Flashpoint NPOR

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Flashpoint NPOR CD
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FLASHPOINT - ‘Flashpoint’
A fairly good start, but better things are yet to come…
Initially the side project of Ian Toomey from the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal rockers Bitches Sin, Flashpoint has become something more permanent since 2005. This first proper self-titled album from the band is an odd one. Some of it is really quite promising with sturdy songs like ‘Blown Away’ and the erratic ‘Hostage’ being particularly memorable. ‘One More Leave’ is really rather good too.

But there is the odd duff one or two tracks like ‘You’re Going Nowhere,’ which shows that they are probably better sticking to the faster, heavier songs than the slower ones. They are a heavy rock band after all! Yet the occasional flourishes of classical guitar prove they have an interest beyond the standard hard rock formula.

Bitches Sin was often slagged off at the height of their career by the likes of Kerrang! for having clichéd and unoriginal rock but the release of 2004’s excellent ‘The Last Temptation’ proved in hindsight that Bitches Sin were something better than they were unfairly and unjustifiably kicked in the arse for. So now it seems like the time is right for them to lay down the torch with Bitches Sin and move on with Flashpoint, which is something to look forward to. Visit www.bitchessin.co.uk
Neil Daniels - 2006


They can be really proud of what they’ve accomplished with this new album “Flashpoint”. We all know that this band is Ian’s kid, and he raised it like a real father should. On “No Point Of Reference”, they were still the NWOBHM youngsters, that continued after BITCHES SIN was put on hold. But by then, it was already clear that this band could easily grow into a well-talented band with a lot of potential. Now many years later, the band presents us their new album. You can still hear, that this album was made by old school NWOBHM parents, but like I mentioned already, kids grow up and show a face of their own. Okay, you may still recognise some of the old school NWOBHM sound here and there, but most of it has been masqued away and it sounds very mature. Not strange of course, when you realise that the musicians are also twenty years older now, since the release of “No Point Of Reference”.

Let’s take a look at the eleven songs now.

Opener “Blown Away” simply does, what it promises you to do. It has already blown me away several times. The sound of vocalist Frank Quegan will probably remind you of Ian Astbury of THE CULT. Also pay special attention to the crystal clear production of Chris Tsangarides (TYGERS OF PAN TANG), who makes these songs to an ever bigger joy to your ears. After a scream, we know that it's time for a mind-blowing guitar solo from Ian Toomey. Later on, he will return for more fabulous axework in this song. The aggressiveness, they do this is absolutely f*cking crazy! The song ends with a chorus, which reminded me of ALICE COOPER’s “Hey Stoopid” a bit. Great opener!

“Metal Sun” is as close to BITCHES SIN as it can get. It’s definitely one of the highlights on this CD, after a couple of hundred turns. Yep, you got that right! This band is very special to me, and there isn’t anything more difficult than writing a proper review about a band that you love so much. It must be really special and all the words must be right. When I listen to the album and write a review, it will be good most of the time. It’s different with FLASHPOINT. And this second song has grown a lot, since I’ve heard it for the very first time. Vocalwise, Frank sounds like in his BITCHES SIN days and the guitarwork sounds excellent again. Both thumbs up for this one.

“Don’t” starts off with a great riff - the one that I’ve heard a zillion times in the eighties. And again this is a song, that will get stuck in your mind quite easily, and it’s almost impossible to get rid of it, once it’s captured on your hard disc capacity in your brains. The solo spot at the end of the song really amazing. You may not like these songs at all, it’s your right. Not everybody has the same good taste, but you simply can’t deny the great guitarwork that is in almost every song on the album.

“Blood Over Sand” starts acoustic, and when you think you’re listening to a soppy ballad here, the drums start to thunder and give it a beat, that will wipe off your first thoughts right away. When I first listened to this song, I must confess I wasn’t too impressed with this one. But when it started to grow on me, I changed my first opinion and got really impressed by it. The fact, that this song does not contain a guitar solo does not bother me at all. First of all, there is some strong, exciting riffing of the guitarplayer in the middle of the song, and a surprisingly ending with again some acoustics.

