After the magnificent "Hot Lovin' Night" track that was etched on our memories from their 1988 eponymous debut, China is back in action again with the first ever full-length studio album since the 1995’s "Natural Groove". Guitarist Claudio Matteo is the only surviving member from their initial formation, but Eric St.Michaels and Brian Kofmehl from the "Sign In The Sky" era are also on board. "Light Up The Dark" might sounds quite far from their first two heavily-melodic albums, but what makes this record rich is the variety of the musical style implemented, leaving the listeners with excitement as if they're just off the adrenaline pumper roller coaster ride.
The title track begins with a flaming riffage, drowned in a swelling uptempo rhythm and rocketed to the sky with the astonishing chorus. My oh my, what a start, and I should mention this, pay attention to Matteo's fantastic solo! "Hey Yo" and "She's So Hot" change the tide to the 90s alternative flavor, a brave attempt to diversify, but the lack of memorable hooks make both of them passable for me. "Girl On My Screen" moved their train back on track, the porn-surfing lyric is a joke but the song is just marvelous, the arrangement is nicely cooked and Matteo's outstanding solo steals the show again. "Lonely Rider" is a radio hit potential, very melodic, flowing smoothly with a happy vibe, I love this one.
"Gates of Heaven" is a soothing ballad with a sparkling vocal, somehow reminds me of Kid Rock's "Only God Knows Why", predictable routine but effective. "On My Way" has a country feel attached, a bold choice as many fans might not very comfortable with it, but honestly I think this one is a great track. Unfortunately, after this, the road ahead is kinda sloppy. "Stay" isn't great enough to compete with "Gates", "Deadly Sweet" is the worst filler they ever made, "Flesh And Bone" is forgettable as well. "Trapped In The City" and "Right Here Right Now" are up the standard, but slightly inferior compared to what's on the first half.
I personally think that if they left out couple of fillers and include some more nostalgic moment with anything that closely sound to the first two, this could be a five-stars, but after fifteen years of absence, this quality output is a declaration to the world that China is ready to strike hard again, reaching their maturity level, but at the same time, still got the rawness of their musical venture that was started 20 years ago. Very good album and this sets my expectation high for the upcoming album in the future.