Style: Rock, Indie, Blues, Psychedelic
Reviewed by Randy Radic
Billed as a “rock and roll supergroup” from Finland, the original Rock Masters Band was formed in 2007 by Sami ‘Haxu’ Hakala. That version of the band included Henka Fagerholm on bass; Mano Rantanen on drums and Teemu Holttinen on guitar. After two albums, the band broke up.
In 2014, Hakala decided to resuscitate the name of the band and pursue his vision of rock and roll. The result of this pursuit is Hit the City/Diamonds, a double single. Both tracks feature a variety of Finland’s top musicians, along with Hakala, who also added his wife, blues vocalist Riikka Hakala, to the mixture.
Hakala refers to this new recording style as “desert recording,” i.e. one-off recording sessions rather than the more expansive full albums most listeners have come to expect.
The first track, “Hit the City,” is the better of the two. It’s a rocker infused with a funky blues rhythm that is heavily layered with keyboards and guitars. Sadly, the drums seem to be almost an afterthought, as if someone said, maybe we should have some drums. The arrangement suffers from the sheer tonnage of the layering, while Hakala’s vocals lack punch. He’s not a true rock n’ roll wailer; his voice is monotonous, deteriorating when it should be blasting off. Lyrically, the song is little more than a blatantly revamped version of Petula Clark’s “Downtown.”
“Hit the City’s” only strong point is the guitar work of Teemu Holttinen, whose solo in the middle of the song demonstrates his creativity and versatility. Less layering and more of Teemu’s raging guitar might add zest to the song.
“Diamonds,” the second track on the double, is poorly arranged, coming across as syncopated. It too is heavily layered, which drowns the melody behind a wall of sound. And Hakala’s voice sounds off-key and strident, like he’s trying to mimic Robert Plant, but can’t pull it off. The lyrics of “Diamonds” suffer from redundancy. The same phrase repeated ad infinitum ad nauseam does not make a rock n’ roll song.
The songs aren’t terrible; their biggest flaw is that they are boring. There’s nothing distinctive about the melodies or the arrangements. Alas, The Rock Masters Band produces the style of music that video game-makers love to use – rock n’ roll to shoot zombies. The rock n’ roll version of elevator Muzak.
There’s nothing compelling about The Rock Masters Band.