“Plastic” has this particular kind of catchiness, that doesn’t make it commercial sounding, but just a song that you’ll start to sing along to once you’ve heard it.

“You Are Going Nowhere” is on next. Another spectacular grower in my mind. Listen to the almost desperate sounding vocalist, who tells his story. A story about long lost memories. The musical background is modest and threatening at the same time. The boys are giving the singer a chance to tell his story, but when the story is over, the wild beasts unleash and the lead guitar starts crying like wild hyenas on the prowl. At the end of the song, I hear again some resemblance with Ian Astbury’s vocals. And bang, we have got ourselves another highlight!

“Rivers” is a short piece of rest. A river is sometimes a border between two countries or cities. Here it divides the CD into two parts.

“Hostage” is another real highlight on the CD. And again I would like to refer to ALICE COOPER in this song, but then the older material of this king of shock rock. The song has a creepy, horror-like sound. From the sadistic little laugh in the very beginning of the song to the uncommon rhythm and the whole feeling this song breathes. The song tells you, that the hostage does not have a bright future ahead of him. It starts with the Hitchcock-like sound in the middle, where the acoustic guitars play. You know, that something really horrible is about to happen. The song itself plays like a five minute horror movie in my mind with lots of blood and horrible scenes, that are not suitable for people under the age of sixteen, and therefore not suitable to write about uncensored. And the guitar solos prove, that I’m right here. This is not suitable for young kids. It will give them nightmares night after night. Better remember this title, if you listen to the album,  and for the weak-hearted, better skip number eight (just kidding, just listen to it and pleasant dreams - hahahahahahahaha!!!).

“One More Love” also has the same kind of threatening sound. It’s not easy to describe, but these songs sound like they want to warn you for a giant explosion of highly skilled musical outings somewhere later on in the song. And the prediction is right again on this one. From the very first moment on,

“Very Soon Everyone’s Leaving” has been my ultimate favorite on this new album. Why? You just wait for the guitar solo and you will get the clue. It’s simply monstrous! It’s incredible and it has got the meanest axework, that I’ve heard in years! The song slowly crawls forward to the magic moment, where the guitars explode. AWESOME! I’ve got no other words for this. After that, it’s time for some clean, dry pants again.

“Sun Dogs” is a perfect closer of this album, which shows me that FLASHPOINT has climbed up to a much higher level.

Their album has grabbed me by the balls from the beginning until the very last note, and it didn’t let go on me yet. The artwork of Mark Biddiscombe is more than excellent. Not only the front cover, that has a nice creation around the name of the band, but also the pictures inside the booklet match very well with the song titles. A brilliant album, that I can highly recommend to every self respecting rock fan out there, and of course to every NWOBHM adept that reads these lines. It will astonish you for the full fifty minutes, and that’s a promise! The songs, you will hear are all written in the new millennium, and therefore they will probably sound a little bit different than the ones you’ve heard on “No Point Of Reference”, or any BITCHES SIN album, that the Toomey brothers have released in the past. But when you put this album in the right perspective, it’s definitely one of the very best NWOBHM albums of today and a very diverse rock album, that will blow your mind, especially when dirty, mean and ultrafast guitarwork is high on your list of expectations for a good album. “Flashpoint” can be bought online from the FLASHPOINT website at http://www.flashpointnpor.com 

Don’t miss it or don't call yourself a rockfan anymore!

Toine van Poorten
10 out of 10/ FULL SCORE
June 2006

My friend and Fireworks colleague John Tucker sent me this album to review, and whilst they're a completely new name to me, this is Cumbrian rockers Flashpoint's first new material in seventeen years. Formed in the late '80s by Bitches Sin guitarist Ian Toomey as a vehicle for lighter material that didn't fit the NWOBHM pioneers, the nucleus of Ian, drummer Steve Turton and bassist Kev Graham have been joined on this opus by Bitches Sin vocalist Frank Quegan, so I think it's fair to think of the band as Bitches Sin's alter ego.

