Nalle Påhlssons Royal Mess

Nalle Påhlsson’s ROYAL MESS – Royal Mess

Royal MessSolo projects. How often do they live up to the expectations that are made up from the guy who’s going solo’s ordinary band? Think about it, does solo projects ever beat the artist’s day job? How often are the solo records any good at all? I really don’t wanna trash anybody, but let me just mention a few big names that has gone solo and then think about how many of those that has really hit home. Paul Stanley, Joe Perry, Vince Neil, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, Mick Jagger, Tommy Lee…. Yes, the list is endless. It’s not like all solo projects are stinkers, but too many of them are. But, it doesn’t matter because every time an artist that I look up to go solo, my curiosity takes the best of me. I need – and must – hear them. Then there are bands made up of old stars that want to be part of a band, but at the same time, they wanna be a solo artist or they have a record company that truly believe that said artist’s name will sell a few extra copies – Randy Piper’s Animal. Åge-Sten Nilsen’s Ammunition. Both are awesome, but I have issues with those “band-names”. Just Animal and Ammunition sounds way better. Hell, I didn’t even like it when Rainbow and Whitesnake records came out as Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and David Coverdale’s Whitenake. It’s the same with this project. I think Royal Mess is a killer name – just Royal Mess. But since this isn’t a real band (at least not yet), I can dig that Nalle Påhlsson wanted people to know that this was his record – a solo record with a band name. In this case, it’s not like Nalle’s name will make this record go platinum. Even though it should do that. I wonder how many people outside of Sweden even know who Nalle is – which is a cruel reality and very unfair because judging by the qualities as a musician, the whole world should know of him. Nalle is a bass player – a world-class one – that is mostly known for his job is melodic rockers Treat and AOR band Last Autumn’s Dream, but has also worked with Chris Laney, Zan Clan and Randy Piper’s Animal. But if you’re a metal head, you might know him more as the bass player for Therion since 2008. Therion is really big in Central and South America so I’m sure lots of people know of him there. But if you’re an old fart from Sweden like me, you’ll probably know him as a studio and touring musician who has played with everyone who is someone in the Swedish pop and rock world – everyone! Now, projects like this are mostly made by singers and guitar players, not by a bass player or a drummer. How many of us didn’t look like question marks when it stood clear that AC/DC-drummer Phil Rudd was about to release an album? But knowing Nalle’s taste in music and the motley crew of killer musicians that he has teamed up with here, I really had no doubts that this record wouldn’t be a stinker even though I really have no clue how Nalleis as a song writer. Nalle’s influences are bands such as Kiss, Sweet, AC/DC (he did play the part of rhythm guitarist Nalcolm in Swedish tribute band AB/CD) and Deep Purple, plus the guy is too much a professional to put out a half-assed record. So my curiosity took the best of me once more. I HAD to hear this.

