I first met the man who records under the name Haze (Brendan to his friends) many years ago when he was the part of The Unforeseen, a band very much from the classic rock mould and where he showed that he was equally at home firing off high octane rock riffs as he was following delicate acoustic lines. And it is those twin abilities that very much inform this new album. Set Free is a collection of twelve songs that manage to blend subtlety with drive, power with restraint, soaring electric playing with gently picked acoustics. Although the full on rock and roll power plays largely take a back seat to cleverer arrangements, this is no folksy troubadour, the songs are fleshed out with the usual range of contemporary band sounds and when the foot needs to go on the pedal, Haze is just the man for the job.
But for the most part the play off between the accessibility of pop melody and the dynamic of the rock tradition creates a wonderful middle ground and often has me thinking of bands such as The Goo Goo Dolls and in fact there is many a song here that could easily be the play out sound track to the latest Hollywood Rom-Drama.
If there is one criticism it is that the sentimentality that runs through the songs is a bit obvious, but you have to sing from the heart and if that is what naturally flows then who am I to cast the first stone and even if I am correct once you get past titles such as Shining Like The Sun and Blanket of Love (come on Bren!) the exquisite Spanish classical meets rock balladeer guitar work is more than enough to save the day.
Essentially, it’s not an album that will bring about the next revolution, but then how many are and if you are just after a collection of well crafted, mid-tempo acoustic driven songs, you could certainly do a lot worse than pick up this album.
More info at Brenhaze