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By Jay Roberts, Massachusetts Contributor
Wednesday, December 16, 2020 @ 7:43 AM

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Mach II

Perris Records - 2020

After the 2018 release of STEELCITY's album Fortress, the band would split with Kivel Records and find a new home on the Perris Records label. This was just one of the changes the past couple of years has wrought on the band. The entire lineup has changed with the exception of founding member, guitarist Mike Floros.

No disrespect is intended to the original lineup but after listening to the new lineup featuring powerhouse vocalist Roy Cathey, bassist Jason Cornwell, keyboardist Tony Stahl and lights out drummer BJ Zampa (HOUE OF LORDS) it is easy to see that STEELCITY has added a tougher dimension to the sound of their music without losing any of their more melodic side. Add in the fact that the songwriting has seemingly gotten even stronger and listeners are in for a rollicking rock and roll good time.

The album opens with a double-barreled blast with the songs "Hearts On Fire" and "Dead Men". The addition of Roy Cathey gives a different kind of edginess to the vocals. This is immediately evidenced on "Hearts On Fire", a hard driving and highly melodic anthem. Also notable is the fact that Cathey co-wrote the lyrics for the track as well. As for "Dead Men", the song is an absolute monster type of rocking track. The vocal from Cathey as well as the lyrics are incredible and packed tight with a fantastic chorus.

As with the Fortress album, guitarist Mike Floros remains the principal songwriter but had lyrical co-writing assistance on three songs. Keyboardist Tony Stahl wrote the instrumental "Prayer For Love".

When the music takes a bit of a breather, the musical tapestry the band weaves is quite encompassing. The song "Wasted Time" starts out a lot more slowly than a lot of the songs on Mach II but there's still a strong edge to the vocal performance and as the song hits its chorus, the music increases in both tempo and intensity before it slowly fades out. There's a tasty guitar solo from Floros as well.

Finding both the highly energetic rock tempo and the more melodic side of a track in equal measure may not be the easiest of balancing acts but on "A Little Love", STEELCITY does a fantastic job in this respect. Throw in another superb solo and I found myself really enjoying the song. I also enjoyed the riff that was running through the opening of "I Cry". That song was mostly fast paced but you could hear a measure of restraint at the same time.

I will say that I came away a tad less taken with the song "Steal Your Heart". But I can't fathom why that is however. I mean, it's got a great soundtrack and keeps a lively pace but for some reason I just didn't feel the same kind of connection with the song as I did with the majority of the album.

While "Still Close To My Heart" is the "ballad" track of the album, it really doesn't spend much time establishing that slower, more measured musical style. The song starts out like what you might expect to hear from a ballad but quickly ditches that opening for a far more rocking pace. And while the lyrics are definitely from the "matters of the heart" school, I thought the lyric was actually pretty involving.

Speaking of finding one's self being deeply involved in a song, the song "Give It Back" was damn near a perfect song. The track's just under a minute instrumental opening showed the band off nicely. The song as a whole had a nice swinging kind of rhythmic feel to it. So I'm sure you're wondering what held it back from being perfect, right? Well, for my own personal taste, I thought the chorus which featured the song title amongst the lyric got a bit too repetitive. Still, that little nitpick aside, the song is fantastic.

STEELCITY is obviously the musical baby of Mike Floros and his playing on the album closing "Down To One" gives him quite the spotlight as both the solo in the middle of the song and on the extended outro captured my imagination to the point I played the song more than few times just to really get a feel for what I was hearing from his playing.

Along with "Hearts On Fire" and "Dead Men", I thought "Spotlight" was a great showcase track for the band. It's got an aggressively rocking sound and I thought the band as a whole blended seamlessly on the song.

The pandemic this year has been an awful thing to experience. Being stuck at home all the time has given me a lot of time on my hands. But the one "silver lining" to all that extra time is that I've been able to listen to a lot more music than I might generally have time to do. I bought both of the STEELCITY albums from the band's website. And while I did quite enjoy Fortress, this album is simply that much better. With songs that are both powerfully melodic and bursting with a pure sense of electrifying rock and roll, STEELCITY's Mach II is an album that will leave you begging for more!

4.6 Out Of 5.0

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