Hotwire - Devil In Disguise
NL Distribution
Melodic Hard Rock
11 songs (45:45)
Release year: 2006
Reviewed by Mike

Devil in Disguise is the fourth studio album from German melodic rockers Hotwire. I haven't kept up with this band much since their 1995 self titled debut, so receiving this album was a "Oh yeah, I remember those guys…" type of experience. At the time I bought the self titled debut, it got lost in the shuffle of other hard rock bands such as Bonfire, Pretty Maids, Talisman, Harem Scarem, and any other number of quality bands. While this album had several moments that grab my attention, I know why Hotwire had fallen under my radar over the past several years. While a good band, they are clearly second tier at best in a genre that has really taken off since the late 1990's. They're a good second tier band, one that I enjoy, but just not an elite player in this competitive genre. Devil in Disguise won't do much to change that assessment for me anyway, although there are a number of highlights on this disc.

Like countrymen Bonfire, Hotwire play a brand of melodic hard rock full of melodies, thick harmony vocals, and big hooks. The sound of Hotwire is even more sugary than Bonfire, with the lyrics almost always revolving around love and relationships. While the lead vocals are very melodic and emotional in nature, I think that some listeners may have a hard time with the lead vocals of Hotwire. Vocalist Andy Urbeck is a bit nasal with his delivery, and he has a very pronounced German accent, especially when he sings slow songs. The nasaly vocals detract from the power of his voice, but that's nearly a moot point considering the music isn't really that hard edged to begin with. Unlike a number of European melodic hard rock bands, Hotwire's sound is raw and lacking the polished production that is the norm for the genre. One crucial flaw that I find with this band is their ability to write ballads and slow songs. On that note, the band comes through with the downright putrid Feelings, but surprises me with the hooky, memorable AOR cut Wonderland. Here I Am is a passable ballad unlike Feelings, but it's still a candidate for the skip button after a couple listens. Hot Love and I Know see the band pursue a more experimental sound. Both feature an obvious programmed sound, which fails miserably for this band. I Know has catchy and upbeat chorus line that would do well on pop radio, but that programmed beat in the background (especially during the first half of the song) ruins it for me. Hot Love is repetitious and totally devoid of emotion and life whatsoever; simply awful. Compared to the best of what Hotwire has to offer, this track is a must skip.

Despite what I have said above, there are a number of highlights on this album. The opening rock, Waterfalls, Escaping, and Skytrain are Hotwire at their best. These are the most up tempo tracks of the album, clearly where the band sound its best. All three are hard rocking anthems that sink into your memory instantly thanks to their catchy riffs and big hooks. The cover of Jimmy Barnes' Ride the Night Away comes out very well. I was a bit surprise to see the band cover this tune, but they easily do it justice, with Andy Urbeck delivering some very convincing vocals. Although a cover tune, this track has to be considered a highlight of the album. Everytime You Want It and the title track are two great AOR type of tracks, with hooks and an upbeat tone that is just a pleasure to listen to. If the band could tap into the type of songwriting that I'm describing in this paragraph, then recommending Hotwire albums would be an easy task for me as a reviewer.

Unfortunately, Devil In Disguise is very much an up and down album, just as I remember their debut. The positive moments definitely have a lot to offer fans of melodic hard rock, but the down moments can be very tedious to get through. Despite some excellent songs on tap here, I can't recommend this album any more convincingly than "try before buy." Any fan of melodic hard rock (particularly European hard rock) like me will find a good chunk of songs to be very enjoyable. The question you must ask yourself is whether or not the "not so great" tracks are worth sifting through to find the gems.

Killing Songs :
Waterfalls, Devil In Disguise, Skytrain, Escaping, Everytime You Want It, Ride the Night Away
Mike quoted 60 / 100
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