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By Terry Martinson, Contributor
Monday, October 30, 2023 @ 9:47 AM

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So Shall It Be

Eonian Records


First a little history. FREAKSHOW, not to be confused with the other half dozen bands (that I could find/know of) that share the same moniker, is the pet project of former AMSTERDAM, TRIXIE, MISS CRAZY vocalist/guitarist Ronnie Borchert, also known by Michael Allen Christopher depending upon the circles you run in. So Shall It Be is FREAKSHOW's second "official" release. Well technically fourth, as the self-titled, originally released in 2009 by Retrospect Records (oh my), appears to have been repackaged in 2015 (released independently, by Ronnie I assume), possibly re-recorded to some degree as the members are different, Ronnie is playing bass, the tracklisting is altered and includes different songs and features a different cover. Then released once again in 2021 by Eonion Records, who simply repackaged the original Retrospect variant it appears (unsure if it was re-recorded and/or given any remix treatment..) Regardless, the self-titled was another "supergroup" affair featuring Ronnie as well as CINDERELLAs Jeff LaBar, QUIET RIOT's Frankie Banali, (RIP fellas) and Tony Franklin, who had played in THE FIRM, BLUE MURDER, and WHITESNAKE. Pretty solid company and the album isn't anything to sneeze at either. I certainly wouldn't mind locating the re-pop(s) to compare as I am only familiar with the Retrospect version and with the alternate/ handful of differing tracks, the different members, and with the potentially differing recording/mixes, I am more than curious.

So Shall It Be, why we are here after all, carries on the supergroup tradition and the musical pedigree is (no disrespect intended) equal to the self title. Ronnie, still vocalizing and providing rhythm guitar, partners up with these fine fellows; Carlos Cavazo on guitar (SNOW, QUIET RIOT, RATT), Greg Chaisson on bass (SURGICAL STEEL, BADLANDS, ATOMIC KINGS), and Stet Howland on drums (IMPELLITTERI, W.A.S.P., METAL CHURCH). Wow. Seems Ronnie's lil black book is a place of and for legends.

So Shall It Be, to quote (or paraphrase) Gordon Gecco's Wall Street speech, "Freakshow, for lack of a better word, is good. Real good."

For those that are still following along, thanks, and FREAKSHOW will be a band for fans of that magical era, the 1980's. In listening to So Shall It Be on repeat for the past week (immersion baby), the comparisons to a number of period specific rock bands and rock stars is obvious and many, and with the members you too will be able to hear and appreciate those not so subtle nods to your favorite artists of yesterday, ironically some of which played on this record. I will offer up my comparisons as we tuck into the songs individually as Ronnie's voice, even though his own, is reminiscent of others and does vary from song to song. Of note the production overall is very akin to albums of the era, certainly a sound choice and the players, duh. Period spot on with the way they navigate their respective weapons of choice and their proficiencies therein.

"Get It Ready" kicks things off, and does so with a steel toe straight to the chest. This one is a hard rocking arena rock number, infectious and heavy, a certain set opener as it is up tempo, pulling everyone out of their seats and crashing the stage. The chorus exemplifies this logic as the band screams the title and the crowd would certainly respond in kind. A very solid opener. "Wendi" begins similarly, albeit a little more melodic rock vibed, but still hiney kicking. I really dig the opening drum triplets and that chorus, nice. Ronnie encants a lot of LIZZY BORDEN, not only vocally (I want to say it's the layering of the lead, but?) but the song's structure and presentation as well. The outro solo and double time drumming are a nice touch and equally amazing. "You Shine", the band's official video (seen on KNAC.COM HERE) for the record and this single, again is a hard rocking number, but dialed back a gear or two with regards to the tempo and the verse incorporates a real nice clean vocal pairing with just the drums and the bass, with the guitar slamming in every so often to emphasize the beat. The pre-chorus and chorus absolutely shine. There is a massive ENUFF Z'NUFF/KING'S X powerhouse of harmonies paired with an almost 60's twang guitar that will be impossible to stop humming long after the song is over. Carlos' solo is just ridiculous and takes up the back third of the song, first replete with that amazing chorus and then just all on its own. Probably a shoe in for my favorite song, but be warned the tracks all clock in at a respectable 3 minutes or less, sans "You Shine" being the longest at almost 5 minutes, but again the last 2 minutes are chorus and noodling, very nice. The title track, So Shall It Be, falls right into suit of the previous tracks, equal parts heavy, harmonic, melodic and infectious. The chorus' "So shall it be" is super catchy, almost seeming an octave off the lead, intentional? Probably. "M.S.M." (not sure what the acronym may be) slams in with an old school BLACK SABBATH presentation, musically and vocally that morphs into an Ozzy meets ALICE IN CHAINS meets Dug Pinnick pre-chorus that falls into a ZEPPELIN-esque outro chorus (think "Hammer of The Gods"). Seemingly an eclectic mashup but it works well. The solo, once again is a diabolical affair, short, but pointed and oh so sweet. Maybe it's the treatment of the song in its entirety but Carlos is sounding a lot like Ty Tabor on this one.

