MIKAEL ERLANDSSON – Capricorn Six

I know this review is pretty much a “Who?” moment for most Rock fans, both Swedish and around the globe, but if you dig in and search for information about this singer, you’ll find that he’s done quite a lot during the years. Erlandsson started his solo career back in 1994 and has released no less than seven solo albums (including this one) and one compilation album since then, but before that he was the lead singer in N’Gang, who had a hit in 1990 and in a band called Crash that released one album in 1993. But his mostly known as the lead singer in Swedish AOR veterans Last Autumn’s Dream with who he has released no less than fourteen albums since their self-titled debut back in 2002. Also, in 2006 he took over the frontman spot in Swedish Pop band Secret Service from original singer and song-writer Ola Håkansson. The band had some big hits back in the 80’s and are now only a touring act, mainly in Russia of all places.

But Erlandsson have done more than that. Two albums each with his bands Lover Under Cover and Salute and he has also collaborated on projects such as Tommy Denander’s Radioactive and Tom Galley’s Phenomena (Blind Faith, 2010). But my interest in Erlandsson is mainly because of Last Autumn’s Dream for who I have a weak spot. Fact is, this album was released as Mikael Erlandsson’s Last Autumn’s Dream with the title Secret Treasures in Japan in January. The reason for that is that Last Autumn’s Dream is apparently under contract to come up with an album every year for the Japanese record company and since no LAD album was in the works and Erlandsson had this album ready and done it was released with some bonus tracks to save the day. The word is that Erlandsson here have gone for a rockier sound than what LAD usually brings but since it was released in Japan as LAD, my guess is that it won’t stray away from their sound too much.

The album’s first taster and opener “Eye Of The Hurricane” starts with a smooth keyboard-riff but a crunchy guitar comes in right away and the song goes off in an upbeat tempo. The rockier direction was no exaggeration but we’re still talking AOR here. I can hear traces of Reckless era Bryan Adams here but at the same time, it could easily work as a LAD song, with some more Rock inserted. This brilliant tune bodes well for the rest of the album indeed. Pop-laden and slick, “Why” takes on an early 80’s AOR approach instead of the more mainstream Scandinavian sound that every new AOR band and their mother brings along these days. The mix of guitar and organ also makes the tune stand out and with a chorus made in heaven, this straight-forward pearl is a clear winner – awesome! In a more Hard Rock-driven style, “Pain” tags along with both heaviness and groove, still with lots of Melodic rock twists. It’s quite aggressive and rough for this kind of music but it also holds a refrain to die for – catchy as hell without any extra added sugar. Brilliant!

But the Hard Rock doesn’t stop there. “Evil” is an uptempo, beefy, rough and in-your-face Melodic Hard Rock belter with a thunderous rhythm, fat guitars, crafty vocals that does its best to kick your sorry ass. This is Hard Rock with a stunning melody and a refrain with shitloads of hooks. Four songs in – all killers. The album couldn’t have started better. “Had To Let You Go” starts out on a softer note with only a piano and vocals but soon transfers into a grand ballad with a big arrangement, an immense sound-scape and a huge refrain that hits where it should and the damn thing screams HIT! Very good. Second outing “Break Another Heart” is an upbeat, pop-groovy AOR rocker, smoother in style reminiscent of the later LAD records albeit a bit more guitar-oriented. It reminds me some of early Bon Jovi as well but a fat organ solo breaks the AOR mould some. Good one.

“Fear The People” comes with a laid-back rhythm and a somewhat dark and sort of creepy atmosphere. The song also brings a big Rock groove and a very memorable main melody with a pre-chorus that’s AOR-ish and a chorus with all the catchiness in the world. Add a heavy, Classic Rock Deep Purple-like mid-break and you have a winner with lots of dynamics. A brilliant tune. “Ok” is an uptempo, tough-beating Melodic Rock tune with smooth Pop melodies over a striking rhythm. Style-wise, this one sounds like Bryan Adams meets Queen meets late 80’s American Arena Rock. The tune is catchy as hell with good live-feel. Great. And speaking of Bryan Adams, “I Just Wanna Love Ya” is a typical mid 90’s Adams-ballad, full of cheese and syrup with a refrain stickier than cotton-candy. This stuff is way too wimpy for me. Closing track “Alice In Wonderland” is a late 60’s, Beatles-esque ballad where the Melodic Rock vibes also makes Enuff Z’Nuff, Cheap Trick and Jellyfish to mind. It’s a bit trippy and spacey but still very much an Arena Rock ballad – very good.

First of all, the LAD comparisons are impossible to ignore, after all, Mikael is the lead singer and song writer for that band. But that said, this album sounds pretty much how I have wanted LAD to sound for quite some time now – rougher, more guitars, heavier rhythm section with more edges and some bite – Erlandsson’s raspy voice fits this heavier Melodic Rock direction like a glove. Also, the fact that Erlandsson has moved outside of the AOR comfort zone and brought in influences from both Hard Rock, Classic Rock and Stadium Rock amongst others, this album takes a more varied route than the last LAD records have been. I’d suggest that for the writing sessions for the next LAD record, they’d throw an ear to this record. But at the end of the day, one could talk about sound all day but it’s the quality of the songs that’s matters most and the songs here are just so damn good. Big thumbs up from this guy!

8/10

Tracklist:

1. Eye Of The Hurricane
2. Why
3. Pain
4. Evil
5. Had To Let You Go
6. Break Another Heart
7. Fear The People
8. Ok
9. I Just Wanna Love Ya
10. Alice In Wonderland

 

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