Norcid Union

NORDIC UNION – Nordic Union

NORDIC UNIONOn paper, the alliance between guitarist / singer / song writer Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T., Age-Sten Nilsen’s Ammunition) and lead singer / song writer Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids, Avantasia) looked like a match made in heaven. I mean, how could this project possibly go wrong? With Erik who more and more comes across like Desmond Child, Holly Knight, Jim Vallance and Diane Warren in one person, a true genius of melodies who just can’t do no wrong as a song writer these days and Atkins who comes from a band that has been together since 1983, released no less than 12 studio albums, one mini-album and two compilation records with new songs on them, without even one of them being bad – the fact is, Pretty Maids have hardly even written a bad song in their entire career – this project stands out as one of the projects I have looked forward to most of all – ever! Now, Frontiers Records, who is responsible for this union, clearly have a thing for these all-star projects but to be honest, not all of them are all that great. Also, there is a limit for just how many of these things a rock fan can swallow. Still, with projects such as Revolution Saints, Place Vendome and First Signal all being brilliant, there is always room if you can get the right names to join in and this one is, at least for me, probably Frontiers’ most exciting all-star duo to date. So, this album is one that I have been longing for and the snippets of songs that have been lying around on the net has been promising greatness, but it has to be said, snippets are just snippets and those can fool you. I have been listening to snippets of songs and getting my hopes up only to be taken down to Earth really quick. However, I really doubt that this will the case here.

First tune out is “The War Has Begun” and I instantly recognize the Eclipse-like riffing. But the melodies has a lot of Pretty Maids’ more melodic times over them and I guess Mårtensson really have written this with Atkins in mind. The fantastic chorus sounds like something Swedish melodic rockers Treat could have ended up with on their amazing reunion album Coup De Grace (2010). After that song I just knew that this album wouldn’t disappoint me. “Hypocrisy” tells me the same thing. It’s a brilliant melodic rocker that could have been one of Pretty Maids more melodic and poppy numbers and the melodies – both verses and refrain – are so catchy it’s ridiculous. “Wide Awake” is killer track number three. This brilliant melodic rocker tells us just how Eclipse would have sounded with Ronnie Atkins as a vocalist. “Every Heartbeat” just might be the power ballad of all power ballads. I’m exaggerating, of course, but this pearl of a ballad just floored me completely. This is a monster hit in a perfect world! If I didn’t know better I would have thought that  “When Death Is Calling”, that moves in a heavier direction, was signed Hammer / Atkins because this could might as well be a left over from one of Pretty Maids’ latest albums – and by that, we all know that the song is amazing. Heavy rocker “21 Guns” comes across as not as strong as the rest at first, but grows like crazy while listening and by the end of the song it has turned just as damn great as the rest of the tunes – impressing! “Falling” is a real gem, a melodic rocker with big AOR vibes and again, Treat comes to mind, this time the mid late 80’s version of that band. “The Other Side”, on the other hand, is more of a rock ‘n’ roll rumbler – fast, in-your-face and ass-kicking – all with the brilliant melodic minds from Mårtensson and Atkins. Erik Mårtensson just have to be a big Pretty Maids fan because he knows exactly how to write a Pretty Maids-song. Like “Point Of No Return”. That magnificent rocker is total Pretty Maids and it sounds tailor-made for Atkins – hard and fast, but still crazy melodic. “True Love Awaits You” is ballad number two and it is a mesmerizing one. With a big Def Leppard vibe and a melody catchy as can be, it is a hit to be – at least if there is some fairness in the world. Hit or no hit, it’s still a fantastic tune. They album ends with “Go”, a kick-ass rocker so contiguously catchy it’s lethal. The tune really knocked me for six and made me play the album all over again on the spot.

I’m gonna answer my own question from above right away. How could this possibly go wrong? Of course, it couldn’t. Impossible! This is a stunning album. The quality of the songs is sky-high, to put it mildly. It’s only January and the Album Of The Year might just be here. Every song is a killer. Every song is a winner. Every song is a hit – or at least should be. Of all the projects that Frontiers have put together, this is by far the best one and Erik Mårtensson is nothing but a song writing genius. In Ronnie Atkins, he have a force of power voice that in his fifties sings just as amazingly good as he ever have. The music here can easiest be described as melodic hard rock with some AOR undertones, but it never gives in on edge, attitude or heaviness – in short, this rocks. I can honestly say that it would blow my mind – in the wrong way – if any melodic rock fan would be disappointed in this. If you’re a fan of melodic hard rock and don’t get a copy of this record, you have to be insane. It’s really that good. And guys, please make this a real band. A band that tours and stuff.

10/10

Tracklist:

1. The War Has Begun
2. Hypocrisy
3. Wide Awake
4. Every Heartbeat
5. When Death Is Calling
6. 21 Guns
7. Falling
8. The Other Side
9. Point Of No Return
10. True Love Awaits You
11. Go