Strange Love Driver - Sons of Thunder (Metal Heaven) 2008

1.    Titans of Speed [instrumental] (2:31)    
2.    I'm a Warrior (4:23)
3.    Fly Away (3:56)
4.    Heart's On Fire (3:17)
5.    Sons of Thunder (3:12)
6.    Never Give Up (4:04)
7.    Change of Heart (5:15)
8.    Dark World (3:13)
9.    Winds of March (3:12)
10.  Only Love Can Save Me Now (2:59)
11.  Tears That I Cry (3:36)
12.  I Believe in Love (4:08)

Rob Rock made his big vocal debut back in 1986 on the M.A.R.S. - Project: Driver album. After the demise of M.A.R.S. in the late 80's, vocalist Rob Rock forged ahead and formed Driver with all new members, but retaining the heavy and melodic sound. Driver became an underground favorite back in 1990 when they released their acclaimed five-song EP. Unfortunately not much happened after that. Driver vocalist Rob Rock and guitarist Roy Z. (Ramirez) went on to do many other projects. Roy became a producer for bands like Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Judas Priest, and even Rob Rock. Rob went back to singing with Impelliterri as well as finding success with his own solo band. Being that Rob and Roy were working together on the Rob Rock material, it was only a matter of time before Driver would finally get together to release the album that fans had wanted since that EP.

Along with Roy and Rock, the 2008 incarnation of Driver had Ed Roth on keyboards (Glenn Hughes, Montrose, Halford, Impellitteri) and Aaron Samson on bass guitar (George Lynch, Rowan Robertson, John 5). The result is a powerhouse American heavy metal platter. Whereas Rob's solo stuff is much more European flavored, this Driver is 100% American heavy metal. The music is melodic, but heavy and ultra catchy. All five songs from the EP made it onto this album. The classic "Warrior" has been resurrected on many other albums, including Rock's solo album "Holy Hell" and Impellitteri's "Answer to the Master". "Hearts on Fire" could easily have been a huge hit had it been recorded and released in the 1980's. The song has a big hook and Rock's voice just carries the song. The title track is a fast speed metal number that recalls classic bands like Cacophony, Riot and Racer X. There are two ballads on the album as well, including the excellent "I Believe in Love" and "Change of Heart". Of the two, "I Believe in Love" is the better song. I actually think that "Change of Heart" is the only speed bump in the album, slowing down an otherwise perfect album.  

Countdown Driver - Countdown (Metal Haven) 2012

1.   Return to the Sky (4:58)
2.   Rising Son (4:12)
3.   Countdown (4:14)
4.   Hollywood Shooting Star (3:37)
5.   Thief in the Night (4:49)
6.   Cry of the Wounded (4:13)
7.   Always on my Mind (4:31)
8.   Feel the Fire (4:09)
9.   Destiny (6:06)
10. Running From The Darkness (4:02)
11. Babylon [Bonus Track] (5:03)

Driver reformed back in 2008 and re-recorded some of their classic tracks from their 1990 demo and released it as "Sons of Thunder". Many assumed the project, which included Rob Rock and Roy Z would be a one off. Well, four years later and Driver returns with another full-length album of original material. Back again is vocalist Rob Rock, guitarist Roy Z, keyboardist Ed Roth, bassist Aaron Samson and drummer Reynold "Butch" Carlson.

What was so enjoyable about "Sons of Thunder" was the mix of very 80's styled heavy metal with a lean and mean modern production, courtesy of Roy Z. With "Countdown" the band doesn't deviate from that formula at all. Rob Rock's smooth powerhouse voice is at the forefront of the band's sound, but is equally matched by Roy's heavy riffs and tasty licks. Unlike Rob Rock's solo material, which has a very European-flavored power metal sound, Driver's sound is well-crafted and highly enjoyable US melodic heavy metal. 

"Return to the Sky" opens up the CD and is an incredibly catchy with solid hooks and memorable riffs. It is easily one of the most immediately like-able songs on the album. Likewise the fiery "Feel the Fire" is an upbeat number with grab-you-by-the-jugular hooks and a smokin' lead break. "Thief in the Night" starts off with one of those driving, head banging riffs before giving way to a more melodic verse. The song ebbs and flows between the clean, melodic verses and the head-banging main riff of the song. Roy Z also lets out a nice guitar solo, one of those that will have most rivet-heads playing along on air guitar. "Destiny" is the longest clocking in at just over six minutes long and is a melodic rocker that would have fit well on one of Rob's early solo albums.  "Always on My Mind" is a power-ballad that is very typical of Rob Rock. As usual Rock's lyrics are positive, reflective and have leanings of his faith, though nothing overtly preachy. 

I do confess to being a total Rob Rock fan-boy. That being said, I find "Countdown" to be a solid and completely enjoyable American heavy metal release. No sophomore slumps for these vets. This is unadulterated 1980’s style Heavy Metal! Get it and bang your head! 

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