DEGREED – Degreed

So, here’s another case of a band that has been floating around in my periphery for years without me taking any notice. Swedish melodic rockers Degreed released their debut album Life, Love, Loss back in 2010 and the follow-up We Don’t Belong in 2013 and I knew of their existance right from go. Why I never took any further notice of the band back then, I guess I will never know but better late than never, right? So, when I first heard the single “Better Safe Than Sorry” and later the whole of their last record Dead But Not Forgotten (2015), I knew that it was a mistake that I never checked the band out before. Why I still haven’t gotten around to listen to their two first albums is some thing I can’t explain, but I will get around to it a.s.a.p. The album in question was a real melodic hard rock killer and the band – Robin Ericsson (bass, lead vocals),  Daniel Johansson (guitars), Mats Ericsson (drums) and Micke Jansson (keyboards) – turned out to be at the top of the game as musicians. That line-up is still the same to this day. So, when the time came for the guys to release a new album, I wasn’t gonna miss out on that. And since the last album was such a brilliant piece of music, expectations are sky-high this time and I was wondering if they would manage to provide us with yet another killer.

“Sugar” kicks off the record and proves that the last album’s high quality was no one-off. It’s a big, fat groover, pretty heavy with a distinct refrain that strikes without being especially ‘hitty’. It’s catchy enough anyway and this melodic-rocker isn’t sugary at all. A great opener. Second single “Shakedown” follows and it is a pop song with a heavy beat and a rhythm that is almost danceable. The chorus is so sticky you couldn’t get rid of it with steel wool – an AOR track with a huge hit-potential. The pop continues with “Save Me” but this one comes with a base of pure hard rock. This one’s also quite danceable but also quite headbanging-friendly. It’s catchy and a good tune but it’s not as strong as the previous two. The ballad “Tomorrow” follows and it is a powerful one. It’s a bit dark and mellow but with an incredible refrain that screams hit – awesome!

Leading single “Animal” is big, rhythmic and has a groove-laden beat. It’s a very melodic rocker with a chorus that could – and should – give them a hit. Style wise it reminds me of a more AOR version of Hinder without the more modern radio rock influences – a real killer! Ballad # 2 is called “If Love Is A Game”, a stripped and very emotional piece of work with only vocals, piano and strings – very heartfelt and real. Brilliant! “Evil Eye” comes in a faster pace, at least in the chorus, but the groove is never lost and the tune is very rhythmic. The verses are a bit slower and laid-back which makes for a cool contrast to the speedier refrain, a refrain that is catchy as Hell. Another killer tune. “WAR!” is the album’s metal track. It’s hard, heavy and aggressive the melodic rock way, a hard rocker that’s in-your-face but still sports a chorus that hits like a ton of bricks – very good.

“Lay Me Down” is ballad # 3 and this time we get a bona fide power ballad on our hands. It holds a pretty hot groove and in the middle solo-break they go for speed and rocks the tune up but then the tune ends as it began – as a power ballad. The tune has a melody that sticks throughout the tune and the chorus is nothing short of amazing – this is a hit if there ever was one. “Nature Of The Beast” comes along as a big-ass metal stomper, heavy and darker in mood but it’s still very catchy and the refrain is just spot on. There’s also a keyboard solo that gives the tune a somewhat progressive vibe. Brilliant! The album ends with “Silence”, a mid-paced rocker with a punchy rhythm and a good but not exceptional chorus. It’s not as direct and striking as most of the record, but it’s still a good song.

With no bad songs and almost all of the songs filed under “great”, it’s hard to write anything negative about this release. The only thing I come to think of is the production. Not that it’s bad, it isn’t. Quite the contrary, it’s almost too good. While there still are both punch and attack, it’s also a bit too polished and at times I find it even over-produced which tends to bring out an almost sterile vibe. I also have some issues about the auto-tune that shows up a little here and there. That said, I must stress that the album sounds really good anyway and all of that doesn’t affect the fact that this album is brilliant and a must for lovers of melodic hard rock and AOR. I still hold Dead But Not Forgotten a bit better, I gave that one 9/10, but the 8 I gave this one is really, really strong and maybe it will turn into a 9 in a few months time as it keeps growing on me. And yes, I’m gonna check out their previous album for sure this time.

8/10

More Degreed reviews:

Dead But Not Forgotten

Tracklist:

 1. Sugar
2. Shakedown
3. Save Me
4. Tomorrow
5. Animal
6. If Love Is A Game
7. Evil Eye
8. WAR!
9. Lay Me Down
10. Nature Of The Beast
11. Silence

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