September 18, 2020

They did what all serious bands would do if they had the chance and the initiative, and hired an impressively hirsute, classically-trained trombonist…

Kiss the gun are a melodic metal band based in Salisbury in Wiltshire, founded in 2016 by a duo of New Wave of Heavy Metal veterans, rhythm guitarist Graham Exton and bass guitarist Dave South. Wisely, the two grizzled axemen recruited a whizz-kid guitarist and an attractive frontwoman, and for a drummer, they did what all serious bands would do if they had the chance and the initiative, and hired an impressively hirsute, classically-trained trombonist. This unlikely combination recorded their first album in 2017.  Singer Nadin Zaqaryan was soon replaced by a former London dance teacher named Abigail Austin, and their second album, We See You, has now hit the streets.

Kiss The Gun, L to R: Graham Exton, Dave South, Abigail Austin, Gerry Hearn, Rob Taylor

Melodic Metal is perhaps a slightly misleading appellation, conjuring as it does, visions of ‘80s hair metal bands such as Def Leppard, Whitesnake and Bon Jovi. Kiss The Gun are an altogether harder proposition, with proper metal beats and backings and some serious guitar work. The chunky power chords are often reminiscent of the new avalanche of Scandinavian symphonic metalheads, with some lighter pop influences thrown in.

Perhaps the factor that most defines the sound though, is Austin’s voice – not overtly powerful or raunchy in the Lzzy Hale of Halestorm mould, nor theatrically operatic like Tarja Turunen or Simone Simons, or plaintively soprano in the vein of Within Temptation’s Sharon den Adel. Austin is an excellent singer, with a mid-range voice that would seem more of a match for the pop charts – think Olivia Newton-John or Helen Reddy perhaps.

The result is a beguiling mix of proper, up-tempo metal backlines, but with tuneful melodies and sweet-voiced presentation. They eschew the corseted, gothic look; there are no plaited Viking beards to be seen, and leather is at a minimum. Satisfyingly though, they also tend to reject balladry and stuff the set full of driving power rockers instead. Flight Of The Phoenix makes an excellent, powerful opener with a tempo change for the guitar solo, while the six-minute second track slows the beat somewhat for the more atmospheric Dreamer.

The minor-key juggernaut slow rock of What We’ve Become bemoans “the endless cycle of destruction” in a personal relationship, but the band’s melodic-rock basis starts to show through more strongly from the fourth track Enter The Gate. Listen out for echoes of Journey or Kiss, featuring military snare work and a hooky vocal line, and extemporising dubbed over the top towards the end. There is a proper shredding solo in this one too.

Kiss The Gun with former vocalist Nadin Zaqaryan – photo by SD Photography

Out On My Own pulls still further in this direction, bringing to mind such jolly rocking pop bands as McFly and Freefaller, or Belinda Carlisle perhaps. It’s no piece of fluff though, the guitar solo being an exercise in advanced modal scales. This is followed by the six-minute Emergency, which features an ambient keyboard intro that references Pink Floyd’s Crazy Diamond before reverting to a melodic metal power ballad.

The piano-and-power-chord intro to Beyond The Ship owes more than a little to Toto’s Hold The Line, before morphing into a classic Nightwish symphonic barrage. A bit of an eastern vibe adorns Breaking The Chains, with an overtly symphonic heavy metal feel; it could almost be After Forever but for the friendly voice. Nevertheless, melodic sections are still interspersed throughout the track. Some interesting, frenetic drumming underpins this fairly slow rocker, with a couple of nifty, dead silent stops in the middle to add further interest. The 50-minute set concludes with the dramatic Almost Undone, a manically-rhythmed rocker with a slow, ominous vocal line illustrating a woman on the edge.

The digipack features some excellent artwork, plus a booklet with all the lyrics and some great photos – the inner spread features a photo of the former singer in actual fact, although she is not credited in the notes. It’s an excellently-presented set, with perhaps a little room for work on the production; guitarist Gerry Hearn’s solos are heavy and fluid enough, but puzzlingly low in the mix – the vocals, by contrast, are mixed high enough to be as clear as a bell. It’s a minor gripe though, about an album that aims for the big time. If you like your rock to hit a sweet spot pitched somewhere between Scandinavian symphonic power rock and soft hair metal, you could do a lot worse than start here.