MTM Music
Release date: April 26, 2004

Guitars: C
Bass: C+
Percussion: C+
Keyboards: C
Vocals: A
Lyrics: A-
Recording Quality: B+
Originality: B+
Overall Rating: B

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

The power of lyrics and vocal delivery is certainly one of the most important, if not THE most important, aspects of a conventional song in determining whether or not it conveys itself as a success. Many songs have floated into mine ears over time boasting great musicianship and great overall sound, only to be lost causes because of crappy lyrics or misguided vocal delivery and/or lack of vocal talent. In the case of Wicked Sensation’s Exceptional album, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard such successful songs amid such average musicianship! Exceptional contains 11 full-length tracks, and 10 of them are indeed very solidly written songs. The music is good, but no one aspect of it really stands out as truly unique or memorable. Oddly enough, though, the 10 tracks of note certainly do manage to make their mark as memorable due to the impressively catchy and original lyrical patterns and the vocal talents of Fernando Garcia.

Garcia’s voice is a cross between Marc Storace (Krokus) and Steve Perry (Journey). He’s got that Storace brashness, but his delivery is “smoothed” over a bit, a la Perry, and similar to Perry, Garcia has great ability to hit the high notes in effortless fashion, coming across neither unnecessarily piercing nor misconstrued. When talent such as this is coupled with well-written lyrics (albeit light in content) and catchy patterns, you have a solid foundation for song success … and that’s exactly what happens in Exceptional.

Exceptional is Wicked Sensation’s follow-up to their first full-length release entitled Reflected. The band, formed in 1999, is comprised of Garcia along with Michael Klein (guitars and primary songwriter), Sang Vong (guitars and songwriter), Martin Mannhardt (bass), Bjorn Gref (percussion), and Bernd Spitzner (keyboards). Musically, the band is solid and tight, and everyone delivers good performances, but there is nothing here that clearly stands out as spectacular. Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69) handled Wicked Sensation’s final sound mix, and his influence on the CD’s bass orientated emphasis is apparent. Much of the treble tones of the band’s music end up getting sanded down a bit, but the sound is still enjoyable and very pleasing and consistent to listen to. There aren’t many extended musical jams on Exceptional, instead Wicked Sensation’s song style is heavily lyrics driven, but that’s absolutely fine with me, because Garcia’s vocals and lyrical patterns are without a doubt their strength. In the end, it makes all the sense in the world for a musical group to focus on and highlight that which they do best – and clearly Wicked Sensation can develop and deliver lyrics better than most bands around today.

The CD starts out with “Intro,” which is, as you may have guessed, an introduction leading into the second (and best) track, “Shining Light.” “Intro” has some cool machine morphing/spaceship landing sound effects that end in a speaker-shattering explosion before “Shining Light” kicks off. “Shining Light” has plenty of energy and quickly establishes Garcia’s talents and Klein’s/Vong’s songwriting abilities. These two tracks as a one-two punch are, well, an “exceptional” beginning to Exceptional (pun intended!), and this song has “top 40 hit potential” written all over it.

Next up is “Back To My Bed,” which comes through at a more methodical pace and has a pretty unusual chorus line that Garcia pulls off brilliantly. The band reloads its energy with “We Arise.” This song features a Cinderella-ish opening guitar riff (similar to the Long Cold Winter era) that rocks!

The fifth track, “Your Beat Inside My Heart” starts out with a piano lead-in and the quasi-cheesy, over-emotionally sung lyrics, “Your beat inside my heart,” which first made me think this song was REALLY going to suck. After this shaky beginning, however, Wicked Sensation completely shifts gears, picks up the pace significantly, and delivers a song that does everything BUT suck.

The only song that doesn’t meet the standards of the other full-length tracks is the sixth song, “The One You Love Ain’t Me.” In this one, Garcia sings in flat notes during the choruses and it doesn’t mesh very well with the accompanying music. It’s not COMPLETELY awful, but it’s not as easy to listen to as the rest of the album.

Up seventh is the title track, followed by “Kiss It Away,” and both rebuild the album’s momentum and quickly earn the band forgiveness for the sins of track #6! Ninth is “Dying With The Wind,” which is a slower tempo song that has an ironic uplifting feel to it … especially considering the implied message that can be derived from the song’s title. The next song, “Time Will Pass Me By,” features the best solo of the lot, while track #11, “My Own Misery,” is the heaviest on the CD. The album ends much like it began with “Rain on Me.” Similar to “Shining Light,” “Rain On Me” is good enough to be a top 40 hit if given the chance.

So there you have it … if you’re a hardcore Metalhead, Exceptional may not be your cup of tea, but if you’re a Metal fan who especially appreciates polished song structure, catchy lyrics, and stellar vocal delivery, you owe it to yourself to check out this Wicked Sensation release sooner rather than later.


  • Dan Skiba

    Dan is a former partner at Metal Express Radio, and also served as a reviewer, photographer and interviewer on occasions. Based out of Indianapolis, USA he was first turned on to Hard Rock music in the mid-1970s when he purchased Deep Purple's Machine Head as his first album. He was immediately enthralled with the powerful guitar sound and pronounced drumbeat, and had to get more! His collection quickly expanded to include as many of Heavy Rock bands of the time that he could get his hands on, such as Ted Nugent, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath, to name just a few.

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