Thursday, August 17, 2017

RIAN: ”Out Of The Darkness”

Rating: RRR
Label: Melodic Rock Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Must be something in the water… Here’s yet another melodic hard rock band from Sweden! And what’s more, they aren’t half bad!

Rian is a trio from Stockholm, featuring vocalist/guitarist Richard Andermyr, drummer Jan Johansson and bassist Jonas Melin. Their sound isn’t exactly that of basic power trio though, because there’s a lot of keyboards and layers of guitars on the album. The producer of ”Out Of The Darkness” is Daniel Flores (Find Me, The Murder Of My Sweet), so it’s no surprise that the album sounds like a million bucks.

So why only 3R’s? It’s hard to say, there’s nothing particularly wrong in these songs but somehow some of them just don’t click with me. They’re melodic but not fluffy, arranged well and Andermyr impresses both as a singer and as a shredder, but… There’s plenty of very decent songs here, most of the in fact, but I think the album is maybe a couple of killer songs short of 4-R rating.

My favourite songs are early in the track listing, ”Out Of The Darkness”, ”Out Of My Mind”
and especially ”In A Dream” which is somehow very ”Swedish”-sounding. The legacy of Abba mixed with modern hard rock sound - that works for me!

If you’re into the contemporary Scandi-AOR sound of Art Nation, latter-day Bad Habit, One Desire and such, do check this band out!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

H.E.A.T.: ”Into The Great Unknown”

Rating: RRRR
Label: Gain/earMUSIC
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

”Into The Great Unknown”, the new H.E.A.T. album is one of the most eagerly awaited albums of the melodic rock genre this year. The first single was released on 11th of August and it has recieved mixed reactions, as has the album from those who have had the access to it. Some say it's the greatest thing the band has released while others have been highly critical. I personally like it, but not quite as much as their previous two albums. Those I rank as modern day classics.

The "controversial" first single "Time On Our Side" doesn't represent the whole album, it's one of the more contemporary, pop-oriented tracks. I like it a lot; haunting keyboards, great vocal from Erik Grönwall and plenty of melody. Given the right exposure it might become a crossover hit. But those of you who are worried that the band has sold their souls for possible chart success, hold your horses... some of the tracks on this album rock harder than ever before. Whether you like it or not.

"Bastard Of Society" and "Shit City" are just as angry as their titles suggest, definitely not "AOR". "BoS" is a pretty standard turbocharged H.E.A.T. rocker with a shout-along chorus, a decent opener for the album. "Shit City" then... I don't like it at all, it's a bit of a plodder and the hook could use some, or make that a lot of sharpening. Between these two you'll find "Redefined", a modern pop rock track and a relative of "Time On Our Side". I like it but is it a future H.E.A.T. classic? I don't think so.

"Best Of The Broken" is a harder-edged track again, and while it has its' moments, I don't rate it as one of the better tracks. The balladic "Eye Of The Storm"  is among them though, as is "Blind Leads The Blind", possibly my favourite track of the album. This is the H.E.A.T. I love, powerful yet melodic!

"We Rule" is an interesting, very Queen-like anthem. I'm still on the fence when it comes to "Do You Want It", there's something terribly annoying in it yet it's terribly catchy too. Maybe I do want it.

The title track closes the album and does it in grand fashion. I rarely like this kind of slow-paced  songs, but this one is rescued by a chorus that's pure gold.

That was the track-by-track review... Overall I'd say the album sounds great, and Erik shines on every track. I don't mind the modern influences, but I do mind that aren't as many great tracks as on the previous albums. Apparently there's a bonus track on the Japanese version called "F.Y.I. Miley", but somehow I don't have great hopes for it being a massively melodic hard rock anthem.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

TEN: ”Gothica”

Rating: RRRr
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

After a few years elsewhere, Gary Hughes has brought his TEN ship back to Frontiers. The initial hype was that ”Gothica” would be a milestone album for the band. I don’t know about that. It is a good album but not necessarily among their best ones, not in my books anyway.

I have no complaints about the production or performances and I understand that a lot of time and effort has been put into these songs. I admire Hughes’ poetic style of lyric writing, he’s clearly a well-read man and most of these songs have more to offer than the usual AOR relationship lyrics. There are a couple of songs that stand out as future Ten classics, namely the nostalgic, light-hearted ”In My Dreams” and the epic ballad ”Paragon”. I like many of the others too, but there are a few tracks I just can’t connect with, namely ”Jekyll And Hyde”, ”Welcome To The Freakshow” and ”La Luna Dra-Cu-La”. Especially the choruses don’t work for me.

RRR would not be enough for this but I’m not sure it deserves RRRR either… so let’s make that fourth R a small one.


Rating: RRRRR
Label: Frontiers Records
Review by Kimmo Toivonen

2017 has been a very good year for melodic rock fans when it comes to new releases. Especially the Scandinavian bands have released superb albums, and this one is definitely one of those.

Formed by guitarist, Reckless Love producer/co-writer Ilkka Wirtanen and vocalist Sami Hyde in 2015, The Nights comes across like a blend of modern melodic pop/rock and 80'ies influences. Think Sunrise Avenue on speed with crunchier guitars and razorsharp hooks! There's definite crossover potential and I can only imagine what kind of damage these songs would do on the airwaves if the band had a major label backing them up. Here's hoping that The Nights will appeal to a few radio programmers or other gatekeepers...

If you liked the ”pre-view” tracks, you’ll enjoy the rest of the album too. You’ll actually discover gems like ”In A Blink Of An Eye”, a fine example of powerful modern-day AOR. Not to mention the more balladic moments like ”You Belong To Me Tonight” and ”Elegy (You Should Be Here)”. The Reckless Love connection is evident on some of the tracks, I could imagine a song like ”Welcome To The Show” on an album of theirs. Wirtanen has played a major part in their success, no doubt about it. He’s also a bit of a shredder! A special mention to Sami Hyde too, I wasn’t that keen on his vocal style at first, but I’ve grown to like it a lot. In fact, there’s not a weak song on the album, the production is fresh and crispy and the performances are outstanding… what’s not to like?