Album Review – Black Diamonds / Once Upon A Time (2017)

Inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, these Swiss rockers are more than ready to shake the world with their brand new upbeat, electrified album.

Proudly waving the flag of 80’s Hard Rock since their inception in 2004, Swiss rockers Black Diamonds are more than ready to shake the world with an electrifying Rock N’ Roll extravaganza titled Once Upon A Time, their third full-length album and in my humble opinion their strongest and most cohesive release to date. If major bands such as Gotthard and Krokus helped put Switzerland on the map of Hard Rock with their flammable music, it’s time for this farily new talented quartet formed by Michael Kehl (vocals, guitar), Andreas Rohner (lead guitar), Andi Fässler (bass) and Manuel Peng (drums) to take the lead and keep the rock n’ roll party going on in the Land of Milk and Honey.

Based in the Rhine Valley in eastern Switzerland, Black Diamonds are not only musically inspired by the golden years of Hard Rock and Hair Metal, but their looks and attitude are also deeply rooted in that period, which translates into pure energy when their music is blasted through the speakers. After releasing their debut album First Strike in 2008, followed by Perfect Sin in 2013 and an extended tour through their home country and the adjacent countries named Perfect Swiss Tour that same year, the band aims at reaching new horizons with the excellence found in Once Upon A Time. For obvious reasons, don’t expect to find anything truly innovative in the whole album, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to have tons of fun listening to its twelve catchy, melodic and upbeat songs.

The symphonic intro Tales Untold kicks off the album before Michael Kehl and Andreas Rohner begin firing their heavy riffs in The Ghost and the Shadow, a rockin’ song that can be summarized as a fusion of Manowar and Motley Crüe (or maybe “Hard Rockin’ Power Metal”), being very melodic and impactful with highlights to the great vocal lines by Michael. Love Stick Love brings more Hard Rock from the 80’s with a contemporary twist and the always beautiful European harmony, making me imagine how successful this song would be in the 80’s. Simply follow the beats by drummer Manuel Peng and enjoy the ride, with its catchy chorus, awesome backing vocals and a classy guitar solo embellishing the overall result even more. And presenting a Van Halen-inspired vibe (in special its main guitar riff), Romeo & Juliet is a song about the most famous romantic duo in history, with a solid background built by Manuel’s drumming and the bass lines by Andi Fässler. The narration halfway through it is a bit weird though, but nothing that harms the overall quality of the song.

Although Pieces of a Broken Dream feels like a ballad in the beginning, it quickly morphs into a stylish Rock N’ Roll tune perfect for any radio station mainly thanks to the rhythmic beats by Manuel, while Andreas continues to set fire to the musicality with his solos; whereas Love, Lies, Lonelines, a true ballad from start to finish, is a soulful and melancholic composition with a strong performance by Michael on vocals, with a gentle ambience and more of the band’s tuneful guitar solos and bass lines complementing the music. And get ready for a kick-ass Rock N’ Roll party by Black Diamonds titled Thrillride, showcasing guitars à la Scorpions and a classy, dancing rhythm, with Michael delivering raspier vocals and, consequently, sounding dirtier just like the music needs. Moreover, Manuel couldn’t sound more old school on drums than what he offers in this awesome tune, one of the best of the album in my opinion. When the night comes, it’s time for the Swiss vampires of Hard Rock to attack with their high-end metallic sounds in Vampires of the Night, a great song for their live performances bringing elements from the 80’s and 90’s with razor-edged guitars and a badass attitude.

These guys don’t seem to get tired of filling the air with upbeat rock music based on what they offer the listener in Not Going Home, a pub hymn with the electrified guitar lines by Michael and Andreas adding a high dosage of groove to the band’s already exciting Rock N’ Roll; followed by Hard to Let Go, another Scorpions-inspired classic tune that sounds heavy and very harmonious just the way we love, also presenting a perfect synchronicity among all instruments with highlights to the piercing metallic bass lines by Andi. Years, the second to last rockin’ missile in Once upon A Time, keeps up with the rest of the album in terms of quality and energy, being one more song that could be played on any rock n’ roll radio show, with an inspiring performance by Michael on vocals supported by the precise drumming by Manuel. And closing the album we have This Is a Love Story, presenting an interesting balance between more introspective moments and faster passages, despite being slightly repetitive and below the album’s amazing average.

In case you want to know more about Black Diamonds and their top-notch rock music, go check their Facebook page for news and tour dates, and go listen to their music on YouTube and SoundCloud. Once Upon A Time is available at several locations, such as the band’s official webstore, AOR Heaven, Nuclear Blast, Target, Amazon, NEH Records, and many more, most of them offering two awesome bonus tracks with the album. If you’re ready to dance, drink some beer and have fun to the sound of high-quality old school, uncompromised Rock N’ Roll, then this album is definitely what you’ve been searching for. Just don’t forget to put on your tight leather pants before heading to the party.

Best moments of the album: Love Stick Love, Thrillride and Hard to Let Go.

Worst moments of the album: This Is a Love Story.

Released in 2017 AOR Heaven

Track listing
1. Tales Untold 1:08
2. The Ghost and the Shadow 4:13
3. Love Stick Love 5:03
4. Romeo & Juliet 4:20
5. Pieces of a Broken Dream 3:51
6. Love, Lies, Loneliness 5:37
7. Thrillride 4:52
8. Vampires of the Night 4:46
9. Not Going Home 4:42
10. Hard to Let Go 4:38
11. Years 5:21
12. This Is a Love Story 6:40

Bonus tracks
13. Rock’n’roll Music 4:02
14. Vampires of the Night (Piano Version) 3:50

Band members
Michael Kehl – vocals, guitar
Andreas Rohner – lead guitar
Andi Fässler – bass
Manuel Peng – drums

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