Steamhammer SPV Records – March 3, 2015
Review by Edwin van Hoof
UFO has been carrying the torch of classic rock for nearly 50 years straight. The band is (unfortunately) mainly known for their long gone classic era as well as for their many line up changes throughout their career. What many tend to forget however is the fact that this band is still in pristine shape and still recording and touring. After the dismissal of founding member Pete Way, newly added spirit Rob De Luca (bass) is now flanking Phil Mogg (vox), Andy Parker (drums) and Paul Raymond (guitars & keys) alongside guitar player extraordinaire Vinnie Moore, who has joined the ranks in 2003.
“A Conspiracy of Stars” offers all the typical UFO ingredients at hand. Phil Mogg’s radiating stage presence and live capabilities way be somewhat muffled, the man knows his limitations so well he manages to comfortably bend around those edges. Gone ore his power howls and higher pitches, what’s left is his eloquent and comforting deep sound and the unmistakable unique lyrical bending. Mogg lends his talents and lays down a warm fuzzy comfort zone within the typical throbbing UFO sound. Raymonds keys and Hammond interaction surrounds the guitar licks of Moore without just swirling and pumping it up to largely. He garnishes the songs, so to say. It’s that what makes UFO stand out from all the other bands in the genre.
Their unique approach to melody and the way they uniquely layer their classic rock tunes, strongly rooted in the 70’s classic rock era. With Chris Tsangrides twisting the knobs during the production of this album, the band managed to maintain that classic bodywork and capture their live spirit, as well as hand “A Conspiracy of Stars” a modern day sound.
The outcome is an unmistakable UFO album with a fresh and revitalized sound as showcased in the riff driven groover “The Killing Kind” and “Devils in the Details” which both showcase the skills of Mogg. His performance is just wonderful without overdoing it anywhere. The album reflects their entire career with “Me and Only” warping us back to their AOR days in the eighties. The song could’ve easily been featured on “Making Contact” or the severely underrated “Misdemeanor” album. The rest of the material however link directly to their present standing and easily breaks loose from the shadow of the wonderful predecessor “Seven Deadly” (2012).
In the midst of this classic overall sound there’s of course Mr. Vinnie Moore!
He singlehandedly adds the bite and claw to the lingering classic sound of the band. His guitar solos are jaw dropping and the way he provides “Run Boy Run” with a modern and steep edged guitar sound is just astounding. “Sugar Cane” is a keyboard pulled bluesy powerhouse that flourishes thanks to the excellent solo and howling riff as do both contemporary (bluesy) rockers “Precious Cargo” with its Hammond pumps and the tacky “Rolling Rolling.” The bonus track “King of the Hill” is very worthwhile expanding into the band’s early days with a more forward sound and the moaning vocals of Mogg over the pompous keys.
Even though the album is not setting a new standard, “A Conspiracy of Stars” does feature a collection of top-notch songs which easily stand the test of time. Balancing somewhat on the safe side due to the familiar comfort of these UFO tailor cut classics, the band also manages to lift the veil and head forward. The result is an album with biting guitars and flourishing classic rock that should appeal to addicts of the genre. Being severely overlooked, this album might however fall in between once again… and that is a shame.
77 out of 100