Nuclear Blast Records, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


Kurdt Vanderhoof is probably best known for his guitar work with Metal Church. But Vanderhoof's love of rock guitar extends far past the limitations of heavy metal, as he first proved with Hall Aflame (a band whom I still miss terribly).

Vanderhoof seems to want to show how he was influenced by progressive space-rock with his new group Vanderhoof, as their debut album shows. Often, I had to stop to make sure I hadn't put Uriah Heep in the player. And, like the aforementioned band, Vanerhoof runs the gamut from solid efforts to songs that miss the mark.

Bringing along Metal Church bandmate Kirk Arrington for the ride, Vanderhoof often lets his bandmates steal his own thunder, which turns out to be a wise move for the axemaster. Oh, don't worry; Vanderhoof has plenty of room to shine on this disc. But it's refreshing to hear that he doesn't turn it into an ego project; rather, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Vanderhoof is a band effort, pure and simple.

Listen to Brian Cokeley's organ work throughout Vanderhoof and tell me that this band wasn't heavily influenced by Uriah Heep from the Demons And Wizards era. Tracks like "Take To The Sky" and "Angel Now" are solid evidence of this influence, and sometimes even out-Heeps the Heepsters.

Yet Vanderhoof shows the influence that all good '70s rock had on him. "50 Cent Symphony" has hints of Styx in the arrangements, while "Beg," "Bleed" and "Machine" all have a feeling of several bands wrapped up into one unique sound. The way that Vanderhoof pulls all of his musical influences together into his own sound is admirable. Each listener may take away their own feelings of influence on some songs; one person might hear a strong Deep Purple influence (hmm... we'll come back to that in a minute) while others may hear a bit of Genesis or Led Zeppelin in the mix. In this case, to each their own.

The problem with Vanderhoof is that the musical gears feel like they're constantly changing, and it becomes mentally exhausting trying to keep up with which direction the band is trying to go in on each song. Personally, I liked the Uriah Heep-style of the band, and I could easily see them following that musical path in the future. Who knows? They might even re-awaken interest in such groups.

The American release of Vanderhoof includes a cover of Deep Purple's "Burn," which is followed pretty much to the blueprint. It's kind of fun to hear it, since this has always been a favorite Purple track of mine, and Vanderhoof do it justice.

Vanderhoof sometimes sounds like the bandmates are still getting in touch with each other's influences, and seeing how they all shape the final musical product. Once that's all sorted out, Vanderhoof should again rise to a higher tier of guitar legend. For now, this disc is enjoyable, but it's a bit disjointed.

Rating: C+

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