Sunday, 9 April 2017

One Desire's 'One Desire' - Album Review

I find it hard to comprehend just how many of the great new bands in the rock and metal worlds come from Scandinavia. From some of the heaviest extreme metal out there on the market at the moment, to some of the cheesiest 1980s-inspired AOR, Scandinavia (Finland and Sweden in particular) seem to have the market of rock and metal cornered. One Desire, from Finland, are just the latest band from this part of the world to be unveiled and their debut self-titled album was released last month via the Italian label Frontiers Records, the masters of promoting modern melodic rock. Despite One Desire only just reaching the public conscious, the seeds for the band were sewn in 2012 when drummer Ossi Sivula started demoing new material with the aim of creating a new AOR band. Guitarist Jimmy Westerlund was initially recruited by Sivula to oversee production but he eventually joined the band permanently and has become the main songwriter for the ground. André Linman (Sturm und Drang) was recruited as the band's frontman, as he had been a friend of Westerlund's for many years, and the final piece of the puzzle was bassist Jonas Kuhlberg (Paul Di'Anno; Cain's Offering). Westerlund has still retained his original role as producer too, and has been assisted by Linman and Frontiers Records stalwart Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse; W.E.T.) on various songs. Given the nature of One Desire's music, it is unsurprising to see that Mårtensson has been involved behind the scenes with them and anyone familiar with his work will recognise many of the same musical hallmarks here. Luckily however, One Desire is a real band effort with the songwriting mostly being handled by either Linman and Westerlund with a few friends helping out with co-writes. Some Frontiers Releases can be vehicles for some the label's in-house writers to use up some unused songs, so it is great to see that this is not the case here. That being said Mårtensson has given the band one song, which unsurprisingly sounds a lot like Eclipse, and has co-written another with Linman, but overall this a wholly original effort by a new band who are also strong songwriters. Soundwise, One Desire are very much an AOR band, but their sound sounds very modern in places. Keyboards are used extensively, but in more of an atmospheric way than many of their 1980s counterparts which gives the album a classy and full sound. Comparisons can be drawn in places to Def Leppard, with the soaring vocal harmonies and the melodic guitar arpeggios, but most of all One Desire is an album that is just full of strong, modern-sounding melodic rock songs. This is not a particularly heavy album, despite a few big riffs throughout, but the material is strong and very memorable.

The album starts off very strongly with Hurt, which really sees the band setting out their stall and establishing their sound early. A rather simple guitar pattern backed up by dramatic and cinematic keyboard stabs captures the attention early on, before a bass-heavy verse introduces Linman's smooth and easily-likeable vocals for the first time. He may not have the greatest range, but his smooth tone suits this type of music perfectly. He shines during the chorus, which makes use of the dramatic intro riffs, with a really catchy and emotionally-charged delivery. The song has quite a bit in common with the John Payne era of Asia to my ears, and that is certainly no bad thing. Apologize is the song that was given to One Desire by Mårtensson so comparisons with his band Eclipse can easily be drawn here. It is a more laid-back song, with a lovely clean guitar opening, and a smooth feel throughout. While it is not really a ballad, it is not an in-your-face rocker either. A simple, but large, chorus is the centrepiece of the song, which is unsurprising as that is one of Mårtensson's signature songwriting moves, and it comes roaring out of the speakers with plenty of harmony vocals and soaring melodies. Linman's short guitar solo is different from the norm, and it echoes the clean guitar intro, but it works very well in the context of the song. Linman's Love Injection is up next, and is full of pop sensibilities. Sivula's drums have a lot of reverb on them which gives them the feel of an old 1980s drum machine, and the layers of keyboards along with Linman's simple vocal delivery enhances that poppy vibe. If it was not for the guitar riffs, this could probably be quite a big chart hit! The chorus is another winner, and it has quite a modern feel with melodies that would not be out of place in any modern pop classic. It works well though, and it shows that pop and rock music really are not so far away after all. Turn Back Time opens with clean guitar melodies, but it slowly builds up to a surprisingly pacey rocker with Sivula's, who co-wrote the song, driving ride-heavy drumming and Westerlund's riffs. Big stabs of distorted guitar help to give the song a bit of grit. The guitar solos help this too, and both Westerlund and Linman get a chance to show off. The former is more shred-heavy, before the latter takes a more measured and melodic approach. The combination works well, and really adds a lot to this catchy tune. Falling Apart is the first proper ballad on the album, and shows Linman's most diverse vocal display so far with him reaching a surprising amount of high notes. Again, the poppy feel is quite prevalent here, but the soaring chorus is so catchy that it makes no odds. I really like Sivula's drumming during the song too, as it has this slightly offbeat feel that gives the song a rhythm that you would not usually associate with ballads. It just makes the song stand out a little and make it somewhat different from the norm.

Straight Through the Heart has quite a similar vibe to Hurt and kicks off the album's second half with a driving hard rock rhythm, a tasty guitar lead, and some prominent keyboard melodies. Kuhlberg's bass really helps to give the verses some weight, and keeps the slightly heavier feel of the song going. Despite the more overtly 'rock' feel of the song, it is still one of the catchiest numbers here. The chorus is another one that knocks it out of the park, and even some rather blatant autotuning on the lead vocals does not ruin the mood. I think that tricks like that can actually be used to enhance a song, and it works well here to give the heavier song a great pop sheen. Both Linman and Westerlund get a chance to solo again, and both impress again with a great mix of styles. Those who really love their cheesy AOR will love Whenever I'm Dreaming with it's infectious chorus and poppy overtones. It is the only song on the album that is written by both Linman and Westerlund, which definitely shows that the two could form a great writing partnership and bodes well for any future One Desire albums. Linman takes the solo here, and shows he is just as good on the guitar as Westerlund. In fact, he just owns this song with a stunning vocal performance along with his short, but sweet, solo. The keyboard playing is excellent too, and really helps to add that authentic 1980s sound over the top of the modern poppy vocals. Sivula's Do You Believe is a strident, anthemic rock tune that opens with a strong guitar riff which helps set the tone for the song. I do feel that the chorus is a little poppy for a song with a riff such as this, but it still manages to be enjoyable and shows that Sivula can write songs along with Linman and Westerlund. One Desire is blessed with talented songwriters and I am interested what the band come up with in the future when the songs are all being written together with the intention to create a cohesive album. I do get the impression that this album was made up of songs the individuals had without much collaboration so I