Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
All right, fess up. Who among you dear readers downloaded Neonfly’s “Ship With No Sails” for Rock Band? That was my first exposure to this British power quintet. Once the excitement of getting to play power metal with plastic instruments died down (oh, who am I kidding, I still boot up Rock Band and Guitar Hero once in a while), I finally sat down and listened to Neonfly’s debut, Outshine The Sun. It was a pretty decent output with at least a handful of memorable songs, but largely cluttered with admittedly forgettable power metal. The follow-up Strangers In Paradise is basically the same deal. No really, the same deal. There is about as much musical evolution here as there is on a DragonForce album, and even that seems insulting to DragonForce after this year’s Maximum Overload.
Bland power metal with a bright melodic sheen. That’s basically the only way to describe this. Look, I know that the power metal genre isn’t exactly one of great innovation; in fact, it prides itself on making minor tweaks to tried and true formulas. But Neonfly’s music has next to no identity. Sure, there are a few outside influences like the vaguely nu-metal verses of “Highways To Nowhere” or the alt-metal opening riff on “Better Angels” (I know it’s not in the video posted below, but trust me it’s there), but these moments are superficial at best and do nothing to enhance the music which basically boils down to the same tired power metal lyrical and structural clichés. Everything just feels kind of empty. Even Outshine The Sun had its moments, like the goofy but fun “I Think I Saw A UFO” and the stellar “Ships With No Sails.” What’s here? Not one, but two tepid ballads that do absolutely nothing with “Rose In Bloom” and “Falling Star?” Another directionless instrumental just like on the debut – although at least there are moments during the instrumental that remind me that the band has a bassist, so bravo to them on that. Even at barely scratching 40 minutes, I was always looking for something else to do while listening to this album because nothing engaged me.
What about people who don’t live in a world where everything sucks? I’m sure other folks will find more enjoyment out of this album than I did. Everyone is a competent enough performer (especially singer Willy Norton, who manages to bring to mind a more capable version of James LaBrie in his vocal performance), and there are at least a few catchy choruses to be found here. Nothing is inherently wrong with the material, I just find it boring. Ho-hum. Been there, done that. Uninspired. Any of probably several hundred words and expressions I could use to describe my indifference towards this album. I think the meanest I can say is that Strangers In Paradise is almost offensively bland and that I’m probably going to forget that it even exists as soon as this review gets posted. Hell, I can’t even remember the name of the album half the time.
Neonfly’s sophomore effort is well, unfortunately sophomoric. It fails to make an impact upon me, so much so that I honestly couldn’t think of anything to really even say about it for the longest time. Strangers In Paradise (hey, I remembered it that time!) is just there, not offending anybody but still failing to impress. Neonfly certainly has potential – that much is clear. Outshine The Sun proved this, but… Bah, I lost the title again. This album plays it too safe and ends up being an ultimately forgettable release.
2.75 // 5