LEVERAGE – DeterminUs

I knew I had seen the name Leverage somewhere, but I couldn’t put my finger on where. Some digging at home put an answer to that question. I found a burnt copy of one of their early albums, Tides from 2006. I can’t remember who gave it to me or why and I can’t remember what they sounded like but I have a faint memory of liking the CD at the time. However, that album obviously didn’t make a lasting impression on me as I don’t recall much of it. Again, I’m not sure why my memory serves me that way. What I do know now is that Leverage hails from Helsinki, Finland, that they took their first steps back in 2002, that their debut came out in 2006 and that they, according to Wikipedia, plays a mix of melodic Hard Rock and 80’s Metal with symphonic strains and that they has released four albums, including their brand new one – the last of which came out 10 years ago.

But things happens in 10 years and there have been line-up changes within the band. Lead singer Pekka Heino and guitarist Torsti Spoof has left the band and have been replaced by Kimmo Blom (vocals) and Mikko Salavaara who joins original members Toumas Heikkinen (guitars), Sami Norrbacka (bass), Valtteri Revonkorpi (drums) and Marko Niskala (keyboards). If those changes have resulted in a change of sound and/or song-writing quality, I can’t say because, you know, I really don’t remember. So this reunion between me and Leverage will bring to light if I was wrong to let them go all those years ago.

Opener “Burn Love Burn” is slightly progressive with a Hard Rock swagger and a twist of Metal as well. Some acoustic guitars starts the tune before the song goes into heavier territories. A slower and dark yet heavy passage that holds an ominous keyboard sound comes in as well, a break that makes the track more dynamic. With a big sound-scape and memorable melodies with lots of hooks makes the tune a winner – very good. Leading single “Wind Of Morrigan” is a mid-paced and a bit soft-ish tune that also brings on some mediaeval, almost Blackmore Night-ish acoustic guitar arrangements with some Celtic twists. With a pumping rhythm and a huge chorus that’s catchy as hell – without being radio flirtatious – this track is a real killer. With some razor-sharp Metal riffing, a thunderous rhythm section and quite headbang-friendly, “Tiger” takes a whole other turn. With more grunty vocals and a distinct, fat 80’s melodic Metal refrain, the song’s turn is a bit of a surprise but works up the dynamics. Good one.

“Red Moon Over Sonora” comes across as an atmospheric and laid-back ballad with some quite eerie sounding verses. But the tune gets heavier and more bombastic still with the dark feel all over the track. The main melody is very memorable and the chorus catches on pretty much right away. It’s a mesmerizing and unpredictable tune – great stuff. “Mephistocrate” is an upbeat, straight-forward Hard Rock meets Metal track that reminds me somewhat of modern day Accept. It holds a pretty hot guitar solo but the refrain is pretty standard. It’s an ok tune but it don’t stand out. “Afterworld’s Disciple” is a metal-fueled hard rocker, straight-forward and in-your-face. But it also contains some orchestrated synths and a middle-section that mixes heavy, doomy guitars with acoustic, softer guitars which adds to the dynamics. As the icing on the cake we get a spot-on refrain that hits where it should. Very good.

“When We Were Young” is a laid-back ballad on the softer side, full of melancholy and darkness. The tune heavies up and brings on a steady rhythm but it never reaches full-on Metal by any means. It holds a big main-melody and a massive chorus that gets stuck in the brain pretty much right from go. An awesome song that to me is single-material. “Heaven’s No Place For Us” comes in mid-tempo with a slightly progressive touch and a Hard Rock swagger that reminds me some of 70’s Rainbow. The song’s main melody sends a nod towards Melodic Rock that takes us to a Pop-laden refrain with hooks, hooks and more hooks – very good.

Straight-forward and with a gritty Metal edge, “Hand Of God” also brings on Thin Lizzy vibes here and there throughout the song. The tune holds a faster pace and an upfront, driving beat but they also bring in a Spanish guitar complete with appurtenant hand-claps in a passage which breaks off the Metal and gives the tune a different vibe – and the song is bettered by it. A distinct refrain brings the tune home. Good one. “Rollerball” starts off with a rhythm reminiscent of Deep Purple’s “Perfect Strangers”, punchy and quite tough but then the song turns into more of a heavy Melodic Rock track with an instant refrain and a big keyboard arrangement. An atmospheric and laid-back middle-break lets the song breathe for a while until it kicks off into action again. Good one. The album closes with “Troy”, an uptempo melodic Metal tune that starts out soft and ballad-like. It’s a straight-forward song but it holds a pompous arrangement and a punchy groove. A great main-melody and a hooky chorus makes sure the tune is a winner.

For me, this album is a grower – I liked it right away but it didn’t really stick until after a few spins. Musically, Leverage lands somewhere between Hard Rock and Metal with influences from Melodic Rock, symphonic arrangements, Classic Rock and even Pop at times. Sonically, the guys have managed to make an album that sounds really good both in the stereo at home and through my phone so kudos to that. All in all, I’d say that Leverage has made a damn good come-back that I recommend to pretty much any rocker out there. For me personally, I guess it’s time I check out Tides again. This band is too good to ignore!

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Burn Love Burn
2. Wind Of Morrigan
3. Tiger
4. Red Moon Over Sonora
5. Mephistocrate
6. Afterworld’s Disciple
7. When We Were Young
8. Heaven’s No Place For Us
9. Hand Of God
10. Rollerball
11. Troy

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