interspersed with an extremely worthwhile solo from Honde to boot.
The fact that Honde has serious chops and is highly capable in writing strong, concisely structured songs, is soon clear, once the unadulterated rocker ‘It’s Tough’ leads into the extremely fine ‘A Deep And Real Sad Song’. This album highlight releases several Queensryche influences. Harmonic duelling vocals of Honde and Vukovic provide a Hughes/Turner Project touch. The nicer 0dayrox difference being that Honde’s intonation lies closer to that of James LaBrie (Dream Theater) than Joe Lynn Turner, a contrast that works out splendidly. Together with the song’s beautiful grandeur build-up with piano and excelling guitar work, it also creates pleasant and satisfying memories of Course Of Fate.
The subdued and emotional resting point ‘In Memory Trace’ is equally soothing. A ballad that comfortably glides onwards on a grand melody and lovingly restrained guitars. Admittedly, each of these tracks described above won’t make the band win prizes for originality, but given the devoted energetic execution in which the songs rush by – who cares?
‘Bad Days’ has a different approach, a much more melodic rock vibe brings out classic AOR influences reminiscent of the rough and rockier road taken by Journey and Revolution Saints, which is always a good thing.
Almost the same can be said for the relative straightforward melodic approach of ‘Chasing The Wind’, which gets knocked out of the ballpark by a stellar solo from Honde, and the fluent uptempo rock of ‘Don’t Go Astray’, where refinement in harmonies adds depth while throbbing bass keeps excellent pace.
The mid-paced ‘The Thin Red Line’ has a retro Seventies feeling in essence, with nice harmony singing between Vukovic & Honde, then the sweet delicatessen of ‘What’s Going Wrong’ closes the album with delicate piano, low passionate vocals and delicious bluesy guitar work.
Served with a modern sound, “Alpha Mountain” delivers strong melodies inspired by the likes of Rainbow, Dio, Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep, Glen Hughes et all, at glance upon progressive arrangements from time to time. It’s a varied heavy melodic rock offering worth checking out and playing loud!
01 – Serenity
02 – All in Vain
03 – It’s Tough
04 – A Deep and Real Sad Song
05 – It’s Up to You
06 – A Memory Trace
07 – Bad Days
08 – The Thin Red Line
09 – Chasing the Wind
10 – Don’t Go Astray
11 – What’s Going Wrong
Steph HONDE: vocals, guitars, keyboards
Butcho VUKOVIC: vocals
Eric LEBAILLY: drums
Pascal BARON: bass
Fred SCHNEIDER: bass (4, 6, 8, 9)