SNAKES IN PARADISE – Step Into The Light

You have to hand it to Swedish AOR / Melodic Rock act Snakes In Paradise. Back in the mid 90’s when Grunge ruled the world, six guys decided to completely deny the fact that Melodic Rock was dead and buried and keep making the music they loved themselves and go against grain of flannels, goatees and Doc Martens. In 1994, the band – Stefan Berggren (vocals), Tomas Jacobsson and Stefan Jonsson (guitar), Tomas Thorberg (bass), Pete Peterson (drums) and Tomas Jonsson (keyboards) – released their self-titled debut album much supported by a small but dedicated audience. To be frank, there wasn’t that much of a scene back then for a band like SIP since everyone and their mother had jumped on the depressing Seattle bandwagon. When the band, four years later, released their second album Garden Of Eden, the scene had changed once more albeit not for the better. In 1998, Grunge was on a downward spiral and nu-metal, full of sampled beats and hip-hop, was the sound of the times.

In 2002, just when both Grunge an nu-metal had started to fade and Melodic Rock, Metal, AOR, Hard Rock, Glam and Sleaze had slowly started to come back, the band did one final try with their third album Dangerous Love and when that album didn’t take the world by storm, they decided to call it a day. Since then, singer Berggren have been in the spotlight as the singer for Led Zeppelin tribute act Four Sticks and he also sang with Company Of Snakes which featured ex- Whitesnake members guitarists Micky Moody and Bernie Marsden and bassist Neil Murray and he also sang with a band called Razorback. Today, he’s the singer for Swedish Classic rock band Prins Svart, featuring his Four Sticks pals. In 2016, the band was asked by a promoter to reunite for a festival, the band said yes and the news reached Frontiers records who signed the band (minus keyboarder Jonsson) and now the result is here.

Opener “Wings Of Steel” is an AOR/West Coast tune with a large quantity of Pop, quite reminiscent of 80’s Swedish AOR acts such as Talk Of the Town and Alien. Knowing that the band is very influenced by 70’s Rock and bands such as Whitesnake, it’s a bit surprising just how slick, smooth and to be honest, light-weight this sounds. Then again, SIP were always more AOR and Melodic Rock than Classic Rock and Hard Rock. That said, this is a decent tune with a very catchy Pop refrain. “Silent Sky” brings on a more ballad-like approach, not a far cry from how Whitesnake’s “Is This Love” or “The Deeper The Love” sounds, but more in the vein of AOR. It’s a soft-laden and atmospheric tune in mid pace that holds a memorable main melody and chorus. Pretty good. First single “Will You Remember Me” is an upbeat, groovy and swinging full-blown AOR number with a big Pop-laden refrain and some raunchy guitar work. An obvious single, yes, but also a damn good one.

“Angelin” is a slow ballad – sweet, posh and fluffy but also with a slight Blues influence stuck in. It’s a rather cozy piece that won’t make much of a riot anywhere but it’s still pretty memorable in all its calmness. A good one as well. “Living Without Your Love” brings up the pace and does its best to rock things up with a more crunchy groove and adding some heaviness. That said, it’s still AOR we’re talking about here albeit in the more rocking regions. The chorus sticks right off the bat with lots of hooks and memorable melodies. A future single? It should be. Very good. “If I Ever See The Sun Again” takes on a bigger Classic Rock twist and the band’s Zeppelin roots shows here more than anywhere on the album. It’s a mid-tempo stomper with big guitars and big keyboards in a heavier way. The AOR melodies are still present but at least this tune rocks. Best one so far.

“After The Fire Is Gone” is an uptempo yet laid-back pop-rocker with a somewhat Classic rock feel to it, a feel that’s slightly over-shadowed by lots of smooth and slick AOR melodies. It’s a soulful track with a cozy arrangement that holds a refrain that’s very catchy and refuses to let go. Very good indeed. “Love On The Otherside” is a straight-forward early 90’s radio-rock tune that brings on a fine blend of Pop and AOR. It’s upbeat with an organ influenced synth and the guitars at front. The Pop refrain is very radio-friendly although the song itself is only decent at best – a forgettable tune. “Things” have got both its feet in the late 80’s where Stadium Rock meets radio Pop, very smooth and streamlined. It do sport a good main melody and a catchy chorus but all in all, the tune is forgettable and fails to grab me at all.

“Liza” goes back to the more West Coast influenced AOR of the opening track. The tune holds a huge chorus, you know like almost every AOR track that is named after a girl does. The chorus is of the sticky kind, full of harmonies and hooks and the hit-potential here is very big so it should be a single somewhere down the line – very good. “Life’s Been Good To You And Me” is an upbeat, positive, poppy and slick tune that’s total AOR. The refrain is very catchy and it is a good song but it’s on the verge of being almost too happy-go-lucky. That said, the world do need positive right now. The album closes with the title-track, a soft, laid-back AOR tune on the ballad side with a floating and levitating arrangement, very feel-good ish. I really do like the song but somehow I have a hard time remember it when it’s over. And maybe closing the album with such a soft tune isn’t the best of choices.

For reasons unknown to me, I never really listened to SIP back when, something I find strange since I was starved on this kind of music then. But if this album is anything to go by, the band is true to their style from those days and that’s a good thing. The fact that the guys are very good musicians and Berggren is a brilliant singer isn’t even under discussion. The band has also written some damn good songs for this album but I still feel that the filler-quote here is too large, too many songs are to light-weight and forgettable. Light-weight is also a good word to describe the production here. The production is a bit thin and much too clean and smooth which makes the album way too safe and mainstream. Listen, I do have a soft spot for AOR but the whole genre is so full right now, it’s really hard to embrace everything that comes out, especially when it’s too clean-cut. A little more bite and dirt wouldn’t have hurt. It’s a good album but not even close to great.

5/10

Tracklist:

1. Wings Of Steel
2. Silent Sky
3. Will You Remember Me
4. Angelin
5. Living Without Your Love
6. If I Ever See The Sun Again
7. After The Fire Is Gone
8. Love On The Other Side
9. Things
10. Liza
11. Life’s Been Good To You & Me
12. Step Into The Light

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