Back in 2015, when Reach – guitarist Ludvig Turner, drummer Marcus Johansson, bassist David Jones and singer Alex Waghorn – released their debut album Reach Out To Rock, I gave it a pretty raving review. I remember it as if it was yesterday because I really liked what I heard. Sure, there were minor setbacks to the album. Alex Waghorn didn’t hold the strongest of voices and the band sounded a bit rusty and rookie-like but the production and the songs really shook me. This was an AOR band that should go really far, I thought. Fast forward to 2018 and the times I have been listening to Reach’s debut album since it came out can probably be counted on one hand. Fact is, the last time I listened to it, like a year or so ago, it hadn’t aged that well on me. Not that I thought it had turned from gold to a turd but when I read back my own review I can’t really grasp all the superlatives that I threw around back then. I still think it’s a decent album but the 8/10 I gave it is two or three points too many, at least that’s my opinion today.
We write 2018 in our calendars and Reach is a completely new band. Gone is bass player Jones and singer Waghorn and the band has been reduced to a trio where Turner have taken over the part as a lead singer as well as being the band’s sole guitar player. New In the band is bass player Soufian Ma’Aoui (Adrenaline Rush, Houston) and for this album the guys have worked with the production / engineering team of Tobias Lindell (H.E.A.T., Europe, Hardcore Superstar) and Jona Tee, the keyboardsman of H.E.A.T. Tee has also been responsible for the two latest, brilliant albums by Martina Edoff as both song writer and producer. Style wise, the band says that they have left behind the most obvious AOR vibes of the debut and went for a more rocking and rougher sound.
If you have the debut album in mind, then opener “Into Tomorrow” is quite a shocker. It starts out on the softer side with some Spanish style guitars but soon roughs up and hits us with some massive heavy riffing and thunderous drums that almost brings on a Heavy Metal feel. The verses are in a faster pace with chugging guitars and a heavy rhythm while the chorus slows things down with a distinct and memorable – yet not very hit-laden – catchiness. A brilliant tune and quite an eye-opener. The title track and first single follows and the tune is heavy and ballsy with a very hit provoking and sing-along-ish “whoa whoa” refrain that really sticks. It’s not cheesy in a, let’s say, “Livin’ On A Prayer” kind of way, I find it more ‘hitty’ in a rocking kind of way. Great tune! “Live Or Die” sports a verse that’s floating and dreamy but still heavy and I’m getting a big Muse feel here, a contrast to the more melodic Hard Rock vibe of the refrain which is damn catchy and feels like a hit right away. Thumbs up!
“Nightmare” is another one of those unexpected tunes, style wise. It’s slow, dark and heavy which makes it border to Metal and the Muse (I wonder if the guys have been in a Muse haze of lately) influence lingers still here but I can also draw lines towards both Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper. On top of that they have also managed to bring on a really catchy, although not in a hit friendly way, refrain that makes the tune for a very interesting listen. How awesome! “Off The Edge” is an upbeat pop song in a heavy Rock disguise with an in-your-face attitude and chorus that brings along hook after hook which makes it stick right off the bat. Should be a future single. Brilliant. “One Life” is a softer kind of pop song with a somewhat British sound. The distinct bass line, the keyboard sound and the picking guitar gives the tune a slight U2 vibe. It’s a calm tune but very catchy and very direct and I liked it right from go.
Second single “Running On Empty” is pretty rough and kicking with verses that reminds me some of Billy Idol and I also hear a Foo Fighters influence throughout the song. It’s very catchy and it comes with tons of hit potential but for some reason it doesn’t speak to me at all. I guess this kind of rock is just not my thing. Not bad but not my bag of crisps either. “Shame” is another slower track that comes with a darker mood but it also brings a fine groove where, again, Muse comes sniffing around the door. The keyboards bring on an atmosphere and the chorus is grand with a direct melody – very good. “You Say” is fast, aggressive and hard where melodic Hard Rock meets Metal but also some really cool Blues licks. A direct, distinct and raunchy rocker. The closing ballad “River Deep” is slow and laid-back with a bluesy feel. It’s on the dreamy and even trippy side but it also brings a gorgeous melody. The chorus heavies things up and the big contrast really brings out the dynamics. A fantastic song and a great closer.
Ludvig Turner said that because of the musical progression and the, in many ways, change of style a change of the band’s name was discussed and I’m not sure that it was such a good idea not to do so. Because Reach of 2018 is an entirely new band. Only two original members remains and the music on this record is a pretty far cry from the debut. And not only that, as musicians they are tighter, more experienced and doesn’t sound as rookie-like as they did at many times three years ago. The name could very well scare people who didn’t like the debut off, which would be a shame when the guys have released such a great album like this. Sure, it’s still melodic Hard Rock as the base but the influences are more and wider outside the Melodic Rock box – this is more Muse and Hard Rock than say, Bon Jovi. Even progressive at times.
The whole production is also heavier, more dynamic and tougher. To make Turner the lead singer is also a good move as he is superior to Waghorn both in range and attitude. All this suits Reach well and hopefully people will give this record a shot with an open mind. It feels weird to say that this album is superior to the debut when the rating is exactly the same but this album is very close to a nine and as I stated above, the eight I gave the debut is today more a five or a six, tops. No matter what you think of the album, I’m sure it will surprise everyone who decides to give it a shot. Reach is dead – long live Reach!
More Reach reviews:
1. Into Tomorrow
2. The Great Divine
3. Live Or Die
5. Off The Edge
6. One Life
7. Running On Empty
9. You Say
10. River Deep