SAVATAGE/TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA guitarist Chris Caffery returns with his fifth solo album, “Your Heaven is Real”. As with his previous records, Caffery handles most of the instrumentation (guitars, bass and keys) with WHITESNAKE / BILLY IDOL / OZZY OSBOURNE drummer Brian Tichy keeping him company. Also on board is keyboardist/composer Lonnie Park and a guest appearance by violinist Abigail Stahlschmidt on the 7:54 saga “Over and Over”. Park assisted with the production and the team recorded “Your Heaven is Real” at Tichy’s Big Timers Studio.
Opening the album with a weird “awakening” sequence on the title track as an angel summons Caffery from a dream state, the song drops the hammer and rumbles along for nearly six minutes. The production is a bit thin, but Brian Tichy’s rapid pickups behind Caffery’s brisk strumming and gruff vocals keeps the song humming, even if it could’ve been pared of the last thirty seconds. Listeners are going to think of PANTERA’s “Cowboys From Hell” with Caffery’s scratchy guitar throbs leading off “Arm and a Leg”, this one trailing past the six minute mark. The song takes a different course, mirroring longtime cohort Jon Oliva’s power metal plugs and aspirant theatricality. As gifted as Caffery is, there’s too much going on with “Arm and a Leg” as he seeks to create an extensive mini-epic encapsulating a deal with the devil.
“Just Fine” has much more glue with parts glommed from KISS and AEROSMITH and it’s one of the spots where Chris Caffery sounds wholly relaxed. Best, he swings this confessional track instead of forcing the issue as with the opening two numbers. Following is the seven-minute trudge of “Why”, which starts off well then lumbers along like a Ronnie James Dio tribute. Caffery’s initial singing even seems like an homage to Dio and the song tromps in the spirit of “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” despite some pretty acoustic work on the verses.
Keeping things within four minutes on “Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t”, Caffery reserves some of his meatiest riffs and mangier vocals on a song intended to be ugly, but it catches fire as one of the album’s best cuts. Its successor is the funky, cruising instrumental “Hot Wheelz” where Brian Tichy pumps the hell out of the tempo and Chris Caffery rips his frets apart. Even on the momentary slowdown, Caffery pulls his strings about like he’s nearly offended by them. “Hot Wheelz” is the outright ass-kicker this album needs as the dark ballad “I Never Knew”, well-constructed and superbly performed it may be, puts “Your Heaven is Real” into a precarious place, leaving the listener wondering where it’s going next. Another “Pisses Me Off” tirade it won’t be, albeit the shuck and jive of “Sick and Tired” and “Too Soon To Be Too Late” gives Chris Caffery the opportunity to gently kvetch a bit.
“Your Heaven is Real” is problematic at times, for certain dynamic. Chris Caffery shines on the guitar instrumental “2-26-15”, a much appreciated breather after the dense smothering of “Death by Design” with its domineering sirens matching Caffery’s peeling guitar wails and an agonizing plod. The shorter the songs are on this album, the better and crisper they are. It’s never easy working in the widespread forums Chris Caffery does and coming up with solo material that opts for brevity versus longevity. Of course, Caffery’s solo albums have always come packed, so come committed or don’t come at all. That being said, songs like “Damned If You Do, Dead If You Don’t”, “Sick and Tired”, “Hot Wheelz”, “Just Fine”, “Come Home” and “Too Soon To Be Too Late” are not only prudent, they’re succinct and moreover, they better exhibit Caffery’s considerable chops.