One of the most delightful musical surprises of 2005 for me was stumbling across the first Hartmann album “Out In The Cold”. Ex- At Vance vocalist Oliver Hartmann’s return to the music world after a couple of years’ silence was done with a rather surprising change in style. “Out In The Cold” was full of good, melodic AOR hard rock tunes; verging on pop and much softer than anything he did with power metallists At Vance. “Out In The Cold” featured a good bunch of very well written songs that suited Hartmann’s notable singing capabilities perfectly.
So, as Hartmann’s second release, entitled “Home” came out through Frontiers Records this january, my expectations were set high. And sure enough, the album does open with a promising track. “Coming Home To You” continues straight from where “Out In The Cold” ended. Melodic, uptempo rock song that carries on pleasantly with smooth guitar playing and lets Hartmann showcase his singing range.
As the album proceeds, however, it becomes evident that “Home” falls short from the level of it’s predecessor. The songs have overall taken a bigger step towards the lighter side of rock and have a poppier feel than most songs on “Out In The Cold”. This is not a bad thing per se, but leaves the album kind of flat compared to the previous release. On the surface there’s nothing really wrong with the songs, but as the album closes, there aren’t too many memorable moments left in your mind.
There are some good parts: the opening track is a nice rocker, as are “Millionaire” and “Higher Than Me” that rise above the bulk of the album due to their slightly harder rocking sound. The definite highlight of the album is “I Don’t Want To Know”, a touchingly melancholy ballad that Hartmann performs with sheer excellence.
The most of the tracks leave behind somewhat indifferent feel. The songwriting doesn’t equal the material on “Out In The Cold” and although almost every song has something good in them, they fail in another part. For example take the song “Why Do I” – it features a very neat chorus, but otherwise fades into being next to dull. The same problem is present through the album, and personally I feel the pendulum has swung too much to the poppy side, meaning that a bit heftier dose of rock would’ve balanced the album considerably. Even his usual forte, the ballads (excluding “I Don’t Want To Know”), have this time resulted into easily forgettable ones, no matter how well Hartmann delivers them. The ‘middle-of-the-road’ pop-rockers here just seem to merge into oblivion.
“Home” isn’t nearly as good an album as “Out In The Cold”, but has still some good moments and proves Oliver Hartmann having an exceptionally good singing voice that will hopefully bring rock fans much more good times in the future.
1. Coming Home To You
2. The Sun’s Still Rising
3. My Everything
4. Somewhere Someday
5. Just For You
6. I Don’t Want To Know
7. Higher Than Me
8. Why Do I
11. Lay All Your Love On Me