220 Volt Band

220 VOLT – Walking In Starlight

220 Volt - Walking In StarlightReunions, reunions, reunions. If hard rock and metal are more or less musically and visually trendless in the 2000’s, then I guess that the big trend of said decade is reunions. Out of all bands in the 80’s and 90’s that I liked – and didn’t like, for that matter – I guess more or less everyone has reunited in later years. At first it was more the melodic hard rock scene that reunited every band of the scene, but later also grunge bands such as Alice In Chains and Soundgarden have reunited – and made some damn fine records. Actually, most of the bands that reunites and moves forward with new records – and not only play the nostalgia circuit – are just as great, if not even better, as they were in their hey day. Next band up: Sweden’s 220 Volt, a metal band that turned first hard rock and then melodic rock in the later part of the 80’s. The band started in 1979, their first, self-titled record came out in 1983 and they made five more records before splitting up in the early 90’s, after trying hard to break the U.S. market with the Max Norman produced and oh so damn underrated 1988 album Eye To Eye. The album is a lost gem and should anyone get the chance to purchase a copy of it, then don’t hesitate because it contains some of the finest melodic hard rock 1988 had to offer. The band actually reunited the first time back in 1997 to record the album Lethal Illusion to the few who actually give rat’s ass  – remember, 1997 was a year when grunge was dying and the even more useless nu-metal was taking over and 220 Volt were never the biggest band in the world to begin with. However, the band has been out touring on and off since then with both their classic line-up of Joakim Lundholm (lead vocals), guitarist Mats Karlsson, bass player Mike Krusenberg and drummer Peter Hermansson (who played drums on John Norum’s Total Control (1987) and Talisman’s self titled debut album from 1990). Peter Olander who replaced original guitarist Thomas Drevin in 1984 hasn’t played in the band since 1992, though and Drevin has been the only guitar player beside Karlsson since 1997. Today, however, the reunited 220 Volt are reduced to a four piece, but still with three original members – Hermansson, Karlsson  and Drevin with new singer Andy Engberg (ex – Lion’s Share). However, for old fans of the band, only Karlsson and Hermansson are seen as classic members and I guess they will have a hard time accepting the band without Lundholm and Olander in it (their original singer was named Christer Nääs was the singer between 1979 -1983 and 2002 – 2008, but it was Lundholm that sang on their 2009 live album Live In Jämtland). But let’s not judge the band by its members and let the music do all the talking instead.

The title track kicks the album into motion and it is a really good song, melodic hard rock that makes me think of Rainbow, the Down To Earth era. “Broken Promises” is a really catchy 80’s hard rocker that should work well in a live environment, “Alive” has a killer hook and lies somewhere in the middle of melodic hard rock and the heavy metal that 220 Volt used to play in the beginning of their career and they keep their early metal going with “Blind”, it really makes me think of the old 220 Volt style wise. “Stranded” shows a more AOR-ish side to the band and truth be told, this has more in common with mid eighties Europe or Treat than with 220 Volt. It’s a really good song, no matter what. With “Get Me Out” they take us back to 1988 and Eye To Eye and I can’t help but wonder if this song is a re-written left over from that album’s sessions – but again, a great song. They bring out their secret hit weapon with “The Waiting”, a 80’s melodic hard rock half ballad, that has hit written all over it, but I can’t say that it has that much to do with the 220 Volt I once knew. “Through The Wastelands” is real metal and bits of the song actually reminds me of Hammerfall, but I find more Priest or Saxon in it. This is 220 Volt to me. “Burning Heart” is a fantastic radio friendly rocker that reminds me of the band Impera – I’d go with this as a single at some point, if I were them. The album closes with the amazing ballad “Guiding Light” and if this was the 80’s when people actually bought records, this would have been a smash hit and this album would probably have shipped platinum.

I must admit that I hadn’t expected 220 Volt to come up with such a good come back album. There are no bad songs on here albeit I can find a filler or two, but most of the album is really strong and the production doesn’t leave anything to be desired. My problem with this album lies within the band’s identity, or more, the lack of it. I’m missing the metal / heavy rock that they used to play and the Judas Priest influences that they used to weave into their music in such a tasteful way are more or less gone. Thing is, I can’t really find anything on here that actually sounds like 220 Volt at all. Andy Engberg is a brilliant singer and he’s better than Joakim Lundholm ever was, but without Lundholm and the old sound, this could be an album by any melodic hard rock band out there. Even though 220 Volt went more mainstream and commercial with albums like Young And Wild and Eye To Eye, they never lost their identity, something they have done on this record. Still, this album is way too good to dismiss as a bagatelle and I don’t wanna deter anyone from purchasing this, but if someone expects the classic 220 Volt sound here, the risk of being majorly disappointed is imminent. But if you just take this album as piece of really good melodic hard rock, there are a lot of little goodies to discover here. And oh, by the way, we do not use 220 volt in Sweden anymore – since 1988, when 220 Volt realised Eye To Eye, we use 230 volt instead. Maybe 230 Volt would have been a better name now that their old metal sound isn’t preserved.

Jon Wilmenius (7/10)

Tracklist:

1. Walking in Starlight
2. System Overload
3. Broken Promises
4. Alive
5. Blind
6. Stranded
7. Get Me Out
8. The Waiting
9. Through the Wastelands
10. Burning Heart
11. Take a Good Look
12. One Good Reason
13. Guiding Light

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