So, our calendars says it is February once again and besides below degrees, dark skies and the occasional snow, February also means that we most likely will be getting a new release from Sweden’s AOR masters Last Autumn’s Dream. These guys don’t tour which means that they can deliver new music fast and since drummer Jamie Borger (Treat, Secret Service, Talisman) and singer Mikael Erlandsson (Secret Service) are the main song writers and they write separately, it’s not a problem getting eleven songs ready each year, especially when a cover often is thrown in as well. The title of this records lets on just how many records this outfit have recorded since the start in 2003 which tells us just how fast these guys work. What I find really impressing, though, is that it very seldom effects the quality of the music. Sure, at times the songs has a tendency to sound a bit samey at times and yes, the production on some records has been a bit to light weight, but for the most, AOR fans know that they’re in for almost an hour of really good music by really good musicians.
If there’s one thing I can put my complaints on is that I sometimes feel that I would love it if the boys took at least a small stroll out of their box sometimes and kicked our buts with some surprises. They have done so, at times and it is when they decide to turn up the guitars and pound the drums roughly, I like them the best. Hell, I would love to hear a hard rock laden melodic rock album from them sometime. One surprise came in 2016 with their last record In Disguise on which decided to release an album of covers. I know, cover albums are usually the same boring stuff but LAD decided to go for the throat and give us their favorite AOR /melodic rock songs, obscure songs that most fans didn’t expect – or in some cases had never heard of. And it worked like charm. To me, In Disguise is one of the absolute best cover albums I have ever heard, so much I have wished for a follow-up rather sooner than later. But this time, we get an album of (almost) only originals. And I’m not the least disappointed by that.
The new album opens with a 40 seconds long intro called “Rise An’ Shine” that builds up an atmosphere and takes us into the first proper track called “Go”. And sometimes the God of Rock listens to prayers because this tune sounds exactly like I have been wishing for. Big guitars, pounding drums and a steady bass with Erlandsson getting a rough vibe vocally. It’s an uptempo song that makes me want to see the band live. The tune is a melodic rock song, of course, but rougher than what we’re used to – and it’s very catchy. LAD have recorded rougher songs in the past but I want more of them and “Go” is pretty much a template for how I want them to sound. “Siren” keeps up the rock moods with a stomping groove, a tough beat and heavier guitars – and it also contains a Led Zeppelin influenced middle-break. Here we go! Sure, there are some 80’s laden arrangements and the tune is a melodic rocker with a catchy as hell refrain, but it still rocks dammit!
“I Don’t Wanna Wait” takes us back to the more classic AOR sound that we’re used to be, very smooth and slick and a ridiculously catchy refrain. But fear not, it is still a great tune that hits where it should. Very radio-friendly with a huge hit-potential. And then comes the mandatory cover, something I look forward to when it comes to this band. This time it’s Pat Benatar’s old wallop “Shadow Of The Night” that gets the LAD treatment (it was also featured in the Rock Of Ages musical and Canadian AOR singer Fiona have also covered it) and as always, the boys managed to bring their own sound to the table and they cover it with finesse, conviction and style – and it fits this band like a glove. Great! With “Turn It Up” it’s time to rock again. Rowdy and rough with loud guitars and heavy drums it shows us just how good it sounds when LAD gets into rock mood. It’s still not plain hard rock, more melodic rock and the chorus is distinct and catchy without being radio-friendly but the whole groove here is just infectious.
More light-weight is the uptempo pop-song “Let The Curtain Fall” although it still brings on both rock and AOR vibes. It’s very soft, pink and fluffy almost to the extent of getting syrupy. But it do hold a very catchy refrain that’s hard not to like. “Wouldn’t U Like” is an AOR tune with a 50’s pop-rock melody and the two marries fine. The chorus however, is a bit too close to Paul Stanley’s knock-out “Wouldn’t You Like To Know Me” from his 1978 solo album for comfort. It’s not a bad tune at all but the theft is a bit too obvious. So it feels good to get rocked again when “Get Them All” shows up – and this one really rocks. It’s a bit slower but it is steady and raw with an in-your-face attitude and it’s pretty hard for a melodic rock track. Great! While “Walkin’ Talkin’ Miracle” really is a pop song albeit with a rock ‘n’ roll vibe. It’s uptempo, straight-forward and very memorable – very good.
It’s ballad time for real when we get “Love Again” served. It is soft, laid-back and cozy and saccharine to the point of being overly cheesy – a power ballad if there ever was one. It comes with a chorus that’s extremely sticky and it would probably had been all over MTV in the early 90’s had it been released then. I find the tune ok, not more. For the ones that feels like spending some extra green on the Japanese version there’s a bonus track called “Love Is An Open Road”. It’s a good pop/AOR track, very catchy with a classic LAD arrangement and full of hooks all throughout the tune. It’s a good song although not great. However, I find it a way better album closer than the previous ballad.
As a whole, Last Autumn’s Dream have released a good album here. On the plus side is the heavied up sound and that we get quite a few rough n’ ready rockers, more than usual and that’s called for because in the fast pace that these guys release their records in, things do have a tendency to get repetitive at times – which also is the feeling when the more standard AOR numbers turns up. That said, LAD have never made a bad album and I’m pretty sure they never will but I just can’t shake that gnawing feeling inside just how great it would be if they could take a step out of their comfort zone and do something totally unexpected. An outside producer? Bring in some co-writers? Or just go balls-to-the-wall apeshit and just go mental when they write songs. Just shock us. So to give Nalle Påhlsson and guitarist Peter “Pac” Söderström some more input in the song writing department is clearly a great move and a step forward. All in all, this is a really good album and in the end, that’s what important.
More Last Autumn’s Dream reviews:
1. Rise An’ Shine
4. I Don’t Wanna Wait
5. Shadow Of The Night
6. Turn It Up
7. Let The Curtain Fall
8. Wouldn’t U Like
9. Get Them All
10. Walkin’ Talkin’ Miracle
11. Love Again
12. Love Is An Open Road (Bonus)