Presence Rock Your Life – The French Connection!

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Presence cover

France has produced a lot of great metal acts through the years like Nightmare, Squealer, Heavenly and Fisc but is probably more known for their cheese and wine than being the home of heavy metal/hard rock music. France has of course also bread great artists  like Terry Ilous of XYZ. One of the lesser known bands that never got a commercial breakthrough but had a good and honest shot at fame and fortune was Presence who released a one-off album in 1986 aptly named Rock Your Life. Presence formed in 1982 in Grenoble, France and during their first years they played a heavy metal/hard rock mix with lyrics in their native language; french. The band was made up of Klaus Meine dead ringer Pat Hinorson, guitar slinger Gil DiBravo (who wrote the lyrics in French for the first demo), bass player Tommy Krueger and finally drummer Stephan Crisis. They released a 6 track demo in 1985 which has also been included as a bonus on this CD issue by No Remorse Records. This release also means that Rock Your Life is available on CD for the first time.

Presence single
7″ single

The demo lead to a record contract with small indie label Power Records (also the home of Jack Starr for instance) and their sole debut album Rock Your Life was released in 1986 on vinyl and cassette only. The album was supported by a single release of “No Way” with the b-side being “Rock n´ Roll”. A good choice of a single track but unfortunately not enough to lift the release out of obscurity. With a small record company also came limited resources for marketing, music videos and so on. This was the only album ever released by the band and I cannot find much info on what actually happened to the band after this album was released. There is not much info on the band in the booklet either which is usually the case with these reissues.

Track by track comments:

The album starts off with the driving rock of “Danger Zone” which has a nice grooving guitar riff and those Klaus Meine like type of vocals. I do not think the English in the lyrics are completely grammatically right but, hey, does it matter? The lyrics seem to be about staying out of the “Danger Zone”, in this case, the downtown city at night. A nice guitar solo and a melodic yet punchy chorus make this one of the strongest cuts on the album. Then we have a fast paced rocker in “Metal Rage” which features some heavy drumming, a couple of nice riffs and a lightning fast but still melodic guitar solo from DiBravo. The lyrics seem to deal with a night out at a concert feeling that “Metal Rage” and the adrenaline kick that goes with it. A song with a distinct “heavy metal” feeling over it. Up next is the title track (“Rock Your Life”) which starts off with a drum beat from Crisis and then those “gang vocals” join in and I´m not on terms with the way they sound. Otherwise, it is a great melodic hard rock song with a decent hook and a nice beat throughout the song. What the song is about lyrically does not demand any further explanation. Song number four on the album is “No Way” and this is the shining star of the whole album and was also chosen as a single release. A fantastic vocal performance from Hinorson and a couple of really nice sounding chords from DiBravo make this a great “power ballad”. Lyrically it’s about a relationship where the lovers grow apart as time flies by. Well done boys – will definitely go into my circulating list of songs!  We are now half way through the original album with song number five which is “Com´ on baby” (complete with incorrect interpunctuation and all!). It is a mid-paced rocker with a “feelgood” atmosphere and with a few hints of Dokken thrown in for good measure. A nice little rock tune with the usual sexual insinuations in the lyrics.

After this song, we get the Led Zeppelin cover which stays close to the original recording. In my opinion, not one of their classic Led Zeppelin tunes and this re-recording does nothing to change my mind on that. We continue on with one of Presence‘s weaker original songs; “Stop (Breakin´ My Heart Again)“.  It starts with some scratching noises on the guitar by DiBravo and it´s got a decent structure and a nice chorus but the problem is the chorus being repeated too many times towards the end of the song which sort of annoys me a bit. Still, it has a couple of nice guitar licks and fills here and there and also a nice solo. The lyrics are all about that dangerous woman you desire, but better stay away from. We are back on the winning track with “When A Wall Is Made” which has a nice slow rockin’ beat and the melodic riff to go with it. It´s a song that more goes under the hard rock banner with a shout-along chorus which probably would fit well in a live setting. I can also feel some AOR vibes in this song and it has a sort of a different and interesting groove. The lyrics are about being a hard rocker that nobody understands and the desire to quench your thirst for that heavy music. Never accept walls being built around you and break them if they are raised Presence seems to say. “When a wall is made – Break it- Go, go never stop,” says it all really. Up next is the last song on the original album and this is a great little tune called “Paris Is Burning” and it is a faster paced hard rock song with a melodic, punchy and memorable chorus which easily sticks in your head. Lyrically it´s about setting fire to Paris through a rock n´ roll show. That concludes the original album.

