Nubian Rose is a brand new project / band based around lead singer Sofia Lilja, a vocal coach who is mostly known for her work with the participants of Swedish Idol. Apparently, Lilja has always been a fan of the melodic rock of the eighties and decided to do something about her obsession about it. The band members she has gathered up for the job are somewhat anonymous, though. Good players, no doubt, but none of the player’s names ring any bells. Which is kind of unusual when it comes to projects in this genre. On the surface this band with the gorgeous and very talented Lilja at the front, seems like a winning formula. At first listen, I certainly got the impression that this project could go far. But the more I listened, the more sceptical I got. There is certainly nothing wrong with Sofia’s voice, she’s a great singer, but unfortunately the vocal coach shines through too often. At times, it actually gets hard to listen to her as you get the impression that you are having a vocal lesson, and that makes me a bit uneasy. I’d like her more relaxed and I’d like her to use her heart more than her head, and more dirty as well. Sounds harsh, maybe, but I still need to state that I think she’s a great singer.
In the song department, it’s a little bit up and down there as well. There are definitely a bunch of very good songs on here. For example the opening track “Ever See Your Face”. The chorus is striking and it sticks instantly. Should be released as a single. Mats Levén (Therion, Yngwie Malmsteen, Treat, Swedish Erotica) lends a hand with some back up vocals here and his voice almost takes over. I’m wondering why his voice is so high in the mix, but it obviously sounds good. The title track is also very good and reminds me of Rainbow in the seventies, “Living For Tomorrow” is a great melodic rock song with a big hit feel. It also features a guitar solo from former Europe guitarist Kee Marcello. “How Am I” is a very good power ballad with hit potential and “Your Love” is 80’s melodic rock and very catchy. Sadly enough, that’s about it. Ok, so they made a pretty cool cover of Ozzy Osbourne and Lita Ford’s duet “Close My Eyes Forever” where Sofia duets with Mats Levén, but I’ll take the original over it 24/7 even though the Lilja / Levén team does a very good job here. But the rest of the album goes nowhere. Fillers like the cliché “Get Ready” and the mediocre “Sisters”, a raunchy rocker, mingles with songs that are just plain dull.
Also, the production is a bit of a mystery as is the mixing. It’s been handled by Tobias Lindell (Europe, H.E.A.T., Mustasch, Hardcore Superstar) who usually is a name that stands for quality. But the sound on this album is a mess, it sprawls in every direction imaginable and you get the impression that all the people involved don’t really know which way to go or how they want it to sound. Confusing, to say the least! I also would have liked more heaviness on both drums and guitars and the whole thing should have been more in your face. But it’s nice to hear that there is potential here.
Maybe these things are new beginners slip ups that will stand corrected on their next album, when the band has gotten a bit tighter as a unit. There is no reason to write them off just after this album, it’s too good for that, and it is good enough to make me curious of what will happen to them and how they will sound in the future to come.
Jon Wilmenius (6/10)
1. Ever See Your Face
3. Living For Tomorrow
4. How Am I
5. Get Ready
6. Your Love
7. Once Bitten
9. Close My Eyes Forever