ISSA – Run With The Pack

My first encounter with Norwegian AOR queen Isabel Oversveen aka Issa was back in 2010 when she had just released her debut album Sign Of Angels. That album was a brilliant show of how to write catchy songs that was both smooth and slick but without losing their edge. Nothing new was brought under the sun but that was irrelevant because of the strength of the songs and the pure passion Issa showed – honest and real. Since then I have followed her career pretty closely and I have reviewed her every album since then and with four records under her belt, I can state that all of them have been good but while her last album of original tunes – Crossfire (2015) – was good it also showed traces of stagnation. With that I mean that it felt like Issa had taken her brand of AOR and Melodic Rock as far as she could and that it was time for her to maybe stretch out a bit more. Her previous album Can’t Stop (2012), an album full of covers of obscure AOR/Melodic Rock songs felt more fresh and vital than it’s follow-up, which to me proves that it might be time for a change – at least a small one.

Opener “Am I Losin’ You” tells us that what we’re being served with this time around is pretty much in the same vein as the rest of her albums. It’s an upbeat AOR track with a huge Pop feel but it’s also a song that rocks. Reminiscent of her debut album, the tune sports a refrain that sticks immediately and for lovers of this kind of music, it’s hard to be disappointed by that. It’s a very good song, see and a tune I’d recommend as a future single. The title track and latest single follows. It’s a pretty straight-forward, in-your-face pop-rocker with a distinct Melodic Rock riff that rocks really well. It’s perfect as a single as it contains a very catchy and hit-laden refrain – very good! Second single “Sacrifice Me” is slower in tempo and borders to a full-on ballad. It’s on the heavier and darker side, contains a ballsy riff and a chorus that screams hit. It also features a duet with Deen Castronovo (The Dead Daisies, Revolution Saints, Journey, Bad English) and the couple’s voices are a match made in heaven. Brilliant!

“How Long” is a mid-paced AOR tune that comes pretty close to being a power ballad, very smooth and slick. But it also holds some good, meaty riffage and a very memorable refrain – single-potential. A good track. And more ballads is coming our way. “The Sound Of Yesterday” is very silky and fluffy but it also comes with a heavy guitar riff and the tune is quite distinct with memorable melody and a direct chorus. A good tune. First single “Come Back Again” is a pretty obvious choice as a single. It’s an upbeat that lands somewhere between AOR and Melodic Rock, very distinct and direct that holds a chorus that’s impossible to get out of the head once it’s there, whether you like it or not. I think it’s awesome and probably the best track on the album. “Talk To Your Heart” is a full-blown ballad and that’s what it is – a ballad – no more, no less. It’s an underwhelming tune that goes in one ear and out the other and fails to go anywhere. Quite boring, to be honest.

“Bittersweet” is also a ballad that starts with a Journey influenced piano and vocals but after the first verse the band comes in and makes a power ballad out of it – very late 80’s sounding. It’s a bit better than the last one but it still a long way from going full monty. Again, this is underwhelming and quite dull. “Closer To You” is more of a straight forward AOR-rocker – uptempo on the Rock side of the genre. I guess it’s got a catchy chorus but for me it’s an ok song but really nothing special. “Irreplaceable” is softer and comes in a mid pace and brings on a huge 80’s vibe. It’s a good song – better than the last few – and it’s got a catchy chorus but it doesn’t rock my world. The album closes with yet another ballad – “Everything To Me” –  however this one is way more atmospheric and dramatic than the rest of them.  It’s big, very memorable and the refrain is just awesome – a solid power ballad. I’d release this a single if I was her.

Sound wise, much of this record takes us back to Issa’s debut album – which is a good thing. However, I can’t shake the feeling of Issa repeating herself and I can feel some disappointment over the fact that she, after four albums, still doesn’t show any signs of moving out of her comfort zone at all. Yes, there are some very good songs on here, yes, the production is really good and yes, the performances both from Issa and her backing band are faultless – Issa sure is a damn fine singer – but the flaws on this record are a bunch too many. I dunno, maybe it’s just me, maybe this is exactly what she and her fans want, but wouldn’t it be more challenging to break out a bit and try some new things? I mean, she certainly is talented enough for whatever task that might lie ahead of her. It’s also a bit too big on ballads and slower songs which makes me wish for more rockers. This album isn’t a failure by any means but I believe it could have been so much better. Good but not great!

6/10

More Issa reviews:

Sign Of Angels
The Storm
Can’t Stop
Crossfire

Tracklist:

1. Am I Losin’ You
2. Run With The Pack
3. Sacrifice Me
4. How Long
5. The Sound Of Yesterday
6. Come Back Again
7. Talk To Your Heart
8. Bittersweet
9. Closer To You
10. Irreplaceable
11. Everything To Me

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