Italy + Sweden = AOR. That’s the truth – at least when it comes to Lionville. The band started out as a project by brothers Stefano and Alessandro Lionetti in Geneva, Italy back in 2009. After playing the local club circuit of Genova for a couple of years, Stefano started Lionville for real with the help of Pierpaolo “Zorro” Monti (Shining Line) and Alessandro Del Vecchio (Edge Of Forever, Eden’s Curse, Hardline). With the involvement of singer Lars Säfsund (Work Of Art), they brought in their influences from acts such as Survivor, Toto, Richard Marx, Giant and Bad English and Lionville quickly began to take shape and by 2011 they had signed a record deal and also recorded and released their debut, self-titled album to lots of critical acclaim. The year after, the band released the follow-up, the very imaginatively titled (hmmm) II, a record that also got some very good reviews and the band stepped up a step or two on the ladder of success. After a few (that’s five, to be precise) years in hiatus, the boys – now including Lionetti on guitars and keyboards, singer Säfsund, guitarist Michele Cusato, bassist Giulio Dagnino and drummer Martino Malacrida – gained interest from Frontiers records and went to work again. The result is out now and the album has been a long time coming for so many AOR / melodic rock / West Coast fans, the album really has to be worth the wait. Personally, I really have nothing to compare this with as this record is my first acquaintance with the band. I have known about the band only by name before, so this will be the first time I actually will be listening to them.
Opener and single “I Will Wait” brings the expectations up big time for your truly. It’s a bona fide AOR rocker that sports both Journey and Foreigner influences and to be frank, how could one go wrong with that? The fact that the tune is brilliantly catchy as well doesn’t exactly make things worse either – a brilliant song. Following track “Show Me The Love” keeps what the opener promised – it’s a full-blown AOR tune with a sticky melody, huge on the keyboards and a catchy and saccharine chorus. The sound is Scandinavian AOR all the way – great stuff! “Bring Me Back Our Love” is a single as well and it’s a pretty obvious one. To these ears, the tune is a bit too syrupy and sounds like the bastard son of Bon Jovi’s cheesiest moments and the band Alias, born in 1990. It’s ok but a bit too mawkish for me. The syrup continues with the ballad “Heaven Is Right Here”. This kind of ballad belongs in 1989 and all would be well if the lack of power hadn’t made it sound perfunctory. It also reminds me of Richard Marx and Richard Marx was – and still isn’t – my bag. It’s not a bad song, but it won’t end up on a mixed CD of mine anytime soon.
The title track, however, is really good. The fact that the tune is quite pompous and also contains a break that is somewhat proggy makes it go out outside of the AOR box some. It’s still very memorable and the refrain sticks right away. The Foreigner influence on “One More Night” is quite evident but I also hear traces of Survivor here and there and the fact that I dig both bands makes me embrace this catchy pop song. The chorus grabs a hold of my brain and refuses to let go – very good. “All I Want” is an AOR groover with hard rock undertones in a faster pace. The chorus is so catchy it hurts and the hit feel is huge – one of the best tracks on the album as far as I’m concerned. “Living On The Edge” is a softer, more West Coast oriented number with a smooth melody and a chorus on the catchier side, but it lacks the edge they say they’re living on and it sounds too mainstream for my ears.
Alias (does anyone remember them?) comes to mind again in the ballad “Our Good Goodbye” and even though I was never a fan of Alias, this one really hits me. Sure, it is sticky sugary, soft, pink and fluffy but I can’t help falling for it. If anyone remember (or have even heard of) Swedish AOR masters Bad Habit, then you’ll get the idea how “Paradise” sounds. It’s an ok song, but unfortunately, it’s in one ear and out the other and it sounds a bit dated. But Lionville makes sure to save the best for last – and they call it “Image Of Your Soul”. On this track they throw a nod back to the more progressive AOR of the early 80’s and Asia comes to mind at times. It also contains a melody that brings my mind to the fantastic band Flying Colors. The fretless bass also helps to create a sound that takes the track out of the AOR comfort zone. I wish the album had more of this.
A World Of Fools is a good album, no doubt about that. It contains several AOR-killers and no bad songs at all, the musicians are all sharp and talented and Säfsund is a great vocalist. But what bugs me is that the production is too light-weight which makes the whole album too pink and fluffy and the lack of edge and attitude makes sure that nothing really stands out and after I’m done listening, I can’t remember much, not even many of the songs I really dig. There is also a lack of identity which makes Lionville just another AOR band with an album that could have been made by any of the many acts out there that don’t have a sound of their own. Yes, this is qualitative music and yes, I like the record, but something in me believes that it could have been so much better considering all the talent within the band.
1. I Will Wait
2. Show Me The Love
3. Bring Me Back Our Love
4. Heaven Is Right Here
5. A World Of Fools
6. One More Night
7. All I Want
8. Living On The Edge
9. Our Good Goodbye
11. Image Of Your Soul