Anyone who shrugs off Survivor as chick-rock might be sur­prised by their sec­ond album, Premonition.   This fol­low-up to their self-titled debut found Survivor sharp­en­ing their are­na-friend­ly style and lay­er­ing the melod­ic hooks with a sur­pris­ing­ly rau­cous, hard-dri­ving sound.  Like REO Speedwagon in their pre-bal­lad suc­cess era, Survivor’s ear­ly albums reveal them to be heart­land rock­ers that weren’t afraid to crank up the amps and deliv­er pow­er chords alongside the pow­er bal­lads.

Premonition grabs the lis­ten­er right from the open­ing moments thanks to a sur­pris­ing­ly grit­ty, in-your-face pro­duc­tion style: bass tones are thick, the gui­tars have a sim­i­lar­ly gut­sy sound and the drums are front-and-cen­ter in the mix as they bash away.  It’s an ide­al match for the mate­ri­al, which boasts some are­na-ready hard rock­ers.  For exam­ple, open­ing track “Chevy Nights” bounds out of the gate with the rhythm sec­tion play­ing at dou­ble-time speed while the gui­tar riffs snarl in an author­i­ta­tive style on top.  Other choice rock­ers here include “Take You On A Saturday,” which uses low-slung heavy riffs to cre­ate the prop­er lusty mood for its wom­an-chas­ing nar­ra­tive, and “Love Is On My Side,” a rocked-up boo­gie tune with a sur­pris­ing­ly tough instru­men­tal break.

That said, Premonition nev­er aban­dons the group’s melod­ic focus.  No mat­ter how loud the gui­tar gets, song­smiths Jim Peterik and Frankie Sullivan make sure the riffs work in ser­vice of the songs and are bal­anced with an equal amount of ear can­dy.  The afore­men­tioned rock­ers uti­lize smooth­ly-har­mo­nized cho­rus­es as their secret melod­ic weapons and the album off­sets each rock­er with a song that has a stronger “pop” ori­en­ta­tion.  For exam­ple, “Light Of A Thousand Smiles” is that text­book pomp weaves pound­ing piano lines and call-and-respon­se vocals around its riffs and “Summer Nights” is a bal­lad that glides along on gen­tle piano in the vers­es before giv­ing way to a cho­rus where steamy gui­tar solo­ing height­ens the inten­si­ty.

However, the best exam­ple of the group’s songcraft on Premonition is “Poor Man’s Son,” a song that sums up Survivor’s strengths in one tidy lit­tle pack­age.  The intro has pow­er chords slow­ly encroach­ing upon a hyp­notic key­board riff before this com­bo trans­forms into a pre­cise keyboard/guitar alloy that acts as the basis for a tale of star­crossed love.  The singsong vocal melody of the vers­es mir­rors its slide gui­tar riffs beau­ti­ful­ly and are off­set by a punchy sing-along cho­rus that ensures the song will stick in the listener’s mem­o­ry.  Dave Bickler’s vocals top it all off, hit­ting the right mix of swag­ger and dra­ma that the gen­re demands. If Your Humble Reviewer had to point out a per­fect exam­ple of an AOR song, this tune would imme­di­ate­ly come to mind.

As fate would have it, “Poor Man’s Son” also played a cru­cial role in the next chap­ter of the Survivor saga because Sly Stallone heard it and request­ed that the group pen a song with a sim­i­lar feel for his next movie… which hap­pened to be Rocky III.  The result was “Eye Of The Tiger” and it would intro­duce Survivor to the greater recog­ni­tion they were des­tined for but Premonition revealed they already had the melod­ic-rock goods ready and wait­ing.

(CD Notes: this album recent­ly received a reis­sue from Rock Candy Records and it hits all the marks that AOR fans have come to expect from this label: crisp remas­ter­ing, hand­some design and a nice, thick book­let of lin­er notes that take the lis­ten­er into the behind-the-sce­nes sto­ry of this album.  Said notes involve an exten­sive amount of inter­view quips from group founder Peterik so fans will def­i­nite­ly want to check this disc out.)