Review: Art Nation – Liberation

Record Info Rating: 9/10
Label: Sony Music/Gain Reviewed by: “Westman”
Producer: Jacob Herrmann, Theodor Heström and Christoffer Borg
Release date: April 28th 2017
Line-up: Alexander Strandell(vo), Christoffer Borg (gu), Johan Gustavsson (gu), Carl Tudén (dr), Simon Gudmundsson(ba)

Like all jobs, reviewers choose different ways to approach the task to review an album. Personally, I think an album should be listened to up to 10 times before the verdict will fall. A good album are an album that grows on you and not always hit you like a Sledgehammer.

First song Ghost Town nearly knocked me of my feet though beeing a straight rock song ala The Answer or Bonafide. With the bands as a reference to the song, you might think it does not sound like Art Nation and at a first listening, I would agree with you, except that it is Alexander Strandell singing and his voice got something that stand out. Alex might even bring some of his best performances ever on Liberation.

After that convincing start I got a bit reserved as second song Kiss Up & Kick Down sounded quite different as the sound was way much bigger. But this is were listen to an album several times become apparently important, cause Kiss Up & Kick Down should be the next single. Give it some airtime and it will quickly be a favorite on any rock radio station.
Third song Maniac together with the previous song are my two favorites on Liberation. It has an intro riff that makes me think of funk but that’s just the intro. Just like Kiss Up & Kick Down its arrangement with strings added in production becomes a real pompy song. Carl Tudén varies between a straight rock drums and a more shuffle sound in the verse. The guitar solo, played by Christoffer Borg, is not the most equilibristic of Art Nations solos, but I like this short solo because its neat and melodic.

One Nation feels more of a metal song and Simon Gudmundsson‘s (after the recordings he has left Art Nation) basslines feels a bit progressive intro wise. The chorus is catchy but perhaps a little bit cliche wise when it comes to the lyrics .

The Real Me was the first single out, a choice that I think maybe was a little strange. Action-packed song, absolutely! Powerful as well, but I do not think it’s a single. The solos however are really smashing, in this one as both Christoffer Borg and Johan Gustavsson step up. Liberation does not contain any bad tracks but The Real Me does not tick all my boxes.
Of course a rock band och Art Nation’s dignity should have a ballad and Take Me Home are a real classy power ballad built up slowly with accoustic guitars and finishing off with again with those strings.

My only concern about that kind of string arrangements is that a band gets forced to use backing tracks live, almost everyone does that today but I think that takes away part of the live feel. When listening to an album however those kind of features can be the cream of the crop, a thing that makes a difference.

Second part of the album continues with all quality music, stand out songs to me are When Stars Align and What Do You Want. As said before the arrangements are real classy with extra effects/instruments that are put on overall the production and arrangemets could be the thing that takes Art Nation to the next level and likely their big break, Art Nation 2017 has kept their sound but also developed their sound towards both pop and even some more of the metal than on revelation.

In order to reach to a 10 on our scale, you should make an album that will become a classic. I actually think this could be Art Nations big breakthrough still I won’t give the album 10 as some of the latter songs on the album don’t do it for me. Liberation are close getting a 9.5 but stops at a 9 a band that I think has got even more to give.

Eclipse – Monumentum

Eclipse - Monumentum
Record Info Rating: 9/10
Label: Frontiers Records Reviewed by: “AORSweden”
Producer: Erik Mårtensson
Release date: March 24th 2017
Line-up: Erik Mårtensson (vo, gu), Magnus Henriksson (gu), Philip Crusner (dr), Magnus Ulfstedt (ba)

Eclipse returns with their 6th record since 2001, the 4th since then band “restarted” with their current sound in 2008. Robban Back has left the band, new drummer is Philip Crusner, other than that the band are the same. Principal songwriter are as usual the mastermind Erik Mårtensson, one of the unsung heroes in the business. On guitar we find one of Sweden’s finest, and a guy that yet again takes a few steps forward in his playing, guitar-maestro Magnus Henriksson.

With contributions from songwriters Miqael Persson and Johan Becker, the guys has written 11 new songs that clocks in for just under 42 minutes, and it’s 42 minutes of pure joy.
It opens up with the first single, Vertigo, a uptempo song with great punches and guitarplaying, top 3 song for sure. Next is the equally uptempo Never Look Back, another great song. Killing Me and Downfall Of Eden are up next. The first one is one of the heaviest song the band has written, the latter more in the AOR-vein (minus the keys of course). The first ballad is Hurt, which also is the latest single (video). This song is brilliant, great lyrics and very emotional, just close Your eyes and listen to this fantastic piece of work. Hurt is followed up by Jaded, now we’re back with the uptempo songs, and this is another great tune. Born To Lead and For Better Or For Worse follows the same pattern, punchy guitars and great choruses. It ends heavy, really heavy, with Black Rain. Get hold of something, or else You will fall of Your chair when listening to this one, and the guitarsolo is unbelievable.

Surely this will be one of the highlights this year, the record is phenomenal in all senses. It doesn’t quite reach the same heights as Armageddonize, at least not yet, but it’s a superb melodic record. The songs from Erik Mårtensson (and co-writers) just keeps popping out, it seems so easy for them at the moment, I’ll bow down in envy. Then Magnus Henriksson, what a fantastic guitarplayer he has become, better from each record. It’s hard to think of that many guitarists today that are better in the same genre. And do You know what? The band are even better live, just imagine that if You haven’t seen them. Get Your butt out and buy this in a hurry, You won’t regret it.

Review: Creye – Straight To The Top

Creye - ep
Record Info Rating: 9,5/10
Label: Self released Reviewed by: Kimpan
Producer: Erik Wiss
Release date: March 10, 2017
Line-up: Alexander Strandell (vo), Andreas Gullstrand (g), Joel Rönning (keyb), Gustaf Örsta (b), Arvid Filipsson (dr)

Back in August of 2016 I had the privilege of reviewing the debut single Never Too Late of Swedish newcomers Creye on behalf of Planet AOR. Since then, the band have been working firmly in the studio on new songs and the result is a three song EP that besides the previously mentioned Never Too Late also features a cover of the Robert Tepper classic No Easy Way Out and a brand new track called Straight To The Top.

While the band’s debut single didn’t blew me away, I still gave it a cautiously optimistic 7,5/10 rating stating that there was potential for greater things with this band. With the new release I certainly feel that potential has been realized and the only question now is: when will we have a full length album from this band?

Straight To The Top is the new original song and also the first track of the EP. It’s a great song, what I would almost call perfectly executed melodic rock, with just the right guitar/keyboard balance and a flawless chorus. It kinda reminds me of H.E.A.T which at least partly could be due to the fact that singer Alexander Strandell sounds like a deadringer for Erik Grönwall in certain parts. Great stuff nevertheless.

Never Too Late is up next and is, as mentioned earlier, the band’s first single that was also previously reviewed on Planet AOR. Despite my slight criticism in that review of the chorus being a bit weak the song has actually grown on me since then and maybe I will give it a bit higher rating today. Good AOR, no doubt about it.

I must say that I was very impressed by the band’s remake of No Easy Way Out, the last song of the three song EP. The band has obviously worked very hard at getting the 80’s retro sound right and the cover stays pretty close to the original. Maybe they should “do a Houston” and record an album full of classic AOR covers cause judging by the performance on this track I think they would probably outdo the Houston guys there!

In summary, I will certainly keep my eye on this band in the year to come. Another act to add to the evergrowing list of quality Swedish AOR and melodic rock bands.