Martina Edoff – We Will Align

When singer Martina Edoff released her last album, Unity back in 2015, it was without a doubt one of that year’s biggest surprises. Her self-titled debut album that came out in 2014 was ok, but lacked direction and it was cowardly produced and Edoff came across like a Jill Johnson (a Swedish mainstream pop singer gone Shania Twain country light) on steroids. The songs were good but drowned in a plethora of mainstream and crumbled a bit because of that. So when Unity arrived, I didn’t know if Martina had done yet another one of those albums or corrected the mistakes of the debut album. With pretty much all of H.E.A.T. as a backing band and co-writes from Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T., Nordic Union, Ammunition), Age-Sten Nilsen (Ammunition, Wig Wam) and Matti Alfonzetti (Impera, Skintrade), it was clear that Edoff would try her best to make amends with the new album. And boy, did she make amends! Firstly, the album was heavier and a bit rougher, the way melodic rock and AOR albums are rough. Secondly, the songs were fabulous – almost every one of them. And even though Martina sang great on the debut – she always does – on Unity she sang like her life depended on it – with passion, fire, heart, soul and enough attitude to sell.

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Kee Of Hearts – Kee of Hearts

When Europe split back in 1992, all members of the band went out on other musical journeys and they were, at least for us Swedes, in the limelight except for one guy – the brilliantly talented guitarist Kee Marcello. Yes, he recorded one very underrated album with his new band Red Fun back in 1993, but that project was short-lived. He also released a laid-back (and very good) solo album called Shine On in 1995, but after that – quietness, apart from the one-off Europe reunion on New Year’s Eve 1999/2000. Sure, he was involved in different projects, mostly as a song writer, producer or guesting on other artists records, but nothing that made any headlines and us Marcello fans wondered when – or if – he would return to the scene. It would take him all the way to 2004 and his band Kee Marcello’s K2 who released the brilliant album Melon Demon Divine and they played some gigs before things turned quiet once again. The next time we heard from Kee was when he released his Redux: Europe album in 2010, a pretty pointless record that consisted mostly of his own versions of old Europe songs. But since then, Marcello has been one productive dude.

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Degreed – Degreed

So, here’s another case of a band that has been floating around in my periphery for years without me taking any notice. Swedish melodic rockers Degreed released their debut album Life, Love, Loss back in 2010 and the follow-up We Don’t Belong in 2013 and I knew of their existance right from go. Why I never took any further notice of the band back then, I guess I will never know but better late than never, right? So, when I first heard the single “Better Safe Than Sorry” and later the whole of their last record Dead But Not Forgotten (2015), I knew that it was a mistake that I never checked the band out before. Why I still haven’t gotten around to listen to their two first albums is some thing I can’t explain, but I will get around to it a.s.a.p. The album in question was a real melodic hard rock killer and the band – Robin Ericsson (bass, lead vocals),  Daniel Johansson (guitars), Mats Ericsson (drums) and Micke Jansson (keyboards) – turned out to be at the top of the game as musicians. That line-up is still the same to this day.

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World Trade – Unify

Sometimes it’s really refreshing when you get a hold of a record that is nothing at all what you have expected. Frontiers Records is a record company that specializes in AOR, melodic rock and at times straight forward hard rock, but every now and then, albums pops up with bands in different genres – I have gotten links with both heavy metal and power metal bands. And sometimes prog rock bands shows up as well. But usually, AOR and melodic rock is what I find in my Haulix – and that’s the kind of music I often expect when I get an album by a band I know very little – or nothing at all – about. So, when I saw the link for the new World Trade album and saw who was in the band, I was pretty sure that this was another AOR / melodic rock band / project. See, World Trade is a band I had never either heard or heard of before and some of the members has a really strong AOR connection. But boy was I wrong about that – World Trade are not another project put together by the label but a band/project that have existed – albeit sporadically – for a very long time. And they’re a prog rock outfit.

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The Nights – The Nights

Finland. Oh man. When I was in my twenties in the late eighties, Sweden was one of the leading countries in Scandinavia when it came to producing melodic hard rock / AOR /arena rock bands – they were everywhere and for the most, the quality was very high. Sweden produced a lot of other kinds of hard rock music as well but it was with melodic hard rock that Sweden had the biggest birth of bands. Norway had a few – TNT is the most well-known act from that time – and so did Denmark with Pretty Maids at the top. Finland was a country no one even looked at by then. Sure, Hanoi Rocks were from Finland but I really can’t think of any other band. Since then Finland has come up with a lot of bands, we all know about Nightwish of course but mostly, Finish bands were dark, mellow and depressive metal acts, melodic hard rock not very much. But things have changed in later years, Finland have given us a whole bunch of really good melodic rock bands – King Company, One Desire and Brother Firetribe to name a few. And now it’s time for yet another one – The Nights. The band took form when singer Sami Hyde, who has been involved in the Tony Mills (Shy, TNT) Band and guitarist Ikka Wirtanen, who has produced and co-written for acts like Reckless Love, put their heads together to form a new band. To complete the line-up, Sami and Ikka brought in bassist Harri Kokkonen and drummer Jan-Erik Livari. And now it’s time for the guys to show the world that yet another melodic rock band from Finland have something to bring to the table.

