For those like myself who thought that "Face-Off" is a debut release, well this is in fact the 3rd album by BISS. Like before, it's produced by ex-BONFIRE guitarist Michael Voss. A curious fact is that in each BISS album we find a different (lead) vocalist.
The style is AOR - melodic rock where the songwriting focus usually dominates over the technical aspect. Having said that, it is immediately obvious that the musicians in the BISS line-up are damn good at their job, particularly Doc Heyne (guitarist / founding-member). The songs themselves are reminiscent of bands such as BRAZEN ABBOTT, (early) SAXON, and BONFIRE.
This time around BISS have employed the vocal talents of KROKUS vox Marc Storace. It seems Marc's role is specifically limited to this recording and it isn't foreseen that Marc shall perform/tour or do further recordings with BISS - but of course who can really tell?
So is "Face-Off" any good? Well, while listening to the album I was occasionally left with an empty feeling, or put another way, I didn't get over-excited. But in reply to this question: 'yes' it's quite a good album as far as AOR goes. Although I haven't heard previous recordings (other than samples provided from the band's official website) I felt Marc's voice really raises the album's level. Beware anyone expecting KROKUS-style singing for he sounds very different here. In fact anyone who ever doubted this singer's versatility should check out "Face-Off" straight away.
My favourite tracks happen to be the two penned by Marc himself: 'Lady Of The Night' and 'Wiseman' - especially the former which is an incredible power-ballad. 'Rejected' and 'Calling' are 2 other cool songs.
In this genre of Rock, songs are often based around the lead voice and the aforementioned 'musical-chairs' of BISS' lead vocalists might have had repercussions on the songs. Anyway, if you're tired of bombastic technique and appreciate good, honest Classic Rock, "Face-Off" is one album you might not want to miss.
Euro-AOR feel with a more modern heaviness
This one proves really interesting to me, especially considering this has become a journey man project along with consistently being the perfect chapter of Euro hard rock. Those two things seem to be a guarantee every time with BISS, a band that seems to completely re-invent themselves with each release. That is really where the true beauty of this band lies, the ability to simply change gears and still continue one movement or goal, never completely turning away from the main focus point, creating that huge Euro-AOR feel with a more modern heaviness.
"Face-Off" is really no different, this time coming to us with a new vocalist at the helm in Krokus lead throat Marc Storace. The group originally started in '02 with their debut, putting ex-Victory shouter Fernando Garcia on the mike in fine power metal style. With the band's kick starter the group seemed to combine the Teutonic heaviness of a band like Victory or Accept with the likes of modern Helloween. Soon after the release Garcia packed his bags for Wicked Sensation, and founding guitarist Ralph "Doc" Heyne went to work on record two, the fabulous '03 record "Joker In The Deck". The sequel landed Jaded Heart vocalist Michael Bormann at the front, lending his soulful and powerful hard rock voice to a record that just flirted with the edges of modern metal while still keeping that 80s sensibility to it.
Now Biss and Heyne are back at musical chairs again, Bormann out and new gunslinger Storace in. Storace seems to have caught a brand new fire lately, jumping on board with the likes of Joe Floyd's Warrior last year and still recording and performing with his main band Krokus. Storace is enjoying a recording career of over twenty-five years, just simply amazing for a man who has lived that 80s hard rock scene and still managed to retain his professional appearance. Bands are still needing this type of singer and as long as Storace has the fire I think he will always have a home. But let's look more closely at "Face-Off" for now...
While bands like Pink Cream 69, Edguy, and Evidence One continue along a more powerful, heavier hard rock sound, Biss really seems to enjoy the side streets. "Face-Off" is completely filled with a steady heaviness, at times absorbing in the most chaotic of rock fury ("Wiseman"). But while other bands journey to find that special modern space, Biss seems to reside deeply within that early to mid 80s sector. Big, healthy cuts like "Pyromania" and "Breathless" just romp with an arena or stadium like feel, recalling the finest moments of Kingdom Come, TNT, and even the Scorpions. The band get busy with some heavy grooves, especially the more speedy numbers like "Raise The Hammer", which even injects a good dose of early NWOBHM. The band still retains a good sense of moody melody with the Dio styled "Lady Of The Night". Favorite numbers for me are "Wiseman", "Pyromania", and "Raise The Hammer".
At this point in time I think Storace and Heyne are hitting on all cylinders. I know Storace has his hands in several projects right now, one of those being a new Krokus record I'm sure. But at some point Heyne needs to be looking at Biss as a full time job, and with Storace still interested in working and recording, I think "Face-Off" should just be one of many great Storace led Biss records. Hopefully this lineup will stay as this new album is just beaming with a fresh, seasoned approach at hard rock songwriting. Easily one of the more enjoyable releases of the year!