Tour De Force - World On Fire
The story of Tour De Force is a depressed, confused one and a tale that is mystifying. Demos rumored to be the stuff of Scandi-AOR legend and a resulting album that was anything but. Then they slipped away, leaving little mark on the world of melodic rock, a world that should have been blown open by them, but was not. That one self titled dud of a disc, and another "Unreleased" batch of demos... and this.

The self titled lacked all the spark, fire and most importantly, the buzzed about songs that were circulating like precious wildfire. Instead the band had taken a different direction and the anticipated disc released during their active period lacked everything that had created the buzz in the first place. If sleeping bands had been left to lie, that 1993 cd would be all that was left of the name and the legendary demos that were abandoned to languish and die would have never seen the light. However, one man in the position to resurrect the broken dreams and put the puzzle back in its place, acquired the rights to the music recorded while Tour De Force was recording under the Geffen contract. These were remastered for public consumption and stuffed tightly on a disc for all to experience.

After over half a decade, "World on Fire" was finally born, but not to the reception it should have recieved. Not as a phoenix rising from the ashes, this was the remains of a dead band, and was a curiousity. A reminder, of "what might have been", and a whisper from the past. Yet it was a damned fine slice of AOR in its own right, and this piece of yesterday that almost did not see the light of the day found a bit of life in that year of 1995. An unheard of band, with a cd full of demos, released by a disappointed fan who did not forget, but remembered what should have been... these things did not add up to future longevity.

However, through a trickle of attention "World on Fire" has still not faded away, thanks to a handful that continue to remind the AOR community of this album. Whether it was stumbled upon from happy accident or claimed after dogged pursuit to have the original Tour De Force material finally and at last, does this spirit still live on. The album is still highly regarded some fifteen years after being leaked from the vaults, and claims status with the best of the Scandinavian melodic rock pack.

17 songs comprise the entirety of "WoF" including the much beloved lead-off "Tonight", penned by Michael Bolton and exclusive to the Japanese version. Indeed the album radiates sheer brilliance in places and if it had been pared down to the cream of its crop, no doubt this would be down in the history books where AOR is concerned as a contender for one of the greatest releases in its genre - of all time. As it is, as much was packed on as possible and thus the disc feels a bit uneven in places as you can at times hear the band's progression and experimentation as they play with various styles. Considering these are demos that were not meant to see the living daylight, well... this is a package that is absolutely remarkable, and you have to continually pinch yourself to be reminded that these are just bloody demos. It is such a shame the band could never live up to the expectations that were born and bred right here.

TDF's sound here (and prior to the self titled, as this was recorded before it by many years, despite its later release date), is a blood rushing, pulse pounding, mind spinning sugar sensation that spans the fine tuning of Scandi-AOR-sound heavy weights such as Skagarack, Shy, Da Vinci, FM and others. They tease with some Helloise, Fifth Angel, Van Halen and a couple of other bands, but the style is mostly in the Scandi-realm of things. This is streamlined, poppy AOR that spins one hook after another in dizzying succession.

The best of these exploit the sugar rush to its fullest as songs such as "Sweet Adeline" leave you breathless. A potent track that one is, being an AOR masterwork that makes bedfellows of a dominant rhythm riff, a honey stinging chorus, and a cascading guitar solo that is bliss in electric beauty. It makes for an addictive song that tingles through your soul as the lyrics are painted in finality of a love affair degraded into its death throes stage and the hooky guitar that sweeps in like a soul purging flood of joyous delight.

"Lady Midnight" is a midtempo track that evokes forgotten lust as memories bubble and stir. The chorus is sharp and on point, the vocals heated and pleading. "Tonight" is cited most often as the premier tour de force (if you will). Indeed the song is golden, beautifully constructed with feather touches. A Bolton creation but made all their own. The elusiveness has lent quite a bit of fuel to its already blinding fire.

"Cruise Control" is asphalt smoking urgent melodic rock that is caught between 80s Hagar Van Halen and "Rev It On the Red Line" Foreigner. Thumping swagger, the push-pull give and take from the guitars make way for the surprising dynamite of its bouncing chorus. Eagerness and urgency pulse through like an engine humming.