Musically, the album covers a variety of styles due to all four members being writers, the results being somewhat akin to an English Blue Oyster Cult. 'Blown Away' and 'One More Love' for instance are both mid-paced rockers with Eric Bloom-style vocals and 'scratchy' Buck Dharma guitar solos. On the other hand, 'Metal Sun' displays there NWOBHM roots and 'Hostage' mirrors their previous incarnation with speedy passages and ambitious, if a little clumsy, time changes. There's more variety in the gentle acoustic ballad 'Rivers' and the simple acoustic guitar instrumental 'Sun Dogs' - courtesy of drummer Turton who's also a classically trained guitarist - not to mention the grinding riffs of 'Don't'.

Personal highlights are the multi-hued 'Very Soon Everyone's Leaving', the bass driven rocker 'Plastic' and the moody ballad 'You're Going Nowhere', with top honours taken by the mature 'Blood Over Sand' - another BOC-influenced song that reminds me of the title track from 'Mirrors'.

To be honest, the production is a bit flat despite the band's insistence that Chris Tsangarides rescued it from what it was like before, and also some of the playing isn't quite as smooth as these songs deserve, but for a self-financed independent release its' not at all bad and some of the songs can't be faulted. As a bonus, there's also a video track of Ian Toomey talking about Flashpoint's history with the questions coming from Mr Tucker himself. The album is available, along with sound samples, from www.bitches-sin.co.uk.

Phil Ashcroft - Fireworks magazine
June 2006


Greetings ian,

just want to say the new cd BLEW ME THE FUCK AWAY!!! since i got it 3 weeks ago i have'nt took it out of cd player unless it was to get in my car to play it. And the one time i put in "no point of reference" to play "grand prix" cause i loved "very soon everyone's leaving", where you just open up at the end of song and jam. That's what BITCHES SIN and FLASHPOINT is best at, hands down, no one can come close!! But back to new cd, every fucking song on that cd rocks from start to finish!!!!

The last time i got into a cd and played for weeks and every song rocked was TESLA-INTO THE NOW'. These days finding a cd like that is like finding a gold mine.. We travel a lot so coming home on the highway at 5am in the morning doing 80mph with the new FLASHPOINT cd makes for a killer ride. Now that i got this cd out of my player i can listen to the BITCHES SIN-"YOUR PLACE OR MINE", and i also made my friend burn a copy on cd of 'PREDATOR" with artwork just for my collection along with the single "no more chances" so have a lot of great music to catch up on, one bad thing about the new cd - wanted more after the last song was over, just want like 4/5 more songs . lol

But anyway hope the new cd is doing good, you guys got to get that cd out there man this is your swan song...or get a deal to get it out by a big label. Hope you guys can put out a live cd or some other unreleased stuff .. don't want to wait to many years for next cd. lol take care and keep rocking!!!!

cheers johnny
May 2006

As Dr Jekyll found out, all too often the alter ego takes on a life of its own; as now it is with Flashpoint. Once just a side project, the ‘tails’ of the Bitches Sin coin, Flashpoint has now evolved in its own right from its NWOBHM progenitor into a bona fide rock ‘n’ roll band for the Twenty-First Century.

In this case, the original Dr Jekyll was early Eighties New Wave Of British Heavy Metal speed metal innovators Bitches Sin.  Originally put together by guitarists Ian and Pete Toomey, the band played a pivotal role in the NWOBHM explosion before hitting the buffers as the movement ran out of steam.  However, looking for an outlet for some more melodic material that had been kicking around in his head, Ian had formed Flashpoint as a side project with bassist/vocalist Kev Graham and drummer Steve Turton. 

“After Bitches Sin released Invaders I was quite tired in some respects,” recalls Ian.  “For two years Invaders had taken quite a lot out of us to rehearse, record and produce, and after it was released in 1986 I wanted to get back to something that was a bit more straight-forward, a bit more fundamental.  So Flashpoint was launched originally as a solo project for myself.  At the time it was only a three-piece with Steve Turton on drums and Kev Graham on bass and vocals and myself on guitar.  It was just a small side project to play some straightforward hard rock. 

