If there’s one thing that AOR fans has gotten used to it’s that early every year there’s a new album out by Swedish AOR-rockers Last Autumn’s Dream. But not in 2019. Or in 2020, it turns out. The member’s schedule has been busier than ever so there was no time for writing or recording a new album. With one album left for the Japanese market, singer Mikael Erlandsson took matters in his own hands and released his solo album Capricorn Six (2019) in a slightly different version over there as Mikael Erlandsson’s Last Autumn’s Dream with the title Secret Treasures and voila, contract fulfilled.
Personally, I have had a weak spot for Last Autumn’s Dream since the brilliant 2008 album Yes. However, as of lately their sound has become pretty safe with the albums sounding a bit too samey. Erlandsson’s solo album was a magnificent record that landed somewhere between AOR and Melodic Rock and song wise, at many times it could pass as a more raunchy and gritty version of Last Autumn’s Dream, something I had been raising my voice about for some time. Now it looks like Last Autumn’s Dream is on hiatus for an indeterminate future but to sit idle wasn’t Erlandsson’s song and dance so what to do but to start anew. Instead of starting up a new version of LAD, he brought in H.E.A.T. keyboarder Jona Tee, Mustasch drummer Robban Bäck (ex- Eclipse, W.E.T., Sabaton), guitarists Claes Andersson and Pontus Åkesson (Moon Safari) with Joel Starander and Peter Samuelsson chipping in on bass. The band’s name and the album-cover art made it clear that this band was a LAD out-branch. But with a new song writing team, would this differ a lot from LAD or would Erlandsson go into the same direction?
So we have an intro called “Intro” that opens the album. If you’re gonna make the intro a “real” song, then at least give it a name, but it really should have been a part of the real opener, in this case a tune called “Rubicon Sign”. The somewhat cinematic intro works splendidly to pave way for “Rubicon Sign”, an upbeat Melodic Rock track. It holds some more laid-back, easy-going verses with a smooth and slick outlook, but a more rowdy and crunchy chorus with a more pop-groovy and upbeat pace. It’s really a powerful tune with an energetic deliverance lead vocal from Erlandsson. This is really good stuff and a great way to open the album.
On a more in-your-face and direct mode, “Glory” comes along bringing a slight pomp-rock feel to the AOR-ish sounds. The crispy, heavier guitars and the infectious groove sends the tune towards some Classic Rock influences as well which adds to the song’s live-feel. The mixture of somewhat smooth melodies and a hook deluxe refrain and the song’s kicking rhythm marries splendidly. Great stuff. “Cryin’ For Love” starts heavy and even quite aggressive with rough guitars over a fat and punchy rhythm on a slower note but soon speeds up, still with the heaviness intact albeit in a more Melodic Rock driven way. At times I get an early Bon Jovi vibe by the melodies and Erlandsson’s phrasings but for the most, this a rougher take on LAD’s tougher moments – especially in the massive chorus that grabs a hold right from go. Killer!
With “Victory”, it’s ballad-time and on a slower note, they lead us into mid 80’s pop-influential balladry and even though they are pretty close to go sugar-cheese on us, they never climb that threshold because we are also served a somewhat surprising blend of Beatles, Elton John and Queen (“we are the champions, spread your wings”…) which takes the song into another dimension. With effective and distinct melodies and a chorus that’s close to a 1986 time-machine, the tune is so catchy it’s impossible not to surrender. I dig this. “I’m Done” goes into an opposite direction – upbeat, punchy, crunchy, guitar-driven with slight Metal references in the riffing and a fat rhythm on a solid ground. Hard Rock and Melodic Rock mixed into one and a Brian May sounding guitar-sound brings on a cool contrast and creates a dynamic outlook plus a chorus that won’t leave once it hits your brain. Very good.
“Sayonara Eyes” is a ballad that’s the closest to a LAD-song so far, both in structure and sound. It’s slow and cute but also a bit on the pompous side much because of the pomp-laden synth solo. Pop meets AOR here but a slight Classic Rock vibe sneaks in as well which saves the song from going too saccharine despite the smooth and slick melodies and the “this could have been a huge hit in 1987” arrangements. I have a weak spot for stuff like this so I dig it. The guys bring out their inner love for Pop in the gorgeous sounding “Face The Music” – but they also makes sure it’s never predictable by throwing in a lot of different influences. There are musical theatre arrangements, ABBA melody-lines, a quick nod to both ELO and Queen and a chunk of 80’s Styx pomp. With big, memorable and effective melodies added and a enormously catchy refrain that’s both positive and uplifting, the song becomes a true winner – brilliant.
“You’re Breaking My Heart Again” is an upbeat and in-your-face AOR-rocker that picks its influences up from the early 80’s rather than the modern kind, with the pomp and groove that signified much of the AOR back then. With a whole bunch of striking melodies that catches on directly and a sticky refrain that etches itself to the brain, the song shows of some major hit-potential and soundwise it’s like LAD romances Rick Springfield back in 1981 and this is their love-child. Great. “Everytime” is a pumping half-ballad that mixes state of the art AOR with a twist of 50’s Pop and a 60’s laden guitar solo to spice things up. It’s a piano-driven, uplifting tune – is that a borrowing from Elton John’s “Sad Songs” I pick up here and there? – with a smooth outlook, big on keyboards and a big, catchy chorus. Damn good stuff, this.
A real high-light here is “Northern Light”, an uptempo and punchy AOR-rocker which holds some quite smooth verses whereas the striking and majorly catchy chorus brings on a slightly Celtic arrangement that brings thoughts towards both Eclipse and Thin Lizzy but also H.E.A.T. comes to mind. The song holds a Classic Rock groove which marries masterfully with the Melodic Rock melodies. Awesome! Unfortunately they end the record with the sleepy sugar-ballad “Heaven Knows Your Name”. It’s a softie, slow in pace and is at times cozy, calming and relaxed but the melodies are way too syrupy and cheesy for my taste. I don’t hate it but it runs the risk of me shutting the album off after “Northern Lights”.
This is a magnificent album, folks. It’s the album that, sound-wise, I have wanted Last Autumn’s Dream to record for some time now. No shadow over LAD because in many ways, this album – just like Erlandsson’s Capricorn Six – comes across like more crunchy and rough version of that band. But. Where LAD goes all in on AOR, Autumn’s Child takes it in another direction and spices it up with Classic Rock, Melodic Rock, 70’s Rock, pomp and power-pop which makes for a more varied and interesting journey plus it gives Autumn’s Child its own identity. The name might refer to LAD but in all honesty, it’s only one fifth of LAD involved here. Even though Jone Tee will probably be busy with H.E.A.T. forward on, I’d make this my main priority in the future if I were Erlandsson. I’m already looking forward to the next release.
2. Rubicon Sign
4. Cryin’ For Love
6. I’m Done
7. Sayonara Eyes
8. Face The Music
9. Breaking My Heart Again
11. Northern Lights
12. Heaven Knows Your Name