Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Running Games

Running Games Album Cover Art

Joel Hoekstra’s 13 – Running Games
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 57:37
Review by Simon Black
7/10

This is a veritable supergroup. Although I’m not a particular follower of Hoekstra’s work, put the combination of Symphony X front man Russell Allen, legendary drummer Vinny Appice and former Dream Theater ivories man Derek Sherinian on a line up, and I’m gonna sit up and take notice. Vocally Allen is in clean mode, although anyone familiar with his work knows that he can turn that vocal chord on a six-pence when it comes to range, style and power – most other bands need at least two vocalists to get close to what he can achieve. But sing cleanly he can and delivers the goods with his customary sense of power and strength, because regardless of whether he’s going for clean or dirty, he can really belt it out loud. That vocal strength and his performance is top notch and the highlight of the record.

As you would expect from a musician who has trodden the boards with Night Ranger and is still a current member of Whitesnake and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, musically this is up tempo Classic Rock radio-friendly US style Melodic Hard Rock and although Hoekstra’s classically trained background does occasionally make itself visible with some of the technical flourishes and licks he throws in, you do have to listen out for them. That’s an interesting point, as when the man driving the project is the guitarist, you would expect the old six strings to be up front and centre in the mix, but it’s Allen’s voice that takes that spot. Musically, the instruments are all fairly evenly balanced, so the ear hears ‘band’ and ‘singer’ as the distinct elements. OK, it opens up for the odd blistering solo from either Hoekstra or Sherinian, but even these are not excessive or indulgent and the overall feeling is one of restraint.

The song-writing is pretty robust – you can pick almost any track and you will get a clear Melo-Metal structure, but that also means there isn’t anything particularly exceptional here either. I don’t know whether this is a symptom of lockdown, but despite all the ingredients being right, this cake hasn’t baked as well as it could have consistently throughout, which is frankly bizarre considering who’s contributing to the record. There are some high points, but they come quite late in the record which might be too late for the casual listener – ‘Reach The Sky’ being the case in point, a groovy rocker which flowed brilliantly, but you are three quarters of the way through the disk by the time you get to it. To be fair the more spins you give it, the more it grows on you but it’s lacking a couple of strong ‘gotcha’ tracks to hook you in and add to the old favourites playlist.

‘Finish Line’ (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Finish Line
02. I’m Gonna Lose It
03. Hard To Say Goodbye
04. How Do You
05. Heart Attack
06. Fantasy
07. Lonely Days
08. Reach The Sky
09. Cried Enough For You
10. Take What’s Mine
11. Running Games

LINE-UP:
Joel Hoekstra – Guitars
Russell Allen – Lead Vocals, Backing Vocals
Vinny Appice – Drums
Tony Franklin – Bass
Derek Sherinian – Keyboards
Jeff Scott Soto – Backing Vocals

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

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