“Steve and Kev had been playing in a couple of local bands in the Barrow-in-Furness area, and they were both known as very good musicians.  They were the ideal guys to work with really, and the result was an album called No Point Of Reference in 1987.  It was pretty much a solo project like, say, you know, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.  Most of the songs were penned by myself.  As we drew more and more towards the recording stages, my brother Pete was just kicking around at a loose end so he came in on rhythm and lead guitar to support the rhythm section and Frank Quegan, our vocalist in Bitches Sin, came down to do some backing vocals and harmonies with Kev.”

As for what happened next, “the album came out, and we promptly disbanded!” he laughs.  “We had just started to write some new material, songs like Looking For Answers, All My Love and a couple of others like that, and we really started to move apace.  But unfortunately Kev and Steve had ideas about bringing in keyboards and moving towards a more American-type softer sound whereas I wanted straightforward and uncomplicated rock.  So the good old ‘musical differences’ raised its head and the only sensible thing to do was call it a day really, which was a great shame because we’d covered such a lot of ground in a short time; we were just starting to write some really good material and we had to stop.

“But to my mind at the time No Point Of Reference served its purpose.  It was a bit like I’d got an itch and I had to scratch it, and No Point Of Reference was very much that itch.  The name of the album was there for just me to stand alone without drawing in any of the Bitches Sin references.  Obviously with Peter and I there, and Frank too, people were going to make all sorts of inferences towards Bitches Sin, but it wasn’t that type of band and the material was very different.  I mean, the guitar playing remains the same because that’s my style of playing and it’s difficult to change, but certainly it allowed me to play a bit more of a melodic style and as I have said in various interviews, I do like guitarists like Gary Moore, Michael Schenker, Tommy Bolin, Buck Dharma, that sort of style of solo and I was able to explore some of that type of playing.”

Fast-forward seventeen or so years, and Ian and Frank began to realise just how influential Bitches Sin had been, and how revered the band still was.  From then, it didn’t take much for them to decide to reform Bitches Sin for the Twenty-First Century.

“This wasn’t really a single event, but more a process that happened over time”, is how Frank remembers it.  “The process began with a chance meeting with Ian after a number of years.  We decided to keep in touch a bit more often.  In conversation, we naturally started talking about the past and how much we all enjoyed the experience and music of Bitches Sin.  I had developed an interest in computers and the internet, which I guess is always a sign you should be considering getting out and about more!  We agreed it would be great to find a way to continue the Bitches Sin legacy and decided to re-master existing material and look to offer it over the internet via a website we put together.  I was taken by surprise by how well received this was.  We received lots of positive feedback, initially from existing fans, but as time went on from people discovering our music for the first time.  This spurred us on to offer more of our existing music and to consider writing some new material.  We made contact with Mark Biddiscombe and Martin Orum who are both now based in Birmingham and who were both previously in Bitches Sin and made arrangements to meet up, and subsequently to organize some practises together in Birmingham.”

But first, steps were taken to clear out the cupboard of Bitches Sin material that could have – should have – been made more readily available way back when, which led to the release of the CD The First Temptation along with a second CD’s worth of material (Your Place Or Mine) which, as Frank pointed out, was made available as a free download from the band’s website as a thank-you to the fans.  At the same time, a second CD of Flashpoint material was compiled and released under the title Lazer Love.  And, as Ian and Frank prepared to re-launch Bitches Sin, that should have been the end of the Flashpoint story.  But things are never quite that simple…

“A Bitches Sin reformation first started to raise its head probably roundabout 2001,” Ian recalls, “and we actually got things moving properly in that direction in 2004 going into 2005, but the logistics were horrendous.  We had Martin and Mark living in Birmingham, Frank and Ian living in Cumbria and Pete Toomey living in New Zealand!  So rehearsals were always really going to be a struggle.  It wasn’t off the cards, the wonders of today’s technology would allow you to do something, but I had to be assured that it would be at least as good as Invaders before I’d actually pick up my guitar and set off down that track, and at that time, while there were some good ideas kicking around, we needed to be working together solidly to get that assurance.” 

