In their short time together, FREHLEY'S COMET really had something good going on. Though dropping only two LPs and a live EP, the ensemble Ace Frehley staked his comeback with was one of the more notable units of the 1980s. "Second Sighting", a softer album compared to its highly-entertaining, self-titled predecessor, was an inadvertent dagger upon the heart of FREHLEY'S COMET, though yielding some strong material along with one of the band's best-known hits, "It's Over Now". As Ace moved into 1989's solid "Trouble Walkin'" under his own name with a ton of guests including two of his COMET cohorts (minus guitarist Tod Howarth), fans took a hike at-large, putting to rest what could've been a really great moment in hard rock history.
Longtime Frehley sidearm, drummer Anton Fig settled into an extensive tenure with the Paul Shaffer band for the "Late Show With David Letterman". Howarth has hung with CHEAP TRICK and Ted Nugent, while Grammy Award-winning bassist John Regan has been playing with Peter Frampton and John Waite. The likelihood of a full FREHLEY'S COMET get-together may not be as improbable as another Frehley-Criss-Simmons-Stanley KISS reunion, but for now, Howarth and Regan coalesce once again within FOUR BY FATE.
FOUR BY FATE has already weathered adversity in the form of a couple of lineup changes with guitarist Sean Kelly (CRASH KELLY, HELIX, Lee Aaron) and drummer Stet Howland (W.A.S.P.) departing and Pat Gasperini (POUND, FLYWHEEL) and ex-SKID ROW drummer Rob Affuso coming in. Affuso was brought on board to finish the drumming tracks on "Relentless", originally started by the late A.J. Pero, who played on six tracks: "Levee Branch", "It's Over Now", "Follow Me", "I Give", "Don't Know" and "Back in the '80s". "Relentless" is thus believed to be Pero's final recorded work, which is enough of a draw if you're not already sucked in by the proposition of half of FREHLEY'S COMET turning out a new album.
"Relentless" is thus reflective of its creators' times, a less-flashy though often staunch continuation of the creative mojo Tod Howard and John Regan heartened within FREHLEY'S COMET. At least for the first half, it's a crunchy, retro hard rock album with all the staple swings, crashes and sways. For a while, it's mindfully catchy, if rawer and at-times thumpy. It yields a few covers, i.e. John Waite's "These Times Are Hard for Lovers", Rick Derringer's "Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo" and naturally, "It's Over Now".
Pat Gasperini wrote four songs on "Relentless", including the boogie-bombed "Moonshine" and the groove-pocked "Hangin' On". While John Regan fills these cuts with delightful hums, Gasperini and Tod Howarth riff calmly together on "Hangin' On" before toughening up on the meaty "Levee Breach". A.J. Pero clouts as loudly as the grubby bass lines on "Levee Breach" as Howarth and Gasperini growl their guitars with ideally rude chords. Some swinging choruses and a keyboard-floated breakdown sequence led by Howarth leads into a champing guitar solo. To this point, "Relentless" is a success despite the mangled "These Times Are Hard for Lovers" and an unnecessary, dirtier version of "It's Over Now".
Gasperini consults both the Allmans and KING'S X on "Follow Me", which rings too familiar yet still retains a catch from Tod Howarth's vocal drawling, some cool, craggy riffs and A.J. Pero's muscular clubbing. The last of Gasperini's contributions, "On My Own", is the loudest and inherently the toughest. The opening guitar solo peels paint and the dashing vibrations of John Regan's bass complements Rob Affuso's driving tempo.
Leading "I Give" with one of the album's more complex arrangements, A.J. Pero's cascading rhythms keeps the song from falling with a direct thud as it's too busy focusing on prog to fully catch fire, albeit Tod Howarth's guitar solo here is a snazzy — if brief — redirection. An aloof acoustic intro surrenders to a shambling sneer on the grumbly "Don't Know", while Howarth's love letter to the decade of decadence, "Back in the '80s", is bitterer in sound than the bittersweet lyrics he penned for it. Smartly rounding the album with the patriotic "Amber Waves", Tod Howarth lets his keys sing as proudly as his throat while John Regan drops humble bass lines around him. An "acoustic" reprise of "Amber Waves" follows thereafter, which constitutes only of Howarth and his keyboard. Take your pick which version is more reverential.
Initially awesome and a smidge frustrating in the second half, "Relentless" is more so in title than in long-term execution. Pat Gasperini brings terrific energy to this project that could've been lesser without his contributions. Nonetheless, the intentions made by Howarth and Regan with FOUR BY FATE is enough to tickle the ears and start a rock soldier march, for nostalgia-sake if nothing else.