Island Mele: Hawaii metal band Storm poised for a ‘three-peat’ with new album
Reviews of the latest musical releases by Hawaii-based recording acts by Star-Advertiser critic John Berger.
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“HIGHWAY OF LOVE”
Stef Mariani (Klever Kitty)
In 2018, singer/songwriter Stef Mariani won the Na Hoku Hanohano Award for best alternative music album, with “Stay Gold.” In November of this year she returned with “Highway of Love,” a collection of 10 new recordings that put her decisively in contemporary country music territory. If the Hokus had a country music category, Mariani would be a front-runner.
Mariani opens and closes the collection with two versions of the title song. Both versions are a beautiful lyrical invitation to embark on an enchanting journey. The song is also notable as being co-written by Mariani and California singer-songwriter Carolyn Haley, Mariani’s mother, who died in 2017. Haley was active in the California folk-music world.
Three songs on the album were written by Mariani working solo, five by Haley working solo. Both women are imaginative lyricists.
A song titled “Ten Times” reminds us that “a woman’s heart just can’t be bought with any amount of gold.” In “Best Things” a woman tells a man that he’s the best thing she’s ever had, and then adds poignantly “I haven’t had much.” A third song, “You’re Not The Only One,” describes a relationship with a man who wanted a woman to stand by him — but was never interested in standing by her.
People who are currently suffering through troubled relationships will hear in Mariani’s voice a kindred soul speaking through most of the songs here. Those who aren’t suffering can give thanks that they aren’t.
It isn’t all sad songs. “Away,” is a delightful, romantic description of “floating like a leaf” to a better place.
Storm (Tin Idol Productions)
Two-time Hoku Award winners Storm (Best Metal Album 2018, 2019) put in their bid for a “three-peat” with “III.” Seven originals share the quartet’s view of the world. It’s generally a dark and ominous place teetering on the edge of apocalyptic destruction, but a song titled “Deja Vu” reveals that love can exist there too.
Social commentary is a recurring theme. “Karmageddon” coins a new term for the concept that what goes around comes back around. People who know the band members may be able to guess the identity of the arrogant fool they dismiss with such cutting wit in “Behind The Mask” (The liner notes say that the song is “dedicated to the narcissists in our lives”).
Yes, Storm is as strong as ever.
Two impressive remakes complete the set list. “Hawaii ’78,” written by Mickey Ioane and first recorded by the Makaha Sons of Ni‘ihau in 1978, mirrors the mele ku‘e (songs of resistance) theme of “Ka Mauna A Wakea.” It is a powerful reworking of a musical milestone in modern hapa haole music. “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” written by Bob Stone in 1971 to revive Cher’s career as a recording artist, reminds us that Tin Idol founder Gerard K. Gonsalves and his Tin Idol family are also masters at remaking mainstream pop oldies.