MR. BIG has always been one of my all-time favorite metal bands of the 80’s. There is just something about lead singer Eric Martin’s voice that is so unbelievably compelling and addicting to listen to. He has this certain tone that is impossible to accurately describe but is absolutely unmistakable. MR. BIG returns with the original line-up (plus Matt Starr who made major contributions on drums due to Pat Torpey’s being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease) on their ninth studio album, Defying Gravity (out now, Frontiers Music), the follow-up to 2014’s The Stories We Could Tell.
Oh man, the way “Open Your Eyes” starts the album out! It opens with a really ballsy, heavy guitar tone from Paul Gilbert that sets the album up beautifully. When solo time comes around he continues this tone while adding stylistic shreds here and there. Next is the title track that starts off with a lighter, more bubbly guitar tone that continues throughout. This is definitely a song that makes you bob your head and bounce around. It also retains the classic MR. BIG sound mixed with new elements. The solos on this one are what I was looking for from Mr. Gilbert with his high, sweet, shredding. Also I must mention the strength of the drums being played by Pat Torpey that rings through so very well.
“Damn I’m in Love Again” is one of the ballads on this disc, because no 80’s metal band’s record is without a ballad or two or more. But that’s okay with me because I love it. This track has a light, upbeat tone that is practically acoustic. All in all it’s a very sweet song that is reminiscent of one of their biggest hits, “To Be With You.” The next song, “Mean to Me,” is a deeply powerful, driven track with very interesting rhythm guitar stylings. The longer guitar solo also fits so very well and has many different intricate elements that fully display Gilbert’s virtuosic abilities very well. The song ends just as abruptly as it started, leaving you hungry for more.
“Nothing Bad (Bout Feeling Good)” brings is more subdued during the verses until the chorus brings it rockin’ back up. The softness of Martin’s voice and the way he has a slight squeak will be enjoyed by any fan. This track especially makes me realize how well his voice has held up over the years and still very much sounds like it did in the 80’s. “Forever and Back” is my favorite on the album. It is one of those powerful ballads that pulls at your heart and soul. The passion of the band is so very evident in this song. The choppy sound of the guitar along with the harmonies of the band also make this a compelling number along with Gilbert’s sexy, passionate solo. This is one track you will want to play on repeat over and over again.
I swear I can hear punk elements and influences, especially with the rhythm guitar sound, in “She’s All Coming Back to Me Now,” which actually works very well for them the way they utilize it. The solos are anything but punk, however, with Gilbert’s shredding that reminds you that they are definitely not a dimwitted punk band. Closer “Be Kind” left me wanting more, rather than feeling like it wrapped up the album. However, I do enjoy the last two minutes that consists of Gilbert shredding and Billy Sheehan playing a heavy bass sound. Overall Defying Gravity is pretty great. Eric Martin’s voice has held up well and still sounds almost the same now as it did then. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them because they had better not be done yet!
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Open Your Eyes”, “Mean to Me”, “Forever and Back”