VON BALTZER – Cultural Daze

Rock is dead. Nobody buys CDs anymore. Streaming is the future. If was given a nickel every time I have read or heard somebody say that I would be a rich man today. The fact that Rock music is alive and well isn’t even under discussion but if no one bought music – be it CDs, vinyls or mp3s, then how come new albums is coming out every week in an ever flowing stream? Maybe streaming is the future but people still do buy music in a physical shape. What’s more interesting is that genres like AOR, Melodic Rock, Arena/Stadium Rock, Glam and Sleaze are still breathing healthy with lots of bands bringing out music even though those genres are looked upon with both scepticism and even loathing by many “true” rockers. For me, when it comes to Rock music, I love everything from AOR to Black Metal but my heart has always been on the melodic side – Classic Rock, Hard Rock, classic Metal, AOR and Stadium Rock so every time a new record within those genres is presented to me, I digest it with big anticipation.

Von Baltzer is a Swedish/English Hard Rock band with their feet right down in AOR, Melodic Rock and Classic Rock in a fine mix. The band’s line-up features three Swedes – guitarist Christian Kjellström (Atlantis, RockXPress), bassist Erik Palmqvist (Pork from Cork Ireland, Mickey Slim Band) and drummer Magnus Jacobsson (Miss Behaviour, Claes Yngström) – and British vocalist Ian Parry (Vengeance, Emporium, Consortium Project, Elegy, Ayreon) with Per Ramsby (Foundation, Tribute) guesting on keyboards. Even though I’m not familiar with any members of the band except for Parry – who, I must admit, is someone I have listened very little to – I was very interested to hear if we might have yet another great Melodic Rock album in our hands here.

The band open the album with leading single “All Night Long” and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out why it’s the first single. It’s an uptempo, guitar driven rocker somewhere between Melodic Rock and AOR with an 80’s swing – in fact, it the tune screams 1985, without sounding dated one bit. It comes with some big melodies and a chorus that takes no prisoners. Brilliant stuff. “Better Days” also comes with a big hit-potential. It comes in mid-tempo and a really nice groove. It’s a pop-rocker with a refrain that sticks immediately – very good. “Burning Bridge” takes another turn as it leans towards Classic Rock with its thick guitar riffing, a Hammond organ and a juicy, neat rhythm. It still stands on Melodic Rock ground especially the very direct refrain, that really brings this rocker home – very good.

“Cry No More” is also in the pop-rock vein but with a clear 70’s Hard Rock influence. It’s a bit funky and holds a big organ sound – a very organic and dynamic rocker that also brings on a refrain that sticks right off the bat without being sugary at all – great! The title track is a quite punchy, fat rocker with a distinct vocal melody and sound wise, this is a meeting between the 70’s and the first half of the 80’s. A killer track that rocks with a big groove and it really brings on a big live feel – a magnificent track. And there’s more groove to come our way – “Fatal Attraction” is a Melodic Rock song that brings both Pop and Pomp Rock to the table and the groove is just addictive. The melodies – both in verse and refrain – are very memorable and the tune is another winner. “Flick Of A Switch” is on the heavier side with some big, catchy riffing and a ballsy and punchy Hard Rock rhythm. It comes in a mid pace, in-your-face and even head-bang-friendly – the most plain Hard Rock tune so far. Awesome!

“Night And Day” is a bit softer in the verses but when the refrain comes knocking, it’s with an in-your-face punch – and it’s very catchy. It’s a pretty straight-forward rocker with a groove that’s both bluesy and funky where the guitars and organ co-exists in a great way – killer tune! With the guitars at the front, a bluesy ground and heavy riffing, the fat rocker “Radio Active” swings like crazy with a big live sound and shitloads of hooks. Fan-bloody-tastic! Closing track “Stepping Stone” is also über-groovy, a 70’s meets 80’s Melodic Hard Rock track where the verses holds an early 80’s Pomp keyboard sound that changes into an organ when the refrain comes along. It also contains a kick-ass groovy bass line that increases the dynamics. A stellar tune and a great closer that makes you wanna play the record over and over again.

Without any expectations, this album really caught me off guard. The press release told me this was a Melodic Rock/AOR album – and it is – but Von Baltzer has made sure that the many stereotypes of those genres aren’t welcome and have thrown in lots of Classic Rock and Hard Rock with a chunk of both Pomp Rock and Pop which in turn has made sure that it’s quite an unpredictable record. The fact that these guys dig their 70’s as much as their 80’s is also quite obvious and that groove and dynamics are just as important as killer hook and a great chorus – very refreshing. To be honest, I wish that more bands within these genres would approach their music in a similar way. This is a stellar Rock record made by great musicians and song writers and hopefully they this record won’t disappear into oblivion like so many other records do these days. Highly recommended!

8/10

Tracklist:

1. All Night Long
2. Better Days
3. Burning Bridges
4. Cry No More
5. Cultural Daze
6. Fatal Attraction
7. Flick Of A Switch
8. Night And Day
9. Radio Active
10. Stepping Stone

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