Review Summary: For a band that streamed away from mainstream for their first album, this is a failure.
It had been a little more than ten years since Hardline had released an album. 1992 was a strong point for the band, as their debut Double Eclipse was slashed away from the mainstream at the time, where glam rock and hip hop had taken over. It had been a staple on the Mainstream Rock Charts and radio stations, such as the short-lived 100.3 Pirate Radio. For the first reunion for what seemed like a band lost forever, Hardline finally lashed back with their second album, II. But Hardline ditched the original sound, and it can easily be noted as the lowest point for the band.
If it's a saving grace, there is not a whole lot on the album that you can use against the rising band. Gioeli's vocals, as proven in the previous album and his works with metal band Axel Rudi Pell and rock group Crush 40, continue to be spine-tingling and cataclysmic. At times, flares of the old Hardline pop up in fun tracks such as "Paralyzed", but the direction of the album, and the non-characteristic ideas are the two consistent and significant flaws in this second album. The obvious repetition of several mainstream ideas is present, the very names of titles could be easily identified alongside Mainstream Rock (Hey Girl, Your Eyes), and the direction of the album is all over the place.
(Considering how Double Eclipse could be referred to as mainstream nowadays, though, it's ironic here.)
Although I'm a major fan of The Storm, and Josh Ramos does a fairly good job, but this guitarist does not have the same spastic energy as Neal Schon executed in the debut. Although there is some really good work from him, the entire band lineup is changed (though Johnny's brother, Joey Gioeli, continues to stay), and is hard to get used to, due to the fact that it constantly gets muddled and mixed in with the generic tracks, such as the awkward. Potential is still here in this rock group's second release, and it shows in minor parts (Do or Die and Face the Night are slightly tolerable), and there is a nice mix of AOR, power ballad, and hard rock intertwined through every track. The production is heavier than it was on Double Eclipse, but it doesn't detract from this LP by any means.
But, considering that it's the newly rejoined group's first album in TEN YEARS, II is a major disappointment, mostly due to the lack of material and cutting-edge melodies, and although it sparks here and there, there wasn't enough at this point to make it great. You can call it their first "slow-burn disappointment", due to the fact that it takes several listens to fully remind yourself that this is not the group from 1992.
And the worst part is that we had to wait another five and a half years for their third album.