"Tell Me You Love Me" once again tickles all the same places as the previous tracks, this one still a nice simple melodic hard rocker that switches things up a bit by being a little more straight forward 2's and 4's rocker, but the switch is the incorporating of a couple of heaping handfuls of DEF LEPPARD, specifically High N' Dry (maybe Pyromania too come to think of it) era DEF LEPPARD vocally and in the chorus. "Tell me ya dooo'ah", very very Leppard-y, well played fellas. "Full On Shred", as the title implies is just that, an instrumental that, umm shreds. I assume it is all Carlos fileting those fret boards but since the review is from digital sources, who knows who's doing what actually. The song is up tempo, chunky with a "Mr. Scary"/Lynch vibe to it, minus the 389 squeals. Very proficient playing on all accounts, I really did dig the drumming on this one too, maybe that is what is helping cement the "Mr. Scary" vibe, a little madman Mick Brown in Stet's playing? "It Hurts Me" is a really nice song. I know I said "You Shine" was the favorite, but this one kind of eeks out the win. Where to start? The lead in reminds me so much of a kicked up Bryan Adams song, "Cuts Like A Knife" (guy is the goat and you know it) with the tasteful "aahhhhhaaahhh" harmonies and intro solo. The song then drops into a verse that is oh so reminiscent of BALAAM AND THE ANGEL (if you know you know and if you don't become familiar immediately). The pre-chorus is diabolical. "You're just a mystery! The way I look at you'ah! A life of tragedy. It's whatcha putcha through" My best guess at the lyrics as again no lyric sheet/liner notes, maybe Eonian will hook me up to correct me in any misquotes? I sure do miss those olden days of physical media, but I digress. Again, the chorus is very DEF LEP in the chorus. Ronnie's vocals are at their best on this one and the way he sashay's from influence to influence, ones that to the casual listener might seem odd, work amazingly well. Let us not overlook the solo. Sure it's lucky to be 30 seconds, but good night, every note is saturated with feeling, perfect placement and proficiencies. Carlos sir you are too good. Damn. Just a perfect song on every level.

"Ice Cold Hands" cranks it up once again with an uptempo hard rocker that has a bad ass bass fill. Nice. "ICH" is once again kind of LIZZY BORDEN, maybe a little QUEENSRYCHE and a lot a bit heavy. Another short but sweet addition to what is shaping up to be a solid record. Rounding out So Shall It Be is "Loving You, Loving Me". "LYLM" doesn't veer of the course we have been on the last half hour, this one incorporates a BRITNY FOX "Long Way To Love" verse, sung by Ozzy, that drops into a 4/4 chorus, again laden with hooks and a tasty "meeeeeee'ee" that is held extra long for your pleasure. We are treated to another dinger of a solo from Mr. Cavazo. Special note to the drumming on this one Stet is all over the place in the best possible way, with the aforementioned double time chorus and a smattering of fills and off meter thrills that will (or should) make even the most casual listener perk up their ears. Well done sir.

So there you go. A very long winded, definitely prattle filled, possibly incoherent rambling of a music fanboy, of what should be a very well received long play from the super group FREEAKSHOW. Sure I do wish the band name was different, but that is nit picky. Maybe on the next one Ronnie will simply use his alias (or given name) and call the project M.A.C.? Another nit pick would be the cover art, sure I get where it's coming from but it seems the new wave of AOR/Hard Rock labels are using some pretty generic photo bucket looking free domain artwork over the past 10 years for their releases and it sure would be something to see a shift away from that.

As you may have ascertained there is nary a skip-worthy moment on So Shall It Be. Certainly every song is well written, musically and lyrically. Performed at the highest level possible, with an equal part blood, sweat and tears and plenty of nods to the past and past performers and their wares. If the gathering of kings Ronnie can muster up for that 3rd official release is as epic as Carlos, Stet and Greg (or maybe, just maybe the gang sticks it out for another?) then I will gladly and eagerly gobble it up. A special accolade to "It Hurts Me". The song is easily racking into my top 50 of all time. Thanks for that fellas.

4.7 Out Of 5.0


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