“Aces High” open the record and it really sets the standard for the rest of the album. A kick-ass melodic hard rocker with its roots in the late 80’s / early 90’s. It’s a rough rocker with melodies catchier than the crabs. Nalle impresses me with an awesome voice and I wonder why on Earth, Nalle hasn’t taken on lead vocal duties before this – the guy is a great singer! “Hell City” is next and the lyrics here are really not up to anyone’s imagination. Some girl has roughed Nalle up bad and in this song she pays the price.The musical style is melodic hard rock, 80’s style but with a rougher 70’s vibe. Do I need to point out that it is an angry tune as well? Well, it is. The guitar solo from former Therion guitarist Kristian Niemann is great – Kee Marcello influences are all over it, a great thing indeed. “Mr Freedom” is a brilliant tune with influences from the early melodic hard rock 90’s and groovy beat. It reminds me somewhat of “I Dunno” from Chris Laney’s album Pure (2009), a song that Nalle co-wrote. Love Magnusson (Dynazty) and Pontus Norgren (Hammerfall, ex-Poodles, Great King Rat) takes turns on the guitar solos. Both are fantastic guitar players. The evil woman of Nalle’s nightmares get another kick in the butt in the song “Gold Digger”, a raw, kick-ass hard rock tune with a killer melody and an unbelievable catchy chorus. The uptempo and aggressive backbone of the song will make this a live-killer as well. Micke Hujanen’s (Bengus in AB/CD) guitar solo is really raw and down to earth – great. “Breakout” borders to heavy metal, the more melodic kind and the tune is very in-your-face and direct. This must be the opening track if Royal Mess will ever play live. The solo signed Kee Marcello is insane – he’s such an amazing player. “Higher Than Seventh Heaven” is ridiculously catchy, an uptempo rocker with a brilliant groove – I’m getting a Van Halen, the Hagar era, vibe from this – love it! Skintrade’s Stefan Bergström plays some killer guitar as well. “The Pieces Of My Heart” is a ballad, the title kind of gives that away and it is one of those powerful ballads that would probably had been a bucket full of cheese if written by Bon Jovi or Scorpions, but Royal Mess nails it rough. That said, had this song been released in 1991, this album would already been shipped platinum. “Too Hell And Back” – about Nalle’s problems with the demon alcohol, I guess – is, of course, no softie. No, it’s a blistering melodic hard rocker that goes right for the throat with a melody to die for. The guitar solo from Vindictiv’s (another project Nalle is involved in) Stefan Lundholm is a brilliant as the song. Nalle also share lead vocal duties with one Zinny Zan (Easy Action, Shotgun Messiah, Zan Clan) and there aren’t many singers with more attitude than Mr Zan. “Trip” has one of the most striking choruses I have heard in a long, long time. The whole song – from beginning to end – is so catchy, but still rough and rocking. To me this is a hit! There’s also a killer Jon Lord-like organ solo from Max Lorentz. The Poodles’ Henrik Bergquist’s guitar solo is also really good. “From Rise To Fall” just screams 1990 and with a groove and a chorus like this, this tune would have been all over MTV back when. This must be a single – I’m humming it several hours after I heard it the first time. “Loaded Gun” could have run the risk of being a total cliché as the title has been used to death and lyrically, this is down, dirty and rated X. But it is no cliché, it’s just a sleazy with plenty of attitude. The riff reminds me of Kiss’ “I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)” which is kinda’ ironic when I think about Nalle’s dislike for 80’s Kiss. Christian Vidal’s (Therion) guitar solo is killer. The ballad “See You In My Dreams” is a total hit! Yes, it’s a ballad, yes, it’s awesome and no, it’s not cheesy, pink and fluffy. It’s an emotional rock ballad that reminds me a bit of Giant, if you remember them. To finish the record, this royal mess give us “Get Ready”, a brilliant  80’s sounding hard rocker that reminds me of late 80’s Whitesnake. Too bad it’s on the album only as a bonus track – it’s way too good for that.

I was never worried that this record wouldn’t be good, so that is no surprise, but what surprised me is just how fucking (pardon my French) brilliant this album is. Every damn song here has completely floored me and I can’t single out one track that I like the best or the least. Well, I don’t like any song the least. I’m also surprised of just how good a singer Nalle is – and as a songwriter – he has co-written every single song on this album. There is also an impressive bunch of musicians that performs on this record. Nalle plays the bass, all the rhythm guitars and sings on every track, but apart from the already mentioned guitar players, there’s a whole bunch of interesting names here. How about drummers Ian Haugland (Europe), Jamie Borger (Treat) and Johan Koleberg (Therion), the last performance from Yngwie Malmsteen keyboard player Mats Olausson (RIP) and backing vocals from Mats Levén (Candlemass), Linnea Vikström (Therion, Kamelot), Snowy Shaw (Therion) and Mikael Erlandsson (Last Autumn’s Dream). It’s just amazing how many fantastic musicians Sweden has – I’m really, reallly proud of that. But the coolest thing is that even though this is very much a solo album, the whole thing has a big band feel – this sounds like a band and it bloody well should be one. The production is killer and Chris Laney’s mix is just stunning – this is a text-book example of how a melodic rock album should sound. I’m sure Nalle will get a lot more respect as a musician and song writer and that he his lots and lots more than “just the bass player”, albeit a damn good one, after this release. This is the deal, folks, melodic hard rock doesn’t get much better than this. Please make a real band out of this!

9/10

Tracklist:

1. Aces High
2. Hell City
3. Mr Freedom
4. Gold Digger
5. Breakout
6. Higher Than Seventh Heaven
7. The Pieces Of My Heart
8. To Hell And Back
9. Trip 3:28
10. From Rise To Fall
11. Loaded Gun
12. See You In My Dreams
13. Get Ready (Bonus Track)