What we have here is an AOR band on Frontiers records. Not a big scoop there. But this time we’re not talking about an AOR band from Sweden (or Scandinavia)! How about that? Magic Dance hails from Long Island, NY and started out as a project for singer and song writer Jon Siejka back in 2012. He released his debut EP Another World in 2013 followed by two more, The Mirror Of Dreams and Kiss Scene, heavily influenced by synth-pop and movie soundtracks from the 80’s. His fourth EP Haunting Me (2015) showed a change in style where guitars taking more place and an over-all more AOR-like sound, also 80’s style which was also the case of his debut full-length album Vanishing from the same year.
Back in late 2017, Jon signed with Frontiers for a second full-length and this time he was determined to make Magic Dance a real band, still keeping his “heavier” direction. I write “heavier” like this because it is AOR we’re talking about here and heavy is a seldom a word to describe that kind of music. Together with guitarists Jack Simchak and Tim Mackey, bassists Mike Peniston and Kevin Krug, drummer Kevin McAdams. The more Rock-laden sound in the garden of AOR is still intact on this album and Siejka mentions bands such as Heart, Survivor and Loverboy as influences for the sound Magic Dance holds today.
Opener “You’re Holding Back” is an uptempo number in the AOR genre with huge Pop-influences that screams mid 80’s with blipping synthesizers, compressed drum-sounds and guitar-riffs that could rock but really don’t because they’re so far back in the mix. The tune holds a pretty catchy refrain but it’s too safe and slick sounding. The total mid 80’s sound continues with second single “Never Go Back” and it brings on a big Pop groove, big guitars and a “whoa whoa” refrain that welcomes us back to 1987. It’s a pretty good track but way lacks personality and identity. “These Four Walls” is an AOR track that makes me suspect Siejka going through a whole bunch of modern Scandinavian AOR albums before writing it. It’s a mid-paced tune, somewhat melancholic with a mountain of keyboards on it. The chorus is sticky enough to get stuck in your head forever and it is a good tune albeit with too much sugar added.
“Please Wake Me” is a very smooth and slick tune that mixes Pop, Rock and AOR, total 80’s style. It holds quite a big chorus but it won’t stay with me and disappears into thin air pretty fast. Ok but forgettable. “Cut Beneath The Skin” is more of a ballad in uptempo, sweet and slick and a dreamy melody – at times I think of Strangeways. But the song just keep going on and on without anything happening. I had forgotten about the song before it ended. First single “When Nothing’s Real” speeds things up with a Hard Rock touch, a heavier rhythm and rougher guitars. It’s still quite slick and very much an AOR-tune but the Hard Rock twist breaks the AOR-mould at least a little. Good tune. “Better Things” is pure Pop in uptempo with lots of “oh-oh-oh”s, very 80’s chart Pop. It’s very silky and clean – a good song but way too safe and saccharine for comfort.
“For A Time (The End Of My World)” is an AOR/Pop tune with a huge mid 80’s touch. It’s uptempo but smooth and slick without any heaviness at all. It’s a light-weight tune that fails to grab me at all. “Looking For Love” is a mid-tempo AOR-rocker with one foot in ballad-land. There are lots of Scandinavian sounding AOR here and a huge Pop feel and the chorus is mountain big and the melodies all over lingers a long time after the album’s finished – easily the best song on the album. The album ends on power ballad note that is the title-track. It’s a bit on the bombastic side but also very pink n’ fluffy and smooth as silk. It belongs back in 1986, it’s very safe but I must say I like the tune anyway. It could have been a bit heavier though, something that would have been for the song’s benefit.
I’m not gonna say that this is a bad album per se. I mean, the album is well-produced and the guys are obviously good players and Siejka sure holds a great set of pipes (which makes me wonder about all the autotune). The problem is that everything here sounds so safe, so slick and it’s without any punch or edge. It’s too light-weight and it’s not powerful enough for a Rock album. Many times this is a time-machine back to 1986 where the synths are blipping, the drums pops in the background and the guitars sounds compressed without any crunch at all. Also, the band lacks identity – any of the songs here could have been by any of all the AOR acts that are out there today. It’s really nothing wrong with songs other than they’re just not interesting enough for me to keep the focus – they’re mostly good but also forgettable. A standard AOR product – underwhelming!
1. You’re Holding Back
2. Never Go Back
3. These Four Walls
4. Please Wake Me
5. Cut Beneath The Skin
6. When Nothing’s Real
7. Better Things
8. For A Time (The End Of My World)
9. Looking For Love
10. New Eyes