“We aimed to set off early morning to travel down to Birmingham for our first practice,” continues Frank.  “Unfortunately it was a day when there was gale force winds sweeping the country.  After I picked Ian up, we travelled less than a mile when the main road was made impassable by a flood.  We took a detour round the back lanes and found the road blocked by a fallen tree.  We detoured again, only to find the main road blocked again by an accident (a lorry blown over or something).  All this was within a few miles of home, so we decided it wasn’t going to be sensible to continue down to Birmingham.  If you’re a person who believes that life sometimes offers you signs and omens then perhaps our attempt to get to the first practice could be seen as ‘the writing on the wall’. These events were the genesis of the song Blown Away: it’s basically an affirmation that life sometimes puts all kinds of obstacles in your way, but that if you persist you can always find another way, and that you shouldn’t let anything stand in the way of achieving what’s important to you.  We eventually met for further practices, but the logistics of travelling to Birmingham were difficult, and overall we didn’t feel that the practices were really capturing the essence of Bitches Sin, so we paused to take stock of the situation.”

“Meanwhile, in 2005, March, if I remember correctly,” says Ian, “we put out Lazer Love.  The title track itself track is something that Frank and I had written and was one of that next batch of songs which Flashpoint were due to release, so really Lazer Love was an album which does actually document the period from a year after we’d finished the No Point Of Reference album up until roundabout the 2000 mark, and is a valuable link in the chain to take us up to the present day.  It has a couple of live tracks Looking For Answers and Grand Prix at the end of the album which are from our 1988 Scorpio tour when Flashpoint was really at its height.  This was like a showcase gig at a large venue, about 400-500 people, and we went down a storm.  The two tracks were the highlights of that show, especially Grand Prix with its extended ending – that was Flashpoint running on eleven on the Marshalls!  Lazer Love began to receive some very good reviews.  It doesn’t hit quite as hard as No Point Of Reference but it is a different style to its predecessor.  The new album is very much in the vein of No Point Of Reference which we found was a more natural style for us. 

“But we were trying to make the Bitches Sin thing work,” he continues, “but it was almost as if divine intervention had taken its own guiding hand, as it were.  No matter how hard we tried to pull people together, no matter how hard we tried to get rehearsals, it just wasn’t going to be.  We even tried a ‘running mate’ in the absence of Pete, a very nice guy but unfortunately without the two guitar players, without Pete, it just didn’t have the feel, it just wasn’t going to happen so as Frank said, we had to put that to one side, and at that point we took a breather.

“But the interest was still there, we were getting emails from all over the world asking about Bitches Sin, asking about Flashpoint, so we thought that if Bitches Sin was so difficult to do, why didn’t we look at Flashpoint instead.  So in March 2005 we decided, ‘right, let’s contact Kev and Steve, let’s set up a rehearsal.  If it works let’s see what happens, and if it doesn’t let’s just walk away and forget everything’.”

“Ian and I both held Kev and Steve in high regard as musicians,” says Frank, “and obviously still do!  They also live in the same area, so the logistics of getting together weren’t too hard.  We’d never played together fully as a band before, though I had helped out previously on Flashpoint’s No Point of Reference album.  So Ian and I had several discussions about the direction we should go in and came to the conclusion that we were not in the right place to continue as Bitches Sin.  We had some song ideas, and felt that if we continued as Flashpoint then we would be able to cover a wider variety of material under that banner.  We therefore agreed with Kev and Steve that we would meet up for a practice to see how it went.”

“The call from Ian was very much a surprise,” admits Kev.  “I hadn’t really seen much of the guys in the band since the original Flashpoint break.  I found out about Bitches Sin reforming on their website and sent Ian an email really just to say hi; before I knew it the phone was ringing with an invite to do some recording.  The fact Ian wanted Steve onboard too made the proposition all the more attractive.”

