Sunday, 3 April 2016

Reckless Love's 'InVader' - Album Review

The Scandinavian glam/sleaze metal revival is still in full swing and, with the Crashdïet seemingly on hiatus, Finland's Reckless Love are leading the pack. While there are plenty of heavier, grittier glam bands around, Reckless Love's love of poppy melodies, synthesisers, and dancy beats has made them very popular since 2010 when they released their self-titled debut album. Plenty of touring around the world had followed ever since, plus the released of two more studio albums. 2011's Animal Attraction was almost as good as the first album, although the band's love for modern pop music was starting to shine through in a big way. 2013's Spirit was a mixed bag (I reviewed it here). While there were some very strong songs on the album, overall it felt uninspired. The riff-led rock sections failed to excite as the previous two albums had, and the poppy/dancy songs felt contrived and unoriginal. While a couple of recent listens to Spirit showed me that time had been kind to the album, I did not hear enough to think of the album as anything more than 'average'. I mused at the time that the band could consider working with a different producer to shake things up for their fourth album, and that has not happened. Ilkka Wirtanen has again worked with Reckless Love to write and record their fourth album, InVader, three years on from Spirit. Saying I was apprehensive when putting InVader (I did not understand the capitalisation until I realised the capitals made 'IV' - the Roman number 4) on for the first time was a fair description of my feelings. I was worried that they had made another Spirit, but I was surprised to find Reckless Love had written and recorded another really good album! On the whole, InVader is on a par with Animal Attraction in my opinion, and the songs excite like they used to! When the band rock out, the songs feel genuine and full of energy again, with Pepe leading the charge with his solid guitar riffing and melodic soloing skills. When the band want to be poppy, the songs are well-crafted with excellent synth sounds and pulsing clubland beats. Both sides of the band's sound have been refined since Spirit, and the band seem to have their songwriting mojo back with the majority of what is on offer here being very memorable and catchy. Frontman Olli Herman has really upped his game vocally too. Nearly all of the vocal melodies on this album are hugely catchy, even if his lyrics are still pretty awful in places! With InVader, we find Reckless Love rejuvenated after the lackluster Spirit. The fun element of the band's sound is back in full force, and that makes InVader a very enjoyable album to put on at any time!

InVader opens with a bang, as the anthemic rock of We are the Weekend fills the speakers with Pepe's big guitar stabs and Hessu Maxx's booming drum sound. Herman owns the song however, with a powerful verse vocal, and a sugary sweet pre-chorus that sounds like something from your average Top 40 pop tune. The 1980s rock chorus is what seals the deal however, and shows that the band have rediscovered their writing chops again. It is instantly catchy, and designed to be heard live. The song gets a little heavier as it moves on, with a short guitar solo and some big riffing that is a contrast to the party feel of the rest of the song. Those who like the harder rock end of the band's sound will like the next number Hands. This is one of the rawer songs on the album, without too many prominent electronic elements. Pepe's guitar riffing leads the way here, and he often breaks into a lead section that shows off his skills. The song's big chorus, with plenty of gang vocal sections, is a standout moment as Herman races through the lyrics at a break-neck speed that recalls some of the band's early material. Pepe's shredding guitar solo also stands out, and really is a throwback to the 1980s. Lead single Monster, with it's Lady GaGa inspired video, is up next. Despite some hilariously bad lyrics, the song is so hugely catchy that it does not matter. Herman's voice sounds strange throughout the song, almost a growl, which sounds different to his usual style. It gives the song some grit that it would otherwise lack, which is also helped by Pepe's really groovy guitar playing. While the electronics dominate, his guitar (and Jalle Verne's bass), help to provide the dancy rhythm the song has. Those who love some serious cheese will enjoy Child of the Sun, and the it is some cheese of the smelliest variety! I must be honest and say that this side of Reckless Love's sound mostly leaves me cold, but the song still has some extremely catchy melodies. The song is a wall of big synth sounds, and Varne's bass dances around them with a tight groove. The chorus, full of all it's autotune glory, is the sugariest thing on the album but it still manages to stick in your head! There is actually a surprising amount of good guitar work on this song too, and Pepe unleashes his inner Nile Rodgers with some tasteful and subtle funky playing throughout. Just when the album needs a kick, the hard rock of Bullettime comes on with a driving riff and a raw-sounding drum beat to act as the antidote to the synths of the previous song. It is one of my favourite songs on the album, because the 1980s hard rock sound is perfectly captured here, with a massive chorus and some excellent vocals from Herman.

With a big keyboard intro, Scandinavian Girls is another very poppy song - although this one has a bigger dose of 'rock' than Child of the Sun. Pepe's guitar still plays a big part driving the song, with some great overdriven riffing, but Herman's vocals are the song's lead instrument with the band supporting him. That is, until we get to a strange, slow guitar solo that comes in to cut through the mix unexpectedly. This is another song with rather awful lyrics, but the catchy melodies make up for this. Herman does not write great poetry, but then I think I would be disappointed if he did. Pretty Boy Swagger, which is collaboration with Finnish producer/musician Jurek, is another pop number. The opening vocals have an almost rap feel to them, which sounds a little forced, but when Herman starts singing properly, the song really becomes enjoyable. Again, Pepe makes his force felt with some excellent riffing and lead playing, as the electronics and the rhythm section provide more clubland beats. After an electronic explosion, Pepe lets rip into one of his best ever guitar solos, which is a feast of shredded goodness. Rock It is a tale of two songs, one good and one bad. The verses of this song really are not very good at all, with Herman almost talking his way through them with an uninspired musical backing, but the song contains a really strong chorus that is extremely memorable. It is just a shame that the rest of the song is so poor, because the chorus really is a winner. Destiny fuses the band's rock and pop sounds together perfectly, and actually ends up sounding like something Def Leppard might have come up with in the 1980s. The verses are quite low key, with a bouncy guitar riff and a rumbling bassline, before the chorus comes in with a feast of harmony vocals and big melodies. While the band have stronger songs elsewhere on the album, this sort of song is meat and potatoes for the band and showcases all of their strengths. The album's final song Let's Get Cracking (TWHP) is another excellent fast rock number with a really good guitar riff and a dynamic vocal performance from Herman. This song sounds like something Poison forgot to write, and really sounds like the best of the 1980s Sunset Strip sound. There is more excellent shredding throughout the song, and it works well as an album closer. There is even a hidden acoustic ending which sounds like how Reckless Love would sound sitting around a campfire at night, which is nice! Some versions of the album come with the bonus track Keep it Up All Night, which is another strong song. Overall, InVader is a strong return to form from a band who looked like they may have run out of ideas. Luckily this was not the case however, and this album of mostly excellent songs will no doubt be a big success for them.

The album was released on 4th March 2016 via Spinefarm Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Monster.

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