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Target (2015)
Rating: 9/10

If a poll was conducted amongst heavy metal and hard rock fans to ask who were the most underrated song writing partnerships in the 1980s, then it’s very likely that alongside Enuff Z’ Nuff’s Chip Z’Nuff and Donnie Vie, White Lion’s Mike Tramp and Vito Bratta would probably be top of my list… and yet they’d probably be ignored by many.

In my opinion, White Lion were one of the finest heavy rock bands of their time, yet sadly shackled with the derogatory “hair metal” tag simply because like many musicians within the genre at the time they had rather fluffed up hair and pretty looks.

Tramp / Bratta crafted some wonderful songs, but sadly White Lion would eventually split in 1992 after carving a career spanning a handful of fine records; Bratta becoming a rather elusive character while Tramp marched on, somehow evolving through the trends and fads to create the grunge-tinged glories of Freak Of Nature and then an impressive solo career.

The ten-track Nomad is Mike Tramp’s ninth studio solo outing emerging hot on the heels of 2014’s Museum, and it’s testament to the prolific songwriting prowess of this Danish composer who has made a career – unlike so many musicians from the 80s metal era – of actually writing songs fuelled by emotion and personal experiences. It’s no different with Nomad; the Copenhagen-born rocker completing a trilogy of sorts in regards to his journey through life beginning with the 2013 opus Cobblestone Street.

Nomad begins with ‘Give It All You Got’; an upbeat stomper featuring an immediately catchy lick and nice, soft drum prod. “Have you ever been beaten and broken, and you could not find your way?” asks Tramp with that ever recognisable silky tone, and straight away there’s that injection of hope as the track builds to a soulful and above all positive chorus as Tramp beams, “You can’t give up, you don’t give up – you give it all you got”. It’s all so simple by design yet bright and breezy on the ears; Tramp offering up the same sort of nifty, reflective and optimistic vibe as John Corabi (ex-Mötley Crüe) except with less grit.

‘Wait Till Forever’ follows and provides that extra edge; a killer organ buzzes along with another instant lick. Of course, due to Tramp’s moving tones the track is brought down to a comfortable level as the drum plods amidst the airy trickles of the guitar. But you know that with Tramp there’s always that high level of quality; the songs getting the head nodding, the heart fluttering and at times, the tears flowing.

‘Counting The Hours’ is equally edgy; the distorted guitar fluff and organ ooze brings in Tramp’s questioning. “I’ve been searching for something that I don’t understand,” he claims. “I’ve been looking for answers in the palm of my hand”, the music reflecting another of Mike Tramp’s heartfelt emotions but again providing heaps of positivity.

In a sense Nomad, like so much of Tramp’s solo stuff, is very much pop-edged and on the very lighter side of rock music; ‘Bow And Obey’ has a hint of melancholy with its initial nod, but the words are of a journeyman who’s seen and done a lot and yet learnt so much from his experiences.

The fantastic ‘High Like A Mountain’ and ‘No More’ prop up an impressive mid-section of the album. The former is another plodding vibe, Tramp’s vocals warm, tender and floating from the members of that simple acoustic brush, while the latter tune brings a catchy twang and infectious chorus. Again that effective sleepy drum remains persistent throughout, but of all the songs to really make their mark with immediate passion, it’s ‘Stay’ which for some unknown reason reminds me of country alt-rock star Ryan Adams with its countrified tinge. The organ is again subtle as Tramp brings us to that joyous chorus, and the same can also be said for the harder groove of ‘Who Can Believe’ which is the album’s most electrified track; the guitar fizzing with intent and yet the chorus is unpredictably soulful, but again magical.

There’s something rustic and well-travelled about the whole sound of the album, as if the tracks on offer have been written in varying places all over the world, but I could be wrong. However, with the emotionally-charged ‘Live To Tell’ it’s clear that Tramp still has the ability to add a darkness to his material. Indeed, it’s the sort of track that seems reflective of his younger days, such is its stirring nature, but it’s also evidence of Tramps’ knack of writing deep, sensual tracks very much out of the mould as they were when with White Lion.

Album closer ‘Moving On’ has a Procol Harum-styled late 60s nod to it; again this is down to the lazy drum and organ flow. “If there was a way I could change everything, I’d do it again,” sings Tramp. “Every mistake that I made in my life, all of the things that I didn’t realise, I’d never let in through this door” – each subtle beat seems to accompany the fall of each tear; Mike Tramp again providing those silky, harmonies to pull on the heartstrings.

Nomad is the album I expected; a simple, almost stark but soulful journey down the tracks of Tramp’s tears and avenues of all emotion and places he’s experienced. Here’s a man so dedicated to his music that one can only sit back and become engulfed by such a tranquil opus where the beats caress the ears; the guitars jangle effortlessly and Mike Tramp’s voice does what it’s always done.

Neil Arnold

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