“To be honest, I’d been out of the game for a few years,” adds Steve.  “I’d spent the last six years studying and performing classical guitar and had no real intention of playing in a band again, so Ian’s call came right out of the blue.  But Ian just ‘phoned and suggested we play together, ‘no pressure, just a couple of rehearsals and see what happens’.  After Flashpoint broke up I played in a few bands (but nothing famous) until about 1993, when I got married.  But since then, musically, I’d done nothing for about ten years, really.  As I said, I’ve spent the last six years learning classical guitar which has improved me both as a musician and a songwriter.  I mean, I’d played drums for my own fun, but at that time had no real intention of picking up the sticks again.”

As for Kev, after Flashpoint split up, he “carried on with various projects which included recording and playing, although it must be said none were as successful as Flashpoint.  Despite this I have always kept myself busy, as I still (even at my age!) really enjoy gigging.  For the last four years I’ve been with a great three-piece blues band called the Cahonies, playing extensively throughout the UK, and meeting a few legends of my youth on the way.” 

On April 10th 2005, the four musicians met at the Coach House rehearsal studios in Ulverston, Cumbria, just “to see what happens,” as Ian said.  “At the end of the first hour we knew that we had something,” he continues.  “It was just there, the chemistry was there; you just know it when it happens.  And it was almost as if all the years in-between hadn’t taken place. We were just on fire after that first rehearsal and we even tried a couple of new songs and they were already starting to work.”

“I had never been a full part of the earlier incarnation of Flashpoint,” says Frank, “and it’d been years since the others had last played together.  I’d expected the first practice to be mainly talking and stumbling over trying to learn to play one of our songs together.  All I can say is ‘wow, was I wrong!’. It was as though there had never been a break.  Everything seemed to fall into place.  We were very quickly playing through the songs we had, very competently.  More importantly though, there was a kind of vibe or feeling or however you would describe it, that just made the hairs on the back of the neck stand up.  As soon as we started playing the music, it just felt right.  Ian, Kev and Steve are all very talented musicians.  The sound was tight and energized.  I think we were all somewhat surprised at how well it worked.  There was no doubt that this was the way to go.”

“The first rehearsal was amazing,” is how Steve recalls it.  “I hadn’t seen some of the guys for years but that first rehearsal was magical.  I think when we left that day we knew we couldn’t just leave it there.  I mean it was a shame that Flashpoint broke up the way it did.  I think we always knew we had unfinished business – we just didn’t know it would take seventeen or so years!”

“It was certainly very strange in one respect.  I mean, visually we’ve all changed: Steve, where has all your hair gone!” laughs Kev.  “But musically it was like we’d only been away for a day, never mind 15 years or whatever it is.  I think it says a lot about what a tight unit we were all those years ago, and it had never really left us.”

“So then from April to November 2005,” says Ian, taking up the story, “we rehearsed, we wrote eleven songs and went to the studio to put the tracks down. We went back to Linden Studios and worked with our long-term collaborator Guy Forrester.  By December 2005 we had completed Flashpoint, the first true Flashpoint album.  The first one No Point Of Reference was very much mine, and the guys helped me achieve what was a very singular ambition.  And Lazer Love was a collection of material that we wanted to see released, supposedly to put Flashpoint to bed before re-launching Bitches Sin.  This one is a very much a band album, which is why it’s self-titled.  And if you look at the track listing, this time round I’ve only written two tracks, and broadly speaking three-four tracks each have been written by Frank, Kev and Steve.  And I think the album’s better for it.  We have a real breadth of material, and when we came together we wrote what felt good, played what felt good and I’m struggling to think of a track which I find a favourite – I listen to them all and enjoy all of them.  And to tell the truth, it was a relief to have other songwriters contributing.  After a while, you do find that you don’t always have all the answers.  In the old days, with Pete, most of the time it was us writing – a lot of stuff didn’t make the final cut but we feel we got the best stuff out.  The strange thing with Flashpoint was that the others would bring ideas down, not always completely matured but something we could work with and I was playing along thinking, ‘bloody hell, that’s good – I’ll have to write something better than that!’ but it never happened!” he laughs.  “That’s why there’s just two from me and Frank, Kev and Steve have done the rest!  I’m really, really pleased with the standard for them as individuals as much as for the band, because we’ve put 100% behind this album and we’re very pleased with it, and it’s probably the best thing we’ve done.” 

