For the last couple of years, Swedish AOR-rockers Creye have been pretty much the talk of the (AOR) town – here in Sweden, at least. The band was formed in 2016 by guitarist and song writer Andreas Gullstrand (Grand Slam) and singer Alexander Strandell and with the help from some hired guns, they released the E.P. “Straight To The Top” with three songs to much critical acclaim. Since then, Gullstrand have built up a band around that E.P., not very unlike Jon Bon Jovi who built Bon Jovi around “Runaway”. Joel Rönning (keyboards), Gustaf Östa (bass) and Arvid Filipsson (drums) were hired shortly after with rhythm guitarist Fredrik Joakimsson joining the band last as the final piece of the puzzle. When Creye had finally transformed from a two-man project into a real band, singer Strandell joined Art Nation and left the band. New singer Robin Jidhed was recruited. If Robin’s last name seems familiar it’s because it is – he’s the son of Alien singer Jim Jidhed.
With all the big talk surrounding the band, expectations are of course set high – and the addition of Jidhed also brings on some interest so, the band do have quite a bit to live up to. As I have written in some of my later reviews, the market for AOR – especially the Scandinavian kind – is getting quite full, new albums by both new and older bands are seeing the light of day monthly now and I must admit I’m beginning to have hard time keeping the interest up. Too few AOR bands stands out nowadays and even though most of them comes up with good songs, there’s a lack of identity and too many bands sounds the same. What I look for now is not only good songs, good musicians and a stellar production – I want/need identity and a sound that makes the band not just another thirteen a dozen AOR band. Let’s find out if Creye will bring that to the table.
“Holding On” kicks off the album in a fast pace and while it sure it is a very smooth and slick AOR tune with a big Pop vein, it’s also sharp and bouncy. The tune holds a chorus that goes right for the throat and refuses to let go – very catchy with a contagious melody. Brilliant! “Nothing To Lose” must be a candidate for a future single. While it sure have its fluffy AOR moments, it also brings on a good groove which will make it work very well live. The refrain is so shamelessly catchy that even super-glue won’t match – if the song had come out in 1988, the guys would have a platinum record at home now. Great! Latest single “Different State Of Mind” is an upbeat yet slick AOR tune that holds a bigger Rock vibe that does the song good. That the song was chosen as a single is really a no-brainer as it contains the kind of sticky refrain that’ll have you hum it for ages no matter if you like it or not. Me? Well, I really like it.
“Never Too Late” was a single already back in 2016, taken from the E.P. but now re-recorded and I’m a bit curious of why it never became even a minor hit. See, this mid-paced and groovy AOR number holds a refrain catchier than a STD in Poison’s back-stage area back in 1987. Sure, it’s a quite sugary and silky, Pop-laden AOR tune, but what the hell – that refrain!! “All We Need Is Faith” is a slower and softer piece that comes pretty close to balladry. It holds a very memorable main melody that circuits around Rönning’s big keyboards and the song’s chorus is catchy enough for getting the song a home-run. Very good. If diabetes is something you suffer from, then stay away from “Miracle”. See, the tune is so sweet and sugary things could get dangerous for you otherwise. The song reminds me of MTV chart Pop of the late 80’s and it’s really too sticky for comfort. But I can only surrender to it – I just have such a sweet-tooth for this kind of song and it’s so damn catchy. This one must be a future single!
First single off the album, “Christina”, is the next tune that makes me wonder why on Earth it wasn’t a hit when it was released some three months ago. It’s a smooth, poppy and uptempo AOR-rocker with shitloads of hooks and a chorus so catchy it hurts. The only thing I don’t like about this song is that it wasn’t me who wrote it. Awesome! “Straight To The Top”, another rerecording, is more an Melodic Rock tune than actual AOR – a straight-forward rocker with a live feel. It’s edgy with a punch and the refrain is, of course, huge. A very good song that brings some needed raunchiness. With “Love Will Never Die” it’s power ballad time and while I can really be a sucker for a power ballad, I think there’s fine line when it comes to cheesiness that can’t be crossed in order for it to work. Creye took one step over that line here. It’s not a bad song but too syrupy and sticky for my taste. It’s ok, but fails to grab me.
“Still Believe In You” brings on some raunchy Hard Rock guitars and a punchy rhythm section and it definitely rocks things up here. While it’s still very much an AOR song, the more ballsy approach gives it a live feel and a bit of attitude without losing any hooks or catchiness. Great! “City Lights” is more of an upbeat 80’s sounding Pop song, big on synthesizers, electronic drums and a slick main melody that helps to up the chorus. It’s an ok tune but not very much Rock to talk about. “Desperately Lovin'” takes the same path as its predecessor, very Pop with a slick and smooth arrangement albeit more AOR than actual Pop – and of course a refrain that stick immediately. Closing track “A Better Way” is a mid-paced AOR-rocker that is slick yet groovy, smooth yet rocking and holds a huge mid-80’s sounding refrain that must have been written with super-glue. A real killer with lots of hit-potential.
So. While there are a couple of fillers on the album, most songs here are awesome. Big arrangements, memorable melodies, catchy choruses and hooks many enough to sell. So far, so brilliant. But the album isn’t without flaws. While the production is very good sound-wise, it’s also way too slick and clean-cut which gives the record a mainstream outlook. It’s too soft in sound which happens when the keyboards takes over – where’s the big guitars? The fat drums? The pumping bass? Yes, this is AOR but you can deliver that with some attitude, attack and edge. There’s also the question of identity here. I’m not saying you have to be totally original but Creye suffers from the same loss of identity that many other AOR bands do – which leads us to the lead vocal effort. Yes, young Jidhed is a very good singer with a broad range, but he lacks personality – but I’m not afraid there, that usually comes with age. While the songwriting here is a clear 9/10 the flaws pulls down the final score with a few points. Still, I’m sure we’ll hear more from this lot in the future because the potential is endless. And I would love to catch them live – a bit of rawness and heaviness would probably do wonders for these killer tunes.
1. Holding On
2. Nothing To Lose
3. Different State Of Mind
4. Never Too Late
5. All We Need Is Faith
8. Straight To The Top
9. Love Will Never Die
10. Still Believe In You
11. City Lights
12. Desperately Lovin’
13. A Better Way