Dutch melodic metal band Stash was formed in 1985 in Hengelo, the Netherlands. The original line-up was made up by vocalist Peter van Rijssel, guitarist Roel Nottrot, bass man Alfred Kers, drummer Gosse Nieuwenhuis and keyboard player Edwin Woltering. The band produced and released a self-financed 6 track demo tape in 1988 which is included here on this album as a bonus feature but before that there was a change in the lead vocalist/frontman spot and in stepped Bert Kivits to grab the microphone. It contained high-class melodic metal with all trademarks like the high pitched vocals. The band was definitely more melodic and had a more varied tempo than the bands usually labeled “Power metal”. Years went by and the demo became a sought after collectors item in the underground market and the trading went from cassette copies to CD-R´s as time passed by. Stash has always had an underground following of cult fans that never forgot them.
Those of you who have read some of my other reviews know that I have reviewed a lot of archive releases lately especially by Greek labels No Remorse Records and Cult Metal Classics. This is a different story altogether though, Stash just recently reformed the classic line-up that recorded the demo way back in the 1980´s. They soon decided to record all the old demo songs the proper way in a studio with modern techniques. The result is surprisingly fresh and in some instances an improvement of the old demo songs (often it is not that way) and with a couple of newly written songs to add to the tally it works out really well.
Stash- the album
So what does Stash sound like to The Lionsheart? This is the first time I have heard the band and I have missed out on the previous demo completely (although I have a vast archive of old demos on my computer – Stash is completely new to me). Bert Kivits voice has not lost one bit of the ability to hit the high notes and with razor sharp and clean vocal it suits the melodic hard rock sound perfectly. Maybe the vocals in parts are so clean that they lose a bit of attitude and personality in spots. Anyway – Kivits sometimes reminds me a little bit of Dave Bickler of Survivor fame. There are plenty of nice riffs, solos and fills from Roel Nottrot to make the album an overall pleasurable experience with a solid rhythm being provided by Nieuwenhuis and Kers. I must say it is very rare for a band to come back this way after such a long time and with all the original guys on board.
Musically the albums stays in the melodic hard rock/metal field and never strays far from it. Some of the songs might have a little dose of AOR thrown in but make no mistake – this is basically a metal band. The album has a modern production with a top notch sound while the 1988 demo is a bit rougher around the edges but also sounds great. Not bad at all and there is a high probability of the band soon being picked up by one of the larger labels that release this kind of music in Europe. I wouldn´t be surprised anyway…
Track by track comments
The album kicks off with an acoustic intro that soon turns into “By the Light of the Fire” which is one of the faster songs and a great album opener. The song slows down a bit for the chorus which is very melodic and easy to get into. The song features a melodic guitar solo from Nottrot and lyrically it is about living your life near the fire and searching for the strength to carry on. Up next is a heavier and groovy song called “The Mountain”. It is a song with a nice hook and heavy chugging guitars and a thumping bass guitar from Alfred Kers. The lyrics deal with being strong, to be a winner in love and that there is no mountain high enough to stop you from getting what you want. This song turns into another heavy, grooving piece called “Waiting for the Night” with a nice melodic hook but not the strongest hand in the deck. It´s got the ordinary lyrics on sex and the night “making everything alright”. The next song, track no 5, “Hold on the Line” might, on the other hand, be the best track on the entire album. The heavy riffing from Nottrot and fantastic lyrical performance by Kivits (especially during the verses) makes it one of the standout songs. The lyrics are about searching for the girl that you will never find. It also features another great solo from Nottrot. “A Matter of Time” starts with a keyboard intro and some soft vocals from Kivits before it soon turns into a power ballad that is quite strong in all departments. The AOR influences really shine through on this song and Kivits gets to use another part of his vocal chords and it adds more value to the mix. The lyrics deal with lost love once again and how time will eventually lead the girl back to you. We are now halfway through the new album and after a couple of spins it is slowly growing on you and creeping under your skin.
The latter part of the album starts off with another, little bit longer, prelude before diving into the heavy rocker “Born to Run”. The story continues on here with high-pitched, clear vocals and a solid melody with a fairly good and memorable hook. Lyrically the song is about all of us staring down the barrel of the gun in different ways and being driven on the run. Up next is “Blackout” which is another heavy song with some keyboards shining through and a song in the vein of “The Mountain”. A traditional mid-tempo rocker about walking the thin line between insanity and genius and everything not being what it seems. Time to turn things up one notch for the fast paced rocker “There is Another World” which breaks off from the mid-tempo and heavier songs with a faster beat which is very welcome. A song about walking around New York City and not knowing anybody. “Don´t Let it End” starts off with a couple of chords that seems to be a rip-off of a Dio song (“Caught in the Middle”) but soon creates its own personality where Kivits stretches his vocals to the limit come the chorus. The album rounds off with another fast paced rocker called “Piece of the Action” that almost sets Nieuwenhuis into some double bass drumming. It is a strong effort with a great memorable hook and definitely one of the stronger songs on the album. A great way to end the album on a high note. Left is only another acoustic outro.
As a bonus, you get the 6 original demo songs from 1988 which are all included in re-recorded format on the album. These are an important historical document with a slightly rougher edge. Basically, the versions are very similar and have not been reworked in any greater fashion. Still very nice of No Remorse to include this original recording.
I must admit I had never heard of Stash before listening to them on Youtube after I got the post from No Remorse on Facebook that they were going to release an album by these unknown Dutchmen. At first I did not like the polished sound very much and I found Kivits voice a bit too polished and anonymous. After a couple of spins, however, the songs were slowly creeping into my head and I started to hear all these little nice melodies here and there. The musicianship is spotless and most of the songs are memorable to the point you want to spin the album once again. There are no fancy neoclassical guitar playing, but there is no need for it on this album
I would rate this album to 8 out of 10 Geeks mainly for the melodies and hooks and mainly the stellar vocal performance by frontman Bert Kivits. Hopefully, there is more to come from this reformed act and there should be interest from Europe’s main labels of melodic hard rock!