“I think the big surprise was the high standard of material that was coming in,” notes Kev.  “And I think that kept everybody on their toes, realising if your song was going to get on this album, it would have to be a bit special.  When people listen to the album, well, it’s very diverse due to our different writing styles, but held together excellently with the Flashpoint sound and the consistency of the songs.  Plus from my point of view it’s great having Frank’s vocal talents on board.  Because I was the lead singer/bass player in the original band, I never thought I gave my bass playing enough attention, and also I had a certain lack of confidence in my vocal ability; so with Frank looking after the vocal department it was a real pleasure just to concentrate on what I think I do best.  And another nice surprise was in the years since we last got together, Steve has become a classically trained guitar player – smart arse! – and I think using this talent on a couple of songs just gives the album that extra something.”

“I love all kinds of music,” adds Frank, “especially rock; and I especially like contrast and variety.  One of the things I’ve always thought about our music is that we don’t sound like anyone else.  I really enjoy taking the unique sound that we have, playing with a variety of song ideas and coming up with something that for better or worse is distinctly us.  I think that we all brought a refreshing mix of influences and songs together.  The other feeling I’m left with, by the way, is that we are still developing as a band, and have a lot of potential yet to realise.”

Recording commenced on 6th November 2005, and the then untitled album was mixed a little before Christmas. 

But there was a problem. 

“We’d actually finished the recording and had done the final mix but we just weren’t happy with it,” recalls Ian.  “We just didn’t have the impact on the album that we’d expected, and no matter what we tried to do, it just wasn’t there.”

“We were all very disappointed, to say the least, with the mix,” says Steve.  “It was very flat, as though all the dynamics were missing; very deadpan and not at all interesting – you know, it had become the kind of album you’d play once and put to the back of your collection.” 

“We had worked hard to develop the album,” Frank adds.  “We liked the way the material was structured and sounding.  So the initial mix was something of a shock.  It was like a delicious meal that had been carefully prepared with just the right ingredients, then left to burn in the oven.  What came back was unappetising to say the least.  You could work out what it was supposed to be, but there was no way you were going to enjoy it.”

“But once Chris had worked his magic,” continues Steve, “it sounded so different, and so much more as we’d imagined it.”

Ian agrees wholeheartedly.  “The final touch was getting the legendary Chris Tsangarides involved, and even now I still have to pinch myself!.  We didn’t do anything with the recording immediately.  Over Christmas there were many discussions as to what we should do.  So I picked up the Music Week directory and started looking up producers, and as I flicked through the many, many producers’ names, Chris Tsangarides came up.  It just clicked a switch from the past so I went to the website and the catalogue of names that Chris has worked with included the likes of my long-time favourite Gary Moore and Yngwie Malmsteen. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I contacted Tim Hole at Audio-Authority Management who spoke to Chris and Chris was dead keen to do it.  In the interim period I sent them the Flashpoint CDs and just said ‘look, this is what we sound like, we’re struggling to get there, can you help us?’  And I have to say that both Chris and Tim were absolutely fantastic and helped us to achieve that goal.” 

“I’ve always been fairly self-critical of anything I’ve ever recorded,” says Kev, “but this time I felt we had a really great album in the making, so I was really disappointed on the initial mix.  I knew of Chris’s track record – no pun intended! – so I thought if anybody can give us the sound we are looking for, this is the guy.  And wow!  I knew Chris would do a great job, but I was surprised just how good it is.  This guy is a real pro, and when you compare the original mix to the new one you can hear why.”

