Chinawhite kind of make a false start with us. While reading the complete 22 year biography of the band, and finding out only the last piece mentions the new CD, nothing really happens during the first 4 minutes of the album. A rain sample, didgeridoo murmur. Some keys. The title track on the other hand is really firing, nice rocking riff. Wolfmother could play that on a crazy day, as well as Rush. Maybe even Liquid Tension Experiment, now they are back together. Alas that riff only lasts 2 minutes and a half. Mmhmm. Next singer Peter Cox makes a nice attempt to come close to the great Neal Morse. As a matter of fact the whole band does. And fails. The song piece is not enchanting enough. Cox is not good enough. And he is very low in the mix.
Next the Limburgian 5-piece set a pattern. Every song contains memorable hooks, mostly the opening riff. With ‘Stranger’ that is 90% Wolfmother, but tasty. ‘Better Than You’ could be taken from a Transatlantic jam, until Cox starts singing. ‘Inside’ starts sneaky as a delicious stadium rocker (Whitesnake? Treshold? Toto?), but lasts too long. The album is too long as a whole, mainly because there are no real beautiful songs played, unlike the artists mentioned before. It are patched pieces of music, intermezzo’s and solo’s, with little impact.
Don’t get us wrong, the level of musicianship is high and that we don’t like Cox’ voice might be our mistake. And like said before, the album contains nice moments. But to us they have too little sound of their own, although the band has a coherent sound. Maybe there are too many revival bands doing it better. Or maybe we miss the drama, the emotion from for example Neal Morse. Or maybe we think that this style is done, while many others might completely disagree with us. Let’s put it this way, Challenges is a nice CD that does not touch us where we want to be touched. If the organization from for example Symforce has the guts to program the band, we will surely give them a chance. (Eelco van der Meer)