Review Summary: Less Nickelback & Creed, but more Bon Jovi & Def Leppard. This is better than their debut, but that’s not saying all that much.
Album covers can occasionally tell you a few things about a band, especially when viewed over the progression of their career. On the cover of Hinder’s 2005 debut album ‘Extreme Behavior’, was a scantily clad woman viewing pictures. It seemed somehow detached from this quintet from Oklahoma; A past recollection or maybe a fantasy. But on the back of the success of that release (it reached top 10 in the U.S, while single ‘Lips Of An Angel’ climbed to #1 in many countries), Hinder have now placed themselves in the spotlight. On the cover of 2nd album ‘Take It To The Limit’, is that the Playboy mansion they are standing in front of? Of course, there are also scantily clad models and expensive sports cars!
‘Take It To The Limit’ has already bettered the U.S charting of its predecessor by making it into the top 5. One can only presume that was due to pre-sales from people eager to listen to the next ‘Lips Of An Angel’, as the first two singles have both bombed, barely scraping into the top 100. First released was the rollicking throwback of an opener ‘Use Me’, which opens with a headache-inducing grunt and some prototypically terrible lyrics. Big hair-metal guitars from the 1980’s follow, as does an arena-ready chorus whose payoff is “She’s gonna use me, but I like it”.
However, ‘Use Me’ is a work of art compared to 2nd single ‘Without You’, which takes the band’s want for the derivative to another level. With a chorus that is certain to have Def Leppard raising one big collective eyebrow at its similarities to their 1995 hit ‘When Love & Hate Collide’, Hinder should have just remade that song since this comes off as so poorly bland. And don’t think that is the last of Def Leppard to shine through on this album, as the previous track ‘Up All Night’ has the same stomp and anthemic gang vocals in the chorus as did the Brit’s Hysteria smash ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’!
Def Leppard are not the only successful 80s band to be picked apart though. There is a fair bit of Bon Jovi in a couple of songs, especially the rather good ‘Loaded and Alone’, while ‘Sweet Child O’Mine’ era Guns ‘N’ Roses also get a run here, there and everywhere. The levels of facsimile are so disconcerting throughout the album, that it is difficult not to actually begin looking for them. On top of that, all the usual clichés are apparent; The schmaltzy “moving on” ballad (‘The Best Is Yet To Come’), the short feign of metal (‘Heaven Sent’), the feel-good summer song (‘Lost In The Sun’) and any number of relationship issue tracks.
Giving Hinder some credit, their lyrics are less derogatory and a little more varied this time around, while Austin Winkler’s distinctively raspy vocals are not so over-the-top and take less time to get used to here when compared with the band’s debut. Furthermore, there are some guilty pleasures in amongst the sing-along anthems and Joe Garvey & Mark King’s guitar work. Hell, even Motley Crue’s Mick Mars guest appears with a solo on the title track to at least prove that Hinder now know their limitations, strengths and audience better.
Despite the aforementioned initial charting position, ‘Take It To The Limit’ is unlikely to ultimately sell as well as ‘Extreme Behavior’. There is no ‘Lips Of An Angel’ here, although the respectable, if predictable, power ballad ‘Last Kiss Goodbye’ doesn’t fall too far short with its reverse storyline of the woman cheating this time around.
Yet, a strong argument can be made that ‘Take It To The Limit’ is still a better overall product than its predecessor, even if that’s not saying all that much. More even and varied, it also contains nothing as horrifically awful as ‘Room 21’. It seems that in amongst the extra swagger and cockiness, Hinder has at least streamlined their sound down to what their audience expects, even if it is extremely derivative of 80’s hard rock. Of course, the downside of that is that you have pretty much heard the entire album within the first 3 tracks. Not so coincidentally, they are arguably the best cuts on the album.
Recommended Tracks: Loaded and Alone & Last Kiss Goodbye.