Osukaru – Salvation

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Review by Brian McGowan

In the last three years, Oz (Oscar Peterssen) Osukaru’s AOR band Eye has morphed into AOR band, Osukaru, and after putting out 2 EPs, this Swedish band have now released their first full length studio album, titled ‘Salvation‘. The double disc Japanese version (on the Stay Gold label) has ‘Salvation‘ on Disc One, and includes all the tracks from those 2 EPs – ’Never Too Late’ and ’Gothenburg To LA’ on the second CD and is otherwise stuffed to the gills with bonus tracks. Small objects of desire indeed.

None of the new songs surpass the immense EYE track, ‘2 Hearts’, a song with all the pace, panache and urgency of great AOR, but clearly the band’s song writing has matured over the piece, and several get damn close.Unarguably, Osukaru have taken a battered, dog eared but well defined snapshot of eighties’ AOR and restored it to its former glory, without resorting to plagiarism or pastiche. There’s an innocent charm to ‘Salvation’, redolent of that decade’s then burgeoning pomp/AOR genres, when the fragile boundaries between rock, prog and pop were being satisfyingly and winningly shattered.

Three different vocalists over the last three years might suggest a deeper malaise than the band would be willing to admit, but what the current incumbent, Chris Tiann, lacks in vocal power, he makes up for in warmth, vulnerability and character. His trebly toned voice sounds like a place where broken souls can be mended, even if it fails to nail the occasional high note.

When they stick to the AOR stylings, Osukaru are a class act. The Eye DNA shows up in ‘Highway To The Stars’ tuneful punch and pealing guitar. There are a few further trace elements in ’City Lights’, a track that first appeared on the ‘Never Too Late’ EP. This version is clearly a rerecorded, restructured attempt to create a more sophisticated, and indeed more contemporary brand of AOR, harder edged, more combative in nature. ‘Till The End Of Time’ picks up the AOR batton like an experienced relay runner, carefully reaching out for our emotions on this balladic, melodious workout – at once tender, romantic, simple and sentimental.

Again, ‘Never Too Late’ is one of those tracks from a previous EP that’s so good they’ve recorded it twice. Underpinned by Osukaru’s sinuous, singing axe work and Karl Dahlberg’s dramatic keyboard flourishes, the song is only let down by Tiann’s vocal histrionics as he works his way toward a climactic chorus. Big moments are best served by a less is more philosophy.

Occasionally – on a couple of tracks – the music veers into hard rock territory, it can be tricky terrain and therein lies the album’s single flaw. In attempting to grasp the attention of the hard rock crowd, the limitations of their reach have been exposed.

It’s a point further emphasised by AOR crackers, ‘Change Of Heart’, ’Promised Land’ and ‘Tell Me You’ll Stay’ (2012 version), where sweet melodies and up tempo pacing conceal melancholy moods. Such is the stuff of good AOR and Osukaru do it well.

That last track, one of the standouts from the ‘Gothenburg to LA’ EP, has been added to this Japanese release as a bonus track. And similarly – pay attention now – it has been added to the second disc as a bonus track, albeit in a different form. This latter version has talented Swedish singer, Philip Lindstrand as guest vocalist, and to quote an X Factor cliché, he has made it his own.

As much as this release overall represents the recorded history of Osukaru on 2 CDs, it would be criminal to overlook the fact that the principal point of this release is the new studio album, ‘Salvation’. Even without the bonus material this debut long player is a remarkably confident and accomplished achievement. When combined with the EP tracks and the extras, it is an unmissable package.