PAL – Prime

What do you do when you have a new project going and a need a name for it and really can’t find one that satisfies. You take the first letter from each member’s last name of course. PAL is a Swedish musical collaboration between guitarist Roger Ljunggren, Peter Andersson (bass) and Peo Pettersson (vocals). Roger and Peter, longtime friends, started writing and play music together way back. They first got to know each other in the early eighties. Growing up in Skara, a small town in the south-west of Sweden sharing a passion for music and especially for song-writing. They sweat out together in a small rehearsal studio together with some other local musicians. The group started in 1987 when a demo was recorded in Peo’s studio Vanäs for a band called Escape which at that moment was short of a singer and Peo helped out. Now, thirty years later the three musicians are making music together again.

The songs on the debut album Prime are a collaboration between the three – where Roger wrote the music and recorded the guitars and solos and Peter arranged, produced and played the bass. With Peo adding the vocals, the band needed a drummer. Enter: Mauritz Petersson. Luckily enough, his last name also starts with P so he was involved in the friendly (pun intended) band name as well. You can surely hear vintage elements in their music, but this time with a more modern approach and passion for the music they all grew up with, but mostly the band’s music is within the melodic rock and AOR vein. The first label that was invited to listen to the material was AOR Heaven in Germany and a record deal was signed with them shortly after. And now the band’s debut album is ready for release. Let’s find out what the guys have accomplished, shall we?

Opener “Heads Or Tails” is an upbeat pop-rocker with a chunky rhythm and a very catchy refrain. It’s not that original, but it is still a damn good song so who cares? Fact is, the refrain is more or less impossible to get out of my head after the first listen. “Carry On” follows in a mid-paced groove and a kicking and quite ballsy rhythm, the kind that makes you put the fist in the air and yell along. It sports an AOR laden chorus that sticks the first time you hear it. A hit in my book – and a great tune! “Hiding Away From Love” is an uptempo pop song in a rock disguise that breaks into AOR and a mid 80’s sound. It’s a good tune with a catchy refrain but it’s a bit weaker than the previous two. “Double Nature” is a good, very memorable melodic rocker that makes me think of Harem Scarem. It rocks pretty well and it’s catchy enough, but it’s not exceptional.

If you’re into the latest Alien records, then “Wildfire” is for you. This is a prefect mix of melodic rock and AOR – and it’s catchy as hell. This is a single – and in a perfect world, it is also a hit. It’s ballad time when “What We Could Have Been” tags along. This one is more uptempo and is really a mix between a regular power ballad and a mid-paced AOR-ish pop-rocker. The tune is extremely catchy and in the days of MTV, this one would probably had gone on heavy rotation there. Brilliant.  “Nowhere Left To Go” is a plain, straight ahead AOR rocker with a quite typical Scandinavian sound that goes mid 80’s all the way. Not the most original song in the world but it’s so catchy I can’t do nothing else but surrender. Great stuff.

We get a more hard rock take on AOR with “River Runs Dry”. Big melodic rock riffs and a chorus with a huge hit potential brings the song home – a killer! “Older And Wiser” is melodic rock at its best. It’s an uptempo rocker with a solid, punchy rhythm and a chorus so catchy it’s ridiculous. Bloody awesome! “Leaving This Town” brings on a good groove, it rocks well enough and it’s pretty raunchy. It kind of reminds me of later day Fate – a good song, no more, no less. Closing track “One Step Away” is a ballad at first but speeds up and brings on a huge chorus that is more of an uptempo AOR pop tune. Brilliantly catchy, it has one of those refrains that’s gonna make you go around humming it for hours after just one spin. A great way to end the album.

As you might have guessed, PAL might not have reinvented the wheel here by any means but they make up for their lack of originality with a whole bunch of brilliant songs and great musicianship. The music lands somewhere between melodic rock and AOR and the whole thing is really produced as such as well – a big sound scape with lots of keyboards and backing vocals. They will get a point for bringing the guitars higher in the mix than many AOR bands do which brings for a crisper and more raunchy sound, something I always love when it comes to AOR. The album is also a grower – it didn’t do that much for me at first listen – so I’d recommend you to give it a few spins if it doesn’t stick the first time around. For lovers of AOR and melodic rock, this album is definitely worth checking out.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Heads Or Tails
2. Carry On
3. Hiding Away From Love
4. Double Nature
5. Wildfire
6. What We Could Have Been
7. Nowhere Left To Go
8. River Runs Dry
9. Older And Wiser
10. Leaving This Town
11. One Step Away

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