Do the name Hank Erix ring a bell for anyone out there? No? Houston maybe? The band, not the city, that is. Well, for you who don’t know, Hank Erix is the lead singer in Swedish AOR:sters Houston, a band that started in 2010 and have since released three albums of originals and two cover records. Personally, even though I have a weak spot for AOR music in general, I never fully got into Houston. Every album had the odd killer tune but most of their stuff has failed to grab me. Not bad, just too mainstream – and their music is very sugary, pink and fluffy, too much for my comfort. Now when Erix has branched out to make a solo record, he pointed out that this will be a rockier effort and that the sound of Houston was never so much his choices as the other members of the band. To me, this sounds interesting as if there’s one thing I have missed in Houston, it’s the Rock part.
Opener “Turn To Darkness” proves that Erix didn’t lie to us. Sure, this is Melodic Rock with AOR undertones, but it’s edgy with a crunch and a punch. It holds a faster pace and a heavy rhythm and while the refrain is catchy it’s still not as streamlined and clean-cut as Houston’s music. A very good song and opener. But already on song # 2, “Last Chance To Love”, the more traditional AOR is over us. Ok, so it holds a heavier and more in-your-face arrangement and a punchy rhythm – and a killer refrain with shitloads of hooks – but the more straight-forward, Hard Rock influence really takes the tune over the threshold from AOR to Melodic Rock. First single “Fortune Hunter” is a mid-paced AOR tune with a groove and where keyboards and guitars is mixed equally high. The refrain – a very catchy, hit-friendly one – is more Scandinavian AOR sounding where Houston comes to mind directly. Still, a good tune.
“Way To Go” is an upbeat AOR-rocker with a bounce and a smooth and memorable main melody. It’s the most plain AOR sounding tune so far, but the chorus is so insanely catchy it’s impossible not to surrender. This must be a single at some point because it’s a hit. Very good. The big-riffed “Shadowdance” comes with a darker vibe and a melancholic feel. The verses are a bit softer laden and even Pop but the tune heavies up when the refrain arrives. There are traces of AOR in it but the tune isn’t much of a hit-laden tune, more of a Hard Rock influenced album track. Good stuff. “Affair Of The Heart” is an 80’s laden, Hard Rock influenced Melodic Rock tune where Linnea Vikström (QFT, Therion) duets with Hank and Michael Palace (Palace, Kryptonite) lends his fingers for a great guitar solo. It’s a straight forward rocker with a good groove and sticky chorus – good tune.
“Electricity” comes with a Scandinavian AOR sound but it also holds a stomping groove and even though it still is very much an AOR laden track, it also brings on a good dose of Hard Rock to spice things up and gives the song more of an edge, very in-your-face. It also gives us another catchy refrain – very good. “Freak” lands somewhere between traditional AOR and Melodic Rock. There’s some big guitars prominent here – which is good but it also contains a great deal of 80’s blipping synths – which is not that good. As a whole, it’s a pretty streamlined tune – ok but forgettable. “Giving Up On Love” is a mid-paced, saccharine, slick and smooth AOR number that could have fitted any Houston album out there. The refrain is sticky enough but too fluffy and the song is too middle-of-the-road. Ok at best. “For The Restless & Young” is an acoustic, stripped ballad, earthy and quite organic with some AOR-like melody lines. Very refreshing – and very good.
While Erix sure has a point in saying that this album rocks more than his day job does, there’s still no denying that this is very much an AOR album – roughed up AOR with an edge and raunchiness at times. The biggest problem I have with this record is that it’s a bit too polished and slick production wise – to really give it the kick it needs, some dirt and rawness wouldn’t have hurt. That said, I would choose this record over Houston any day of week – and not just because that it rocks more, the songs here are better in general. So while Erix’s solo debut is clearly Rock approved, I would love him to take a step further next time.
1. Turn To Darkness
2. Last Chance To Love
3. Fortune Hunter
4. Way To Go
6. Affair Of The Heart
9. Giving Up On Love
10. For The Restless & The Young