Oh yes. Oh yes indeed.
I was alerted to this excellent Swedish outfit by the CD that came with the second issue of Classic Rock‘s AOR magazine, which featured 1988, the opening cut from their recently released second album. I was immediately impressed by the band’s astute melodic sensibilities and impeccably slick musicianship, and found myself struck by the tantalising inkling that the modern AOR masterpiece I have been waiting for for so long might just have arrived . . .
How right I was. Much as I love 1988, it quickly became apparent to me, after a few spins of the CD, that it is not, in fact, one of the album’s strongest tracks. No, if I had to pick a favourite – and the band maintain a remarkably consistent high standard across the eleven tracks – I would be more likely to go for the mid-tempo anthemic charms of Emergency with its downright killer chorus, the similarly addictive dizzying bliss of Give Her a Sign, the grittier but no less catchy Perfect War and Cynthia, the marvellously emotive centrepiece ballad Till We Meet Again, or the rip-roaring Living the Dream, which I tend to think of as the band’s Be Good to Yourself. Also meriting special mention is the epic title track (featuring a fine turn from guest vocalist Kajsa Berg), the fast section of which provides one of the album’s most dramatic and exciting moments, as Erik Heikne’s guitar spars ferociously with Henrik Sproge’s synth leads. The band’s sound, evoking shades of Magnum, Journey and Night Ranger, amongst other luminaries, is certainly dominated by the keyboards of principal songwriter Sproge, but Heikne gets plenty of opportunities to shine too, and plays with verve and maturity throughout. The lead vocals of Sebastian Roos are similarly impressive, putting me in mind of a slightly smoother-toned Sunset Strip singer of the late eighties (unequivocally a compliment in my book) – and if that isn’t enough to entice you, the album also features a blazing guest solo from Roland Grapow, on Perfect War.
So, in short, I couldn’t urge readers strongly enough to support this ultra-classy outfit, who thoroughly deserve to be riding the crest of the melodic rock revival we’ve witnessed in recent years; I certainly intend to catch them on their upcoming UK tour dates. And for those of you who can’t stomach the thought of Journey without Steve Perry, fear not: the dream is in safe hands.