With their awesome debut (2008), Sweden’s HEAT promised the world. Their undiluted, unashamed eighties’ styled AOR mainlined into a world of big choruses, aurally adhesive hooks and pulse quickening axe solos. The follow up ‘Freedom Rock’ (2010) was a game of two halves, with the first grafting a bunch of vertiginous but hollow hooks onto a handful of reheated eighties’ melodic rock clichés. Strangely, the second half of the album was where the treasure was buried. Those half dozen songs cast off the emperor’s threadbare clothes to reveal a rich seam of strong songs – colourful, well crafted and cut closer to the classic melodic rock sound than the first half’s populist pap. For a new band on the crest of the NBT wave, those tracks flexed enough muscle to catch the storm instead of being overwhelmed by it.
But with third album, ‘Address The Nation’, they sound like they’ve been sucked into the melodic rock slipstream and are running hard to stand still. Sweden’s 2009 Pop Idol winner, Erik Gronwall has replaced the excellent Kenny Leckremo and works his socks off. He huffs and he puffs, clearly determined to prove the gainsayers wrong, pushing his high toned vocals into corners he has no right to reach. Unfortunately, he does not provide the forward momentum that this style of music needs to gain traction. Too many songs sink beneath the weight of old ideas being recycled.
On the other hand, the sonics are extremely impressive and there is a handful of good tracks sprinkled throughout the album. Grammy award winning Tobias (Europe/Hardcore Superstar) Lindell handled production, and although his skill with an inflated production budget results in a powerful, well defined sound, it’s a bit like using CGI and great actors to transform an ordinary script into a great movie. He tries hard to gloss over the truth – that there’s a glaring absence of truly killer cuts here.
That said, four tracks shine brighter than the rest. Thanks to an imaginative, keyboard fuelled arrangement, the urgent, driving, ‘Living On The Run’ carries the melodic rock torch higher than most. ‘Better Off Alone’ sounds like Asia coming face to face with Giant, with a cracking chorus that fans the album’s spluttering flame, while ‘In And Out Of Trouble’ will recall the mighty Van Stephenson’s sophistication and grace – a sublime saxophone gives it further weight and depth. Closer, ‘Downtown’ lifts its head above the eighties’ AOR parapet and has a good look around. Subsequently and no doubt consequently colouring its grooves with echoes and shades of contemporary pop, and is all the better for it.
Rated 6 out of 10