CHINAWHITE – CHALLENGES (B-) Rock Company, 2009
11 tracks, RT: 1:06:04
[ https://www.chinawhite.nl/ ]
[ http://www.myspace.com/chinawhitenl ]
[ http://www.rockcompany.nl/ ]
This one’s been out for about a year now (sorry fro the delay!). I first "found" Chinawhite back around the time of 2000’s BREATHE FIRE… and I was surprised to learn there weren’t any releases between it and CHALLENGES. The Dutch quintet — Don Feltges (Joe Stump) on lead vocals, Peter Cox on guitar and vocals, Sander Stappers (Sengaia) on bass, Rolf "Fuchs" Vossen on keyboards, and Hans in ‘t Zandt (Vengeance, Mad Max) on drums — plays a somewhat quirky type of Hammond B3-infused melodic/prog rock, with old Uriah Heep being a decent starting point for comparison’s sake. Or maybe a more AOR/ melodic version of early Dream Theater, with Jon Lord on keyboards?!
The sound is hard to pin down, and the album is a grower, so it took me a while to get my head wrapped around it. The disc’s clear highlight is Cox’s tasty guitar work; he can bolster a seemingly pedestrian track by pulling a nice solo out of thin air, and there are enough meaty riffs here to please air guitar enthusiasts. The B3 is overused at times, particularly in "I Am I" (not a Queensryche cover!) where it’s used to fill a lot of spaces in the music. I’ve got nothing against the B3, mind you — it is used perfectly over a dark, buzzy riff in "Stranger," and adds a nifty Deep Purple-meets-Black Sabbath air to "My Venus Rising’s" spooky intro — but too much is distracting. Fuchs can also tickle the ivories quite nicely, with "Dreams Of A Child" and the excellent "Better Than You" showing off his piano work. The latter, its riff-tastic follow-up "Inside," and driving closer "Wings Of The Wind" (minus the final four minutes of oceanfront sound effects…) are probably the album’s best tracks. If
a few of the lengthier songs were pared down (this feels more like a 50-minute album, not the 66-minute behemoth it is), and the mix was more level (in "Stranger" the cymbals practically scream at you and the vocals are too low) CHALLENGES would definitely rate a "B" or higher.
– Tim Wadzinski