SBS (which apparently stands for SPICY BITS OF SCANDAL) has a pretty interesting history. Even though “The Gambler” is only their third release, the band has been around since 1979. Back then, they played Hard Rock/Heavy Metal in the vein of WHITESNAKE and BLACK SABBATH, but as the years passed, they adopted a more bombastic and melodic sound to reflect their new favourites, DIO and ROYAL HUNT. Now, in 2009, they sound heavier than ever, often flirting with Power Metal. What a drastic change of style for a band that started out playing ‘70s Rock!
One thing’s for sure: I didn’t expect “The Gambler” to be as melodic and catchy as it is. The vocals of Vitalis Kairiukstis combine with the keyboards of Vilius Kraujalis to give an extremely polished sound somewhere between ‘80s AOR and some of today’s more bombastic Power Metal bands. You really have no idea how satisfying it is to hear a Frampton-esque Talk Box riff placed over some STRATOVARIUS-esque keyboards until you’ve heard “C’est La Vie.”
The album seems to fluctuate in heaviness, with some tracks like “Never Again” and “Love And Hate” being mid-paced Melodic Metal songs filled with piano, while other tracks like “Black Angels” and “Flying Dutchman” are full-on Power Metal shredfests. “Flying Dutchman” in particular has a very STRATOVARIUS-like tint to it, as Kraujalis seems to embrace his inner Jens Johansson while Kairiukstis croons the chorus with all the grace of Timo Koltipelto (and the ending note is very impressive).
While the majority of the slower tracks are fantastic, there are a few, like “Joan Of Arc” and “Your Life,” that seem to drag on for way too long. In addition, all of the slower tracks are outclassed by the Power Metal monsters. If the infinitely badass “Black Angels” and the wondrously melodic “Flying Dutchman” are any indication, it’s a given that SBS can write some killer Power Metal material, so why doesn’t the band try it more often? Plus, we actually get to see more of each band member’s skill on the Power Metal songs (and they’re skilled as all hell, believe me). If they can play it, and Kairiukstis can sing it, and the songwriting holds up, then why not try it full-time?
Overall, “The Gambler” is an effort worthy of any Melodic Metal fan’s money. Power Metal and AOR fans may also dig it because it straddles the line between both genres. It’s catchy, sharp, well-written material, and it’ll be interesting to see the next direction that this constantly-evolving band chooses to take.
(Online August 4, 2009)