When singer Martina Edoff released her last album, Unity back in 2015, it was without a doubt one of that year’s biggest surprises. Her self-titled debut album that came out in 2014 was ok, but lacked direction and it was cowardly produced and Edoff came across like a Jill Johnson (a Swedish mainstream pop singer gone Shania Twain country light) on steroids. The songs were good but drowned in a plethora of mainstream and crumbled a bit because of that. So when Unity arrived, I didn’t know if Martina had done yet another one of those albums or corrected the mistakes of the debut album. With pretty much all of H.E.A.T. as a backing band and co-writes from Jona Tee (H.E.A.T.), Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T., Nordic Union, Ammunition), Age-Sten Nilsen (Ammunition, Wig Wam) and Matti Alfonzetti (Impera, Skintrade), it was clear that Edoff would try her best to make amends with the new album. And boy, did she make amends! Firstly, the album was heavier and a bit rougher, the way melodic rock and AOR albums are rough. Secondly, the songs were fabulous – almost every one of them. And even though Martina sang great on the debut – she always does – on Unity she sang like her life depended on it – with passion, fire, heart, soul and enough attitude to sell.
Now two years later she and her band – guitarist Stefan Bergström, bassist Nalle Påhlsson (Royal Mess, Therion), drummer Björn Höglund and keyboarder Jona Tee – has the ungrateful task of following that album up. Because when you’re coming back from a KO like Unity, it must be a tremendous pressure to even make it a tie – in my book it’s an almost impossible task to top an album like that. As co-writers, Edoff brought back Tee and Mårtensson but even an old gamer like Billy Sheehan (Mr Big, The Winery Dogs) is included. Which bodes well, of course – and so does the fact that Edoff and her band did some comprehensive touring around the globe with the last album, something that usually works for the better when it comes to get comfortable as a performer and musician. So, it was a smart move to use her touring band on the record as well. But this time, expectations are high – very high – and to come up with an album equally as good as the predecessor is a must. At least very close to equally as good.
The album kicks off with “Turn Our Pages” and the first thing that hits me is how heavy it sounds. If Unity was a step into a heavier direction from the quite bland debut, then this takes one step further again. And it fits Martina’s voice brilliantly. The tune sports a classic hard rock riff, a bass-line reminiscent of “Heaven And Hell” (Black Sabbath!!!), a big melodic rock arrangement and a chorus that knocks you down for the count right from go. The rougher edge just brings more dynamics to the table and the album couldn’t have started in a better way. How damn brilliant. The faster paced “Champions” follows with a chugging hard rock guitar, a pumping bass and thunderous drums and on top of that lies a striking melody and an in-your-face refrain that’s impossible not to surrender to – bloody awesome! “Alive” has a steady beat and metal-like guitar riffing as a base but the melodic rock melody and arrangement is never far away. The chorus is catchy but not in an “aim for airplay” way. Instead, they have brought along a more mid 70’s influence that makes the song come across as an album track instead of a single. It’s a real belter that surely will kill live!
The title track must be a single at some point. It’s a melodic rock tune with a big AOR twist and some Eastern flavors in the melodies. It’s an upbeat rocker with an amazing chorus that will stick like a tattoo on the parts that handles the melody sense in your brain. This is a total hit – and then some! “Lay Down Your Arms” is darker, heavier and more 70’s sounding, complete with gritty guitars and an organ that roars. Musically, it’s probably the darkest and heaviest tune Martina has recorded so far but the vocal arrangement is still very much melodic rock and the refrain contrasts with an intense catchiness. This is just brilliant. First single / video “Face The Mirror” is a ballad that starts out soft but goes into a more upbeat mode and holds a steady rhythm guitar which adds a rockier feel. The chorus is – do I even need to point it out again? – brilliantly catchy. “Set You Free” rocks things up again. Ballsy and heavy with a 70’s hard rock influence, a striking chorus and a Hammond in the background, another winner on this album.
The big-grooved “I’m Invincible” sticks out a bit here. The verses take a step into a more modern hard rock vibe with a slight Nickelback nod, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s heavy, raunchy and robust and it sports another chorus that hits a home run right away. “Truth Came Knocking” is another raunchy rocker with a bad-ass groove, very upbeat, down to earth and in your face – and the refrain is just amazingly good. This is another tune that will without a doubt be a future live-killer. The album closes with “Brand New World”, a big ballad that is symphonic and cinematic in sound, pompous, overblown and bombastic in arrangement. It’s the song that sticks out the most on the album, so much that it’s almost as it doesn’t really fit in. It’s a good song, but not very direct and it’s not as strong as the rest of the tunes. A steady rocker or a big power ballad would have been a better closing track.
If Unity was a big leap from her debut, then this album takes just another step ahead. It’s pretty much a sister album to its predecessor, but this one feels a lot more earthy, more dynamic and even though all the songs are really catchy, it feels more authentic and rock ‘n’ roll and not as radio friendly. It has a heavier and darker vibe, it’s rougher and more gutsy with a bit more substance and the AOR style that was giving in for melodic rock on the last album is more or less gone here and the development from AOR/melodic rock to melodic rock/hard rock feels both fresh and alive – the rougher edges sure fits Edoff’s voice even better. But make no mistake, this is not a heavy metal album by any means. No, this is melodic hard rock, just more powerful than before – and it rocks! Martina is a great singer, we all know that – and on this album she have gathered a bunch of really awesome musicians as well, all of them very skilled and they do a killer job here. The production here, signed by Tee, is great and Tobias Lindell’s (Europe, H.E.A.T., Nubian Rose, Hardcore Superstar) is as brilliant as always. With the second killer in a row, Martina and her friends sure deserve a big break now. I know I will keep my fingers crossed.
Other Martina Edoff reviews:
1. Turn Our Pages
4. We Will Align
5. Lay Down Your Arms
6. Face The Mirror
7. Set You Free
8. I’m Invincible
9. Truth Came Knocking
10. Brand New World