Triumph, the other Canadian power trio, scored multiple hits with their sixth album Never Surrender. “When the Lights Go Down” was a popular music video. “A World of Fantasy” was a concert staple. The title track is an absolute (pardon the pun) Triumph of epic songwriting and performance. It’s easy to hear why Never Surrender is so beloved.
Drummer Gil Moore opens the album with “Too Much Thinking”; steamhammer drums pumping hard. Rik Emmett comes in with a slaying riff while bassist Mike Levine, the glue, rolls out some determined bass grooves. Emmett’s talkbox solo is well constructed and extra cool. This riff rocker has the silhouette of topicality, with Reagan samples and lyrics like “Prophets of doom fearful of the violence, preaching to no one at all.”
Triumph ballads were often too brilliant for their own good. Not really “ballads” but more like melody-based compositions. “A World of Fantasy” is one such song, a real accomplishment and unmistakably Triumph. Triumph always had panache and they backed it with Rik’s strength as a guitar player. Rik’s voice, sometimes compared to Geddy Lee’s, was well suited to heartfelt rock like this.
Rik Emmett also takes the lead vocal on a battle cry called “All the Way”, preceded by a classical piece entitled “A Minor Prelude”. Get it? The guy is a tremendous and monstrously intelligent guitar player. Rik could have shredded circles with all the other lead guitarists, but that was not his focus. He realized that you can play really fast as much as you want, but less is actually more.
“All the Way”, which sounded like a battle cry, is actually followed by “Battle Cry”, vocalised by Gil Moore. It’s a slower, more determined metal track; the heavier side of Triumph. Rik’s crystal clear chords keep it from being too generic.
Back when albums had sides, the second half opened with “Overture (Procession)”, a short guitar intro backed by Levine’s synth. It sets the scene for the album centerpiece, “Never Surrender”, which itself is nearly seven minutes of pure undiluted awesome sauce. Constructed with distinctly different sections, “Never Surrender” was just a tad progressive and more than enough song for the average mortal.
Out in the streets inspiration comes hard,
The joker in the deck keeps handin’ me his card.
Smilin’ friendly he takes me in,
Then breaks my back in a game I can’t win.
Jivin’, hustiln’, what’s it all about?
Everybody always wants the easy way out.
Thirty golden pieces for the Judas kiss,
What’s a nice boy doin’ in a place like this?
Gil Moore’s drums are sometimes considered simple, or basic. That may be the case, but are they not the perfect backbone on “Never Surrender”? Who can resist when Gil throws down a big, long drum roll from high to low? Hey, he might not be Neil Peart, but he works those songs! His fills here are just as essential as Peart’s in “Tom Sawyer”. Meanwhile, Rik’s guitar chords can only be described as shiny. One of the classiest players in rock can really do no wrong here, as he goes from funky chunky strumming to full shred, all within the confines of some damn catchy riffs.
As if that wasn’t enough, Triumph goes for round two on “When the Lights Go Down”. This time, the acoustic intro is swampy, but soon that riff will hit you square in the face. Gil Moore’s back on the microphone, so let’s not forget how hard it is to sing and play drums at the same time. They had to play this stuff live, and they did! This is just pure rock, four on the floor. “Let the party roll!” sings Moore in this paean to the concert stage.
Rik goes for the brightest of melodies on “Writing’s On the Wall”, a really “triumphant” sound, and great way to draw the album to a close. All that’s left is a soft guitar outro called “Epilogue (Resolution)”. This beautiful piece illustrates where Rik would go in his future solo career, decades down the road. Hints of jazz and classical pointed the way.
There are several songs that you don’t want to leave out of your life. Own Never Surrender.