Malice Alice

by Caroline Hope

Track listing: Pain, Born To Be Wild, Hand, Savior, Liar

A decade or so ago heavy metal was everywhere - MTV seemingly looped "Home Sweet Home" and the latest Skid Row band/audience scuffle footage. More recently, after dropping off the entertainment radar, we again find these stars adrift in the mainstream. Motley Crue touts a New York Times best-selling book and Sebastian Bach now hosts his own show on VH1. A Renaissance? Not without new blood to spur the movement…which is where Caroline Hope enters the picture. With her latest CD, entitled Malice Alice, Caroline attempts to breathe life back into this once industry dominating genre.

Caroline's vocal quality is evidenced by her winning the DC Metro Talent Search and appearing on Star Search. Her raw talent and energetic delivery fuel this album and will play a major part in the extent of its success. Caroline's singing brings to mind that of Queensryche's classically trained vocalist, Geoff Tate. Stylistically, she comes across as the new millennium’s answer to a pre-"Close My Eyes Forever" Lita Ford (when the latter was more rock and less power ballad). There's no escaping Caroline's influences, firmly rooted in hard rock’s past, but given today's upswing in nostalgia and her own additions of visual and sonic modernity, she may just have something here.

Musically, Malice Alice meets the essential metal prerequisites: punchy hooks, crunchy riff-laden guitar work, technical showmanship and some icing-on-the-cake keyboards. And filling out the album's instrumentation is an impressive line-up. Drummer phenom Lee Levin (Ricky Martin, Christina Aguilera) and the true-to-form guitar-shredding solos of A.J. Niilo (Shakira, KC & The Sunshine Band) set Alice's aggressive tone. Handling both engineering and keyboards is Nick Marinovic (KC & The Sunshine Band). But most notably, Caroline is currently working with Grammy Award-winning engineer Eric Schilling, whose renowned career has included projects with Babyface, Barry Manilow, Shakira and Frank Sinatra.

Caroline's songwriting embodies old and new. While the intro to "Pain" could just as easily appear on Linkin Park's latest record, the album quickly moves to (and remains with thereafter) a more retro-rock feel. This mood is brought home by a dark cover of Steppenwolf's "Born To Be Wild," which offers a hint of East Indian melody in parts of the guitar line. For the headbanging aficionado, "Hand" smacks of Fastway's Trick or Treat soundtrack (the '86 film gem that featured Ozzy as a preacher). And "Liar," though not the strongest song on the album, would fit nicely dropped into various periods of the Runaways' discography.

Among the challenges that face artists today, Caroline's has several important bases covered: talent, connections and a well-produced CD. Where she may run into trouble is in the marketability of her staunch hard rock songwriting style. But with signs of an imminent rock 'n' roll revival on the horizon, Caroline's use of the shadows of rock's past could very well have her looking toward a bright future.

Posted on 3/26/02