vinyl issue
Original vinyl issue of Rock Your Life

As a bonus, you get the complete 1985 demo which has a rougher sound and a less professional production. The lyrics are all sung in French. The first song is an earlier and different version of “Danger Zone”, here titled “Prisonnier (Prisoner)”.  The second song on the demo is another early version of a Rock Your Life song, “Metal Rage”, called “Prince des Guerres (Prince of War)” which sounds closer to the later version. Both songs add historical value but in my opinion are both inferior to the later versions on the original album. Four unique songs remain that can only be found on this demo. Up next is “Amour Interdit (Forbidden Love)”  which starts with a guitar frenzy from DiBravo and soon turns into an upbeat rocker with a nice guitar solo in the middle section. We are then treated with “Maitre De l´Univers (Master of the Universe)” which in my opinion is the strongest song on the demo. It’s a mid-paced rocker with a nice chorus and melody throughout the entire song. After that song, it is time for “London Road” and only the title of the track is in English. It’s a decent mid-paced rocker where the vocals from Hinorson sound a bit rougher and less polished which is not an advantage. The CD ends with “Mutant” which starts with an acoustic guitar and then soon turns into a metal frenzy with a chugging guitar and grooving bass.

Summary:

Pat Hinorson‘s vocal style and way of singing reminds me heavily of Klaus Meine of the Scorpions. Of course it is not completely a duplicate but the phrasing and the way of singing the higher notes are very similar (or is it the accent? – but it shouldn´t be as Scorpions are German!). The music on this disc is European 80´s style of melodic heavy metal with a heavy dose of hard rock and some really heavy hitting drums. The songs are melodic, chorus oriented and Hinorson‘s voice is great. The most annoying thing is the gang type of choirs added to the songs which in part sounds a bit annoying and artificial to me. The rhythm section is made up of very competent musicians and on top of that you have a guitarist (Gil DiBravo) that really knows how to handle the guitar and throws riffs and solos around him that will make many colleagues red out of envy. In places, the guitar playing somewhat reminds me of a young George Lynch judged by the guitar phrasing and quick tapping solos.  Rock Your Life is full of an upbeat blending of punchy, heavy riffs and the songs are made up of “fist in the air” anthems that are really enjoyable and well crafted. Would have been nice to hear these songs performed in a live setting.

Tourposter
Picture courtesy of spirit-of-metal.com

My favourite picks from this album would definitely be the power ballad “No Way” which has a couple of great acoustic chords (would easily have fitted the power ballad series) and Hinorson‘s heartfelt singing makes your heart melt. Other great songs are the heavy and punchy “Danger Zone”, the more AOR influenced “Paris is Burning” (not a Dokken cover!!) and of course the heavy rockin´ title track “Rock Your Life“. There are also a couple of weaker spots like “Stop (Breakin´My Heart)” which has a chorus that in the end is repeated a couple of times too many and the cover of the Led Zeppelin song “Rock n´ Roll” which even in it´s original form isn´t a great track. Here it is very true to its original form on this disc and is not bettered by any means. The songs are otherwise very chorus orientated and have quite a bit of commercial potential. I guess some parallells could be drawn to a band like Dokken and even the heavier edged Scorpions songs. This is a really good effort of fun, punchy melodic metal that is advisable to those into the style and like me, missed out on them when this little piece of vinyl was originally released. The bonus material (1985) demo is of historical value and interesting to the fans of the band. I still honour No Remorse for the effort of always putting extra material on their reissues which not all reissue labels do. In that sense I think the demo has its rightful place on this CD. What is lacking in the cover is a decent band history which is really hard to come by with very scarce info on the internet. Still a really nice reissue of a long lost album from an obscure band with a lot of unrealized potential I will rate this album to 7,5/10 geeks.

BUY: Presence – Rock Your Life

thelionsheart@decibelgeek.com

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