LANEY’S LEGION – Laney’s Legion

LANEY'S LEGION COVERApril 22. Remember that date. Because that’s the date when – if you’re a fan of melodic hard rock – you’ll be running out or logging on to your favourite record website (or iTunes if you like to pay for lame mp3’s) and buy the debut album from Sweden’s Laney’s Legion. But ok, I’m ahead of myself here. My calendar says April 2014, but when I look back on all the albums I have reviewed so far this year, it could might as well have said October 2014, because I can’t remember when a year had started out so brilliant musically. I have already handed out one 10/10 review, but I know there’ll be a couple more before the end of this month and shitloads of 9’s and 8’s and normally that would take me all the way in to October to do so. I only handed out one 10/10 review (Dreams In The Witch House) last year. But apparently things aren’t slowing down one bit when it comes to high quality records. Why am I going on about this then? Well because when Chris Laney makes a come back with his new band Laney’s Legion’s self titled debut, it’s a damn good chance he has given us the Album Of The Year. In April! Laney’s Legion got started in the back water of Laney’s solo career, he released two great albums, Pure (2009) and Only Come Out At Night (2010).  It was on the tour with the latter album that the thoughts of making a full-time band of his backing band took place. The guys – Mats Vassfjord (Impera, Grand Design) on bass, Patrik Jansson (Hellsingland Underground, Patrik Jansson Band) on drums and John Berg (ex-Dynazty) on lead guitar – had become a real tight unit and Laney felt that this felt more like band than a solo career. Said and done, in 2011 the band started to write and record songs for their debut album with co-producer and co-song writer Anders Ringman at hand. But it was soon clear that John Berg’s heart wasn’t in it anymore and both parties decided to part ways as friends. Musical differences and the fact that Berg was much younger than the rest of the band were noted as the reasons for the split. Look out for a more metal influenced project from Berg in the future. This meant that the hiring of a new lead guitarist was in order. Enter: Rob Marcello.

Rob Marcello is a Stateside living Swede who has played both with Ron Keel and most recently with Danger Danger and is a real guitar hero, the way they were made back when it was important for musicians to be able to play their instruments. Marcello and Laney had been friends for years and Marcello dug Laney’s new material and wanted in just as bad as the rest of the Legion wanted him in. And it was this unit that finally recorded the album – an album that’s been a long time coming. Listening to this album, it almost sounds like a joke that the band got turned down from label after label, one of the bigger ones with the notion that the music was “too modern”. Come on already! Sure, the songs aren’t the jukebox of Laney’s record collection that were his solo albums and you’ll find a broader set of influences on this album, but too modern? No way. Like opener “On And On”. It has a riff that brings your mind to punk rock, but I can also hear Shotgun Messiah in here and the song contains a Def Leppard sounding break. But does that punk riff make the song too modern? Nope, it brings another dimension to the guys’ influences and that’s what characterize the record. The song has a melody that won’t leave your mind and I’d vote for this to be the live opener as well. First single “Taste Of Your Tongue” has verses that gives Nickelback a run for their money and yes, I know it’s common practice to hate Nickelback so not to deter anyone I have to state that it doesn’t sound like Nickelback, just an influence and the chorus is just so catchy it’s ridiculous – what a brilliant tune. Second single “Poptastic” sticks out of this album like a sore thumb. It’s a great pop song that is so cheesy that it really takes all the cheesiness away. I’m sure metal purists will slaughter this one, but if you’re not pretentious, you’ll just chill and love the song. What does “Poptastic” mean? Well, that no matter how great a rock or metal band might be, they would be nothing at all without a little bit of pop. Ain’t that the truth. If our calendar said 1988, that song would be a smash hit. It also really should be one in 2014. I’m gonna make that my hit of summer 2014 anyway. “Beneath The Surface” has this heavy and groovy riff that brings Def Leppard’s Slang era to mind at times, still with more hooks than a fishing store. I’d consider this a single as well.

Of course, no melodic hard rock album is complete without a ballad, but on many albums it feels like the ballad is written just for the sake of having a ballad on there. But that’s not how this bunch does it. “Bleed Within” is more of an uptempo ballad than a power one and a ballad doesn’t get any better than this. The refrain is just awesome and it sticks in your mind like super glue. There’s also a nice little country guitar put in there for good measure. If “Poptastic” doesn’t become a hit, then “Bleed Within” should. In a fair world, both of them should be huge. “Let’s Get It On” is rhythmic, catchy, rocking and everything you’d want from a melodic rock song. I’d say this is a hit as well. With “Hollow” the Legion goes down a more metal route. To my ears it sounds like a mix of Second Coming era Shotgun Messiah, Laney’s former band Randy Piper’s Animal with a bit of Laney’s solo stuff thrown in – awesome! The Nickelback influence comes back in with “Lady Luck”, but I also hear a bit of Hinder in there, the way they sounded on their brilliant 2008 album Take It To The Limit, all with Laney’s characteristic melodies all over it. The only song on this album that really sounds like Chris Laney’s solo albums is “Assassin Of Our Love”, a brilliant pop song that has a contagious melody. “No One Can Stop Us” is a brilliant hard rock tune, but with some darker undertones here and there which makes for a more unpredictable experience. The song “Legion” must be seen as this album’s title track and is the last one on here. A smart move as with that song, the album leaves us in a rocking mood. The song is the heaviest on the album and if “On And On” isn’t the show opener then I’d go with this one. Also, by ending the album with a possible show opener, it makes you want to go back and play the album again and again.

When you name check every damn song on an album and you don’t have a bad thing to say about one of them, someone has been doing something damn bloody right. The production by Laney and RingMan (Anders Ringman) is close to perfect for music like this. It’s a big, fat sound, commercial, but still rough around the edges with a clear and shining wall of sound, in your face but not sterile. The album is dedicated to Mutt Lange (Def Leppard, AC/DC, Bryan Adams, Nickelback) and I can see why, but where Lange’s productions can sometimes feel a bit too much “studio”, this production feels more alive and kicking. The musicians on here also needs to be mentioned. Patrik Jansson is one of those more rhythmic drummers that leans on groove more than anything else which gives this kind of music a nice twist. He and Vassfjord is a really tight foundation aand the backbone on this album. Marcello is just plain fantastic. Even tough I have know of him before I haven’t really heard him play before. If you’re into technical and emotional players, then get ready get blown away. This album rocks. This is energetic, melodic, catchy, groovy, positive rock and roll that is here to make you smile, to make you go for another beer, to have fun with and the truth is, this is the best melodic hard rock albums I have heard in a long, long time. Of course there are always some negative things with every album and on this one I have found two: 1) I didn’t write these songs, 2) I can only give this 10 points. Album Of The Year! April 22. Get it!

Jon Wilmenius (10/10)

Tracklist:

1. On And On
2. Taste Of Your Tongue
3. Poptastic
4. Beneath The Surface
5. Bleed Within
6. Let’s Get It On
7. Hollow
8. Lady Luck
9. Assassin Of Our Love
10. No One Can Stop Us
11. Legion

 

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