TREAT – Ghost Of Graceland

TREATGHOSTI remember sometime in the early – mid 90’s, if you went public with being a Treat fan then trendy rockers looked at you like you were some kind of an idiot. I mean, back then even a band like Europe were looked upon as some kind of musical pariah so just think what people thought of Treat. But I have never been ashamed of the music I like and I just don’t give a shit about whats hip and what’s not. I have on many occasions told people that Anders Wikström have more talent in his pinky finger nail than all of the grunge or nu-metal musicians combined. When Treat started back in 1985 they were looked upon as the new Swedish hard rock hope, second to Europe. Their debut album Scratch And Bite – with members Wikström on guitars and keyboards, singer Robert Ernlund, guitarist Leif Liljegren, bassist Ken Siewertsson and drummer Mats “Dalton” Dahlberg – spawned two huge hits in Sweden in the uptempo half-ballad “Get You On The Run” and the power ballad “We Are One” and quickly became a really sought after live act. Their second record The Pleasure Principle (1986) – with new drummer Leif Sundin who replaced Dahlberg who had left to start his own band Dalton – didn’t bring out any big hits but was a success anyway, a kind of unusual thing back in the 80’s. But it was with their 1987 album Dreamhunter (that album NEEDS a re-mix, re-master or better yet, a re-recording – great songs, lousy sound) and again a new drummer in Jamie Borger (ex- Six Feet Under) that the hunt for world-wide success began. That didn’t work out exactly like they had planned which led to the departure of Siewertsson and Liljegren who were replaced by bassist Joe Larson and keyboard player Patrick Appelgren (whose big brother Mikael is a famous table tennis champion) and they released their masterpiece Organized Crime (1989), an album by many considered their finest hour. In a perfect world, that album should have made them huge but  unfortunately that didn’t work either and Ernlund jumped the ship. They replaced him with ex – Swedish Erotica singer Mats Levén (later in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band, Therion, Krux and today he fronts Candlemass) and they released a self-titled, more rough album in 1992, a criminally underrated record), but the times had changed, the album bombed and Treat split up. Wikström joined Swedish grunge heroes Mental Hippie Blood and Borger joined Talisman and Treat were no more.

Fast forward to 2005 and it was time to celebrate that it was 20 years since Treat first started. A compilation album with two new songs – Weapon Of Choice – sold so well, better than anyone would have expected, Treat decided to reunite the Organized Crime line-up but with Nalley Påhlsson (Therion, Last Autumn’s Dream, Martina Edoff, Royal Mess) on bass. Still, a new album wasn’t in the works at all and the reunion was more just to play the occasional gig and festival here and there but after a few years there was no turning back. The reunion was a total success and a new record was the only way to go and in 2010 the result of some major song writing and hard studio work was ready. To state that the album – Coup De Grace – was a success, both quality and sales wise is probably the understatement of the year. It was a long time since I heard so many people talking about brilliance and masterpiece and whatnot about an album the way people talked about Treat’s first studio release in 18 years and the thing is, that album deserves every ounce of praise it got and Treat went from an almost laughing-stock to a well-respected force and all of a sudden, there was nothing wrong at all with being a Treat-fan. However, that album was supposed to be their swan song and the tour that followed was supposed to be their last – from now on, only occasional gigs would be played by the band. Påhlsson even left the band because of other commitments and was replaced by Wikström’s song writer colleague Fredrik Thomander for the rest of the gigs. But somewhere along the road, mind’s were changed, songs were being written and lo and behold, a new Treat record was in the works, now with ex- Poodles bass player Pontus Egberg (also in King Diamond) in the band, a very good choice. And expectations are, of course, sky-high – and then some.

The title track, which is also the opening track, was a pre-taster of what to come and the expectations didn’t exactly got lower after we got to hear that one. With a heavy and somewhat Led Zeppelin influenced riff and an intoxicating melody and a chorus catchy as hell, the song deserves to be the hit of a lifetime – to call it awesome would be to put it mildly. There is an obvious auto-tune on Ernlund’s voice, but nothing that annoys at all and the “whoa, whoho, whoho” in the chorus makes me think of John Farnham’s old hit “You’re The voice”. That don’t bother me either. “I Don’t Miss The Misery” keeps the awesomeness going. It’s a heavy tune with the finest of melodies and the almost metal arrangements of the verses brings a really cool contrast to the very pop chorus. “Better The Devil You Know” takes Treat a trip back to the 70’s, a time Treat usually don’t visit and Rainbow comes to mind. Think Rainbow’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll with a classic Treat chorus – no risk in failing with that, huh? Brilliant! “Do Your Own Stunts” is a pop song on the softer side, almost a ballad with a huge hit feel. I have always thought that ballads are Treat’s Achilles heel, their weakest side, but this one is just bloody damn brilliant. Also, Appelgren’s big keyboard arrangements are amazing. “Endangered” starts off with a raw and real hard rock sound, but the song turns into a more rocking pop metal tune and is so catchy it hurts – a future Treat classic, maybe? “Inferno” is really a pop song with a hard rock arrangement. It has a late 80’s Whitesnake style riff and very memorable melodies. If they decided to remove the rock and give it away to any mainstream pop act, this would all over radio everywhere. As a Treat song it’s a winner and it sticks like glue. “Alien Earthlings” is brilliant, a heavy pop rocker with a dramatic and atmospheric arrangement – a killer! “Nonstop Madness” starts off with pretty raunchy guitar sound which makes up for the somewhat too poppy arrangements. the song sounds more like a boy band pop hit than an actual rock song and the auto tune on Ernlund’s voice is here way too obvious. The song is ok, pretty good, but not in par with the other seven ones – easily the weakest track on the record. “Too Late To Die Young” brings in some real hard rock with both attack and bite and is obviously on this album to kick some ass. A great tune that would have fitted the last album like a glove. “House On Fire” is a classic hard rock / melodic rock Treat tune that sounds like a mix of the Coupe De Grace and Organized Crime sound – so magnificent! Anders Wikström takes over the lead vocals for the first time ever in the dramatic and emotional ballad “Together Alone”, a song that most probably have a personal lyric – hence Wikström’s lead vocal. The song is made by only piano and keyboard strings and Wikström proves having a killer voice – time for a solo album any time soon, Anders? They bide their farewell for this time with “Everything To Everyone”, a striking pop rocker with a heavy groove and a catchy chorus that hits like a ton of bricks.

Their best album to date? I don’t know if it is because Coup De Grace was also full of amazing songs, but this album is way more even – Coup De Grace did have a couple of ballads that were too light weight for comfort. As I mentioned before, I find Treat’s earlier ballads extremely underwhelming and dull – only “Best Of Me” (and “Get You On The Run” if you count that one as a ballad) from Dreamhunter holds up – but this time even the ballads are killer. Also, the production is big, fat and pretty hard but still with the melodic smoothness an album like this needs, Peter Månsson really knows his stuff. There is some auto-tuning being used here and there, but on a killer album like this one that doesn’t bother me the least. It needs to be pointed out that the nine is very strong, closer to a ten than an eight and this album will without the shadow of a doubt show up when I make my Album Of The Year list at the end of the year.


Other Treat reviews:
Coup De Grace


1. Ghost Of Graceland
2. I Don’t Miss The Misery
3. Better The Devil You Know
4. Do Your Own Stunts
5. Endangered
6. Inferno
7. Alien Earthlings
8. Nonstop Madness
9. Too Late To Die Young
10. House On Fire
11. Together Alone
12. Everything To Everyone

Photo: Anders Fästader