“We all knew we had to do something,” agrees Frank.  “We didn’t want to just discard everything we’d done.  First of all I felt flattered that someone like Chris was wanting to work with us.  I was optimistic but cautious at the same time.  He clearly has a fabulous track record in producing some great sounding music, but maybe the problem was us.  What if he produced our songs and they still didn’t sound any better?  So it was a bit of a tense time, waiting to hear what would emerge.  Thankfully, I needn’t have worried.  All of the tracks are dynamic and full of energy.  Everything sounds great.  I particularly like the way the drums and bass cut through now, whereas previously they were just lost.  And the guitars sound fantastic.  I think Chris has done us proud.  I’m very happy with the way the album sounds now.”

“I think Chris brought to the album a love of metal music and thirty years of experience,” nods Ian, “as well as a desire to do it, too.  It was evident in the time I spent working with him on the album that he was just really enjoying what he was doing.  He loved the opportunity, and for somebody of that stature to get involved was unbelievable.  And he has made the album, there’s no doubt about that.  I never thought in a million years we could get this far in less than a year.  And never in my wildest dreams did I think anybody would have been able to contribute in such a way as Chris has and make us sound that way on CD.  He has done a fantastic job.”

As for the songs themselves, as Frank said, Flashpoint is an album of “contrast and variety”, but, as Steve points out, “all the songs on the album are as strong as each other really, from the heavier stuff like Hostage to lighter songs like Frank’s Rivers.”

“All of my songs have very specific meanings for me,” Frank says.  “But I guess they may have other meanings for other people.  I suppose it’s a bit like reading a book and imagining what the characters look like and then being disappointed when you see the film because they don’t look how you imagined.  So on the whole I like the idea of people creating their own meanings for the songs, and don’t like to mess too much with what they imagine they’re about.  I told you a bit about how Blown Away came about.  I collaborated with Ian on Metal Sun – the lyrics are generally a tribute to the wonderful experiences he had while visiting Japan and experiencing the people and culture there. As for Don’t, and Rivers, I’ll leave people to work those out for themselves.”

Kev points out that “most songs I’ve ever written have been on acoustic guitar and these were no exception.  Plastic started with a riff which sounded like ‘that’s plastic’ so I just built the song from there.  I was pleasantly surprised the guys liked the song; I had my doubts it would be accepted when I performed it for my judging band mates: these guys are hard, believe me – give me Simon Cowell any day!  You’re Going Nowhere is really about apathy in the workplace; most of us have been there.  I wanted the song to go from nothing to a really big climax, and I think Ian’s excellent guitar work at the end does just that.  And One More Love, believe it or not, started out as a rather jazzy song that I thought would end up on a Cahonies album.  But I worked on the riff and the song ended up as my tribute (musically) to the Seventies’ guitar greats.”

“Of my own songs, I think my favourite would probably be Blood Over Sands,” adds Steve.  “I’m a big fan of Spaghetti Westerns, and in particular Once Upon A Time In The West, although ironically I only came across it a couple of years ago.  I’m a big fan of the genre and while it was made in 1968 I only actually saw it two years ago!  We worked hard to try to set the tone and atmosphere of the piece – and as some of the anoraks will recognise, even the windmill was lifted from the film.  Hostage was a lot more of a challenge; it was a tough song timing-wise and we were rehearsing it in sections.  But it’s kind of a throwback to the first album.  On No Point Of Reference I worked with Ian on the melody and lyrics of Blackjack, a song about a vicious card den.  Hostage is a sister piece to that – one of the players gets kidnapped by another but doesn’t know who it is until the whisper ‘Blackjack’ midway through gives it away.  So it’s kind of a bridge or acknowledgment of what we’d done before really.”

Blackjack was a working title for the album at one point, until the self-referential Flashpoint was finally chosen.  A dictionary definition of ‘flashpoint’, incidentally, is “the point at which eruption into significant action, creation or violence occurs”…

Prepare to be blown away…

John Tucker
February 2006

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