"Back To You" swirls the keyboards like water running through a colorful painting, bright and dazzling as the song hops along, blissful and self satisfied with a cheerful pleasantness. The title track, "World on Fire" resonates with its sympathetic lyrics that etch out the need to break from the human race's 9 to 5 conformity. A lush, multi-faceted song that glimpses Giuffria in its sights and flaunts a flashy chorus among a rather typical rock structure.

"Coming Home" has the big ballad corner covered as it is a beautiful song that flutters on gossamer soft synthesizers, rich rounded vocals and a heartbreakingly gorgeous lyric. "Hold On" is thoroughly Scandi made. The unarguable conviction, the daring verses and sugar instant sweet chorus makes for a song that is agonizingly wonderful. "If It's Love" is another amazing lovely that finds a fiery heart to compliment its hushed quieter moments. Another fantastic chorus splits this open like a melodic dream.

"Stranger in the Night" is another style entirely and feels jarring and off-center amongst the massively melody makers that came before it. Rawer, more like the band they became with less pretty glitter and more full frontal assault in the musical make-up. Lacking that flash of something special that they did find for "Shot Down". "Shot" has atrocious mixing and is a different beast than the candy coated AOR Tour De Force preferred, although their link to that world shows through in peeks here and there in the flowing chorus. The rest of the song is aggressive, a tough guitar sound and a rocking demeanor. The guitar solo is six string 80s flashback full of fever and guitar hero glory. A crunchy melodic rock piece that has a little Banshee backed up in its system.

"Rough Boy" is soft-ish, frolicky AOR that pours on the chorus like thick sweet syrup and the verses sensistive spun webs of spider silk. The "rough boy" wording sounds silly and out of place, an awkward growing pain despite the sharp FM/Shy connection it clings to. Acoustic haunts the opening of "Runaway", another track about a teenager youngster that forsakes house and home for sake of survival. The ominous thumping and "staring at the wanted ad" lyric brings the horror of underage homelessness to sharp focus. The choice of sleeping in the rain and the dangers of the wicked streets versus the nightmare of abuse is a choice that should never have to be made. An effective track handled perfectly that could have spelled cheesy disaster so easily.

"One More Time" has this Virgin Steele "Cry Forever" feel worked up with an FM splash. "Wing and a Prayer" comes out of left field, being grandiose power melodic rock in the realm of Fifth Angel. Piercing guitars that shriek and swoop like falcons on the wing and an epic chorus gallops into epic anthem territory. Lightened a bit by a keyboard assault, this is a great song that shows another face to the band, but pulls it off with grace and ease. "Got to Know" is pleasant enough in its Shy-ness and straight forward rock tumbler manner. "Forgotten Heroes" owes its heart to the lyrical punch than unique musical finesse, as it is fairly straight forward but quite tight all the same.

The long awaited Tour De Force album neglected to mine any of these gems, and the question still remains as to "why"? Why were these tracks locked up in the vault and left for dead, while the self titled album was created instead? Songs such as "Sweet Adeline", "Hold On", "Tonight", the title track, "If It's Love", "Lady Midnight" all have more pizazz than anything on that first album.
It is a frustrating question, and one that likely sunk the band's career before it had even really begun. Five years after "World on Fire" another demo collection surfaced titled "Unreleased", but it was just a shadow of what "WoF" was. That was the final Tour De Force release, and thus their story comes to an end. Luckily their music still lives on, despite all efforts to kill it off in those early days. If you don't have it, you need it, and if you do have it, you are likely already one of the converted who indeed love hearing the "World on Fire".

Written by Alanna
Sunday, March 21, 2010
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Ratings

Alanna: 8.5/10

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Review by Alanna

Released by
FEMS - 1995

Tracklisting
1. Tonight*
2. Back to You
3. World on Fire
4. Coming Home
5. Hold On
6. If It's Over
7. Sweet Adeline
8. Stranger in the Night
9. Cruise Control
10.Shot Down
11.Rough Boy
12.Runaway
13.One More Time
14.Wing and a Prayer
15.Lady Midnight
16.Got to Know
17.Forgotten Heroes


Style
Melodic rock

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Ratings
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5 - Average
6 - Good
7 - Very good
8 - Outstanding
9 - Genius
10 - Masterpiece
666 - Unrated

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