Singer and Mennen founder Joss Mennen (it’s obviously not hard to spot where the band’s name comes from) has previously worked as a session backing vocalist for classic band the Scorpions while the album’s producer Erwin Musper has a curriculum vitae consisting of Def Leppard, Van Halen and Bon Jovi so it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to work out the direction Mennen’s UK debut is heading down – it literally spells melodic hard rock in bold capitals.
With Erik Van De Kerkhof on guitars, bassist Alex Jansen and drummer Fon Janssen, Joss Mennen has established a force to be reckoned with. A Dutch band, Mennen has already built something of a reverent reputation in Holland and Belgium supporting legendary veteran rock bands Dio, Whitesnake, the Scorpions and Thunder. Hopefully their appeal will manifest itself in the UK sometime soon.
Freakazoid is a damn fine debut that almost drips with perspiration and blood from the sheer determination that the band has poured out while endeavouring to create something palatable and worthwhile, and such honest dedication has paid off handsomely. It has a notable quality and a smooth, well-produced texture that is readily apparent throughout the opus.
Freakazoid was conceived during 2002-03 when the band literally locked themselves away in their studio, which they dubbed The Mushroom, where they wrote and recorded demos before finally producing the album in 2004.
Things start well with the excellent Down and the even better Rain. Bob is a terrific tune that has the hard edge rhythm of the Scorpions with the melodic vocal harmonies of Def Leppard. The albums title track is a sturdy effort with a loud bass and kicking guitars while the harmonies are even worthy of Queen‘s early material.
These Good Times has an annoying distorted background vocal effect but the rest is fine. Believe is a curious little ballad that displays Joss Mennen’s great vocal talent: he can be tender and moving but also aggressive and harder, as shown on Wicked White. It’s a knockout song that is instigated by a monster riff, possibly the best track on the album. Out of the three bonus songs, Taste Of Paradise is of a better and more entertaining quality – a great song to draw a close on what is essentially a brilliant album.
Mennen sound like they have a strong bond with each other that could work wonders on stage and on future albums. I doubt they will have so much immediate success in the UK, unless of course they are invited to support well known bands of similar style. Perhaps another inroad to success over here is if everybody who reads this review goes out and buys a copy of Freakazoid, which of course everyone should.
Freakazoid is an awesome album with cool riffs, finely textured vocals, smooth harmonies and catchy melodies. British fans of European melodic rock should await Mennen’s debut UK release with zeal, it’s that good.