Normally the name of Lion Music boss Lars Eric Mattsson stands for quality in the Hard Rock/Prog Rock sector. And as the cover of "II", the second album of another of his projects named CONDITION RED, also has turned out to be quite interesting, I had my hopes for roughly an hour of quality music. Well, these hopes unfortunately were shattered pretty quickly, more precisely they lasted until the second song...
The line up of CONDITION RED was the reason to such high hopes, among others with guitarist Alex Masi, who never really was able to step out of the shadow of being a Malmsteen copycat, but still, he can play. And the intro "The Warning" also is not bad, with cello and all, but what after that comes is a neoclassical song, where I cannot shed the feeling that somebody has given singer Elle Grussner a different note sheet, because somehow things are running apart here.
After a superfluous and not really well flowing instrumental called "Cycles" the calmer "Times Passes By" can soothe, even though some vocal lines again won't fit in and the jazzy influences in the middle also do not really aid the flow of the song. "The Eagle's Return" is another instrumental, STRATOSTEEN-y, sounds nice, but nothing that would really enthuse me. "It's Not Too Late" again is quite good, calm, with acoustic guitar and sitar, before turning into a slow-paced song with all instruments, not bad, despite the progressive note that comes in and takes away some of the song's atmosphere.
"Rondo" is yet another instrumental, which leads nowhere, before "Why Won't You Hear Me" offers us vocal lines again, which just don't fit with the rest of the song. I think that you have understand the "rhythm" of the album again, instrumental-song-instrumental etc. If the whole thing is completely interesting and strong, it would be no problem, but that is where "II" is lacking. I don't want to say that the band could not play or something like that, because that definitely is not the problem, but the songs sound uninspired and boring and too often tangle themselves in mundane passages or nerve wrecking fuddlings and the vocals of Ella Grussner, well, she does not have a bad voice, but it just does not sound expressive and the vocal lines that she is delivering here are just not good.
Sounds annihilating and most probably is, too, but even though the songs partly sound nice and do not always hurt, with the laurels in advance and this line up I would have expected a lot more and "II" is another example that hopeful bands are still without a contract and projects get released that nobody needs. CONDITION RED I cannot and do not want to recommend. (Online October 27, 2003)