Red Rock – the debut album from US based Menchen – was originally envisioned as an all instrumental release with tracks composed by the gifted and prolific guitarist Bill Menchen and recorded with Robert Sweet and Tony Franklin. However, when the producer first heard the quality of the tracks it was decided that it would be a shame not to add vocals, and singer Ken Redding was added to the band.
Musically, this is classic hard rock with a Christian slant, meaning that all the lyrics revolve around God, Jesus and, well, Christianity. If I were to compare Menchen to other bands, I would point in the direction of Savatage and Mogg/Way.
The main attraction of this band is Bill Menchen who serves up some genuinely inspired riffing and lead work that serves as the foundation and driving force of the music. His playing is powerful but restrained and never flashy – even when he churns out one of his blistering solos. Almost as impressive are the performances by Sweet and Franklin whose playing really add a lot to the music. The second track ‘Noon Sun’ is a good example of their fine collaboration.
There is one considerable problem with this release, however, and that is the singer Ken Redding. His vocal range is not that bad, but his delivery in the lower range seems very stiff and dry, while his efforts in the high range often sound forced and overly dramatic. Some have compared him to Geoff Tate, but in that case it’s a rather tired and uninspired version of the Queensr˙che front man. At times it sounds a bit as if Redding is uncomfortable with the lyrics – as if the words don’t sit quite right in his mouth – but that’s just my opinion.
There is definitely plenty of good material on Red Rock, and if these guys had had a different lead singer I would have added another 10 points or so to my rating. A few tracks (such as ‘Forty’ and ‘Time To Ride’) aren’t that good, and the album is rather short with a run time of only 37 minutes, but if you don’t mind lyrics with frequent mention of ‘God’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Halleluja’ and the like, I would recommend that you give this release a listen. Afterwards you can join me in a prayer asking for these guys to pick a different singer for their next album.