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Kryptonite – Kryptonite

“Sometimes musicians are put together who only know each other from afar via their respective recordings, but something clicks and triggers a magical moment. That’s exactly what happened when Jakob Samuel from The Poodles met up with producer Alessandro Del Vecchio. Together, they set off to work on a new band that could offer lyrical concepts that are deep and intelligent with music that operates within the genres they excel in. And most importantly, has a great energy and impact. Together with executive producer Serafino Perugino, they handpicked each musician to be part of their vision for a strong lineup of young and hungry Swedish musicians that would be ready to go out there and kick some ass. Pontus Egberg, formerly of The Poodles and now the bass player for Treat and King Diamond, was the first one to enter the picture, followed shortly thereafter by Robban Bäck of Mustasch / Ammunition (ex-Eclipse, Sabaton). The choice of guitar player fell to the young and immensely gifted Michael Palace. Michael showed his huge talents as a writer and performer on his band Palace’s debut album and on several songs he has already written for the label.”

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Mr Big – Defying Gravity

In a day and age when the world is overpopulated by old reunited  80’s / 90’s hard rock bands, yes even bands from the grunge and nu-metal era are picking up where they left off, it’s certainly refreshing that so many of them have decided to not only trust their past glories and do the nostalgia act but also to release new music. The fact that moving forward and developing are so important to bands that they don’t care that they hardly sell any records anymore is actually pretty spectacular when you think of the fact that many of them used to sell millions back when. It’s also very refreshing that a lot of the bands are easily as good – and in some cases even better – as they were when they were fab. Stryper, Winger, Europe, Alice In Chains, Night Ranger, Soundgarden and Treat are some fine examples of bands in that category. And of course, Mr Big. Their self titled debut album from 1988 is a melodic hard rock classic today but after that one, Mr Big sure had their up and downs when it comes to the quality of the records. Albums like Bump Ahead (1993) and Hey Man (1996) didn’t set the world on fire sales wise but are underrated and contains shitloads of great songs while their second album Lean Into It (1991), that contained their biggest hit ever (“To Be With You”) was uneven. The albums Get Over It (1991) and Actual Size (2001) where Richie Kotzen had replaced Paul Gilbert were underwhelming and it was clear that Mr Big had overstayed their welcome by a few years.

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Cheap Trick – We’re All Alright

As a 12-year-old kid in 1980, I discovered Cheap Trick when I heard a friend’s big brother blast out their song “Everything Works If You Let It” from his room downstairs. From that moment on, I was hooked. The first Cheap Trick album I got was their live album  At Bodukan (1978) and let’s just say that the fan-boy in me grew to bigger proportions. When they finally re-released it on CD, as a double album this time, I was in power pop Heaven. Anyway, from that moment on I needed every Cheap Trick album released – In Color (1977), Heaven Tonight (1978) and their masterpiece Dream Police (1980) are still albums that rocks my world. Their self titled debut album from 1976 is an album I’m still not that fond of. But throughout the 80’s, Cheap Trick became mainstream and lost a lot of their personal touches and I lost interest. I have a soft spot for their 1985 album Standing On The Edge and their 1994 album Woke Up With A Monster, though.

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Mark Slaughter – Halfway There

I was seven or eight years old when I became a Kiss fan – and I never looked back ever since. No matter what musical styles I got into after that, be it punk, pop, rock or metal, Kiss were always there with me, through thick and thin. And no matter what musical styles Kiss brought with them, I always bought their albums. All of them. I loved Kiss and I still do. That also meant that I took in all former members’ solo projects. All of them too. So when guitarist Vinnie Vincent jumped the Kiss ship it was a complete no-brainer to buy the first Vinnie Vincent Invasion album more or less unheard when it came out in 1986. I loved – and still love – that album even though I always thought that singer Robert Fleischman was alway extremely annoying, especially in the higher register. So when he got the boot almost right away after the album’s release, I wasn’t that bummed. The first time I heard his replacement, Mark Slaughter, was when VVI released the second album All Systems Go (1988), another album I really dig. Slaughter’s voice wasn’t that far removed from Fleischman’s but it was way more comfortable for my ears.

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Snakecharmer – Second Skin

To most people, Whitesnake are David Coverdale’s band. Today – and for the last 30 years or so – that is obviously the case. Whitesnake are Coverdale’s solo project more than a band now. But even though David Coverdale was the mastermind behind Whitesnake and the guy who put the band together, it’s not fair to give him all the credits for the band’s early years – the band that to me is the true Whitesnake, the band that existed between 1978 – 1984. Because without taking anything from Coverdale, Whitesnake would never have been the brilliant band it was without guys like guitarists Bernie Marsden and Micky Moody. Both of them were involved in the song writing and so was, a little later, Mel Galley (RIP). Then we had bassist Neil Murray, to me the finest bass player in rock ever – his groove was pivotal to Whitesnake’s sound and the way they were swinging. Add players like drummers Ian Paice and Cozy Powell and organist Jon Lord and it’s quite easy to figure out just what a rhythmic behemoth old Whitesnake were. I am probably far from alone in wishing for a reunion between Coverdale, Marsden, Moody and Murray. Closer to a reunion than bands like The Snakes, M3 and Company Of Snakes – all featuring Moody, Marsden and Murray we will never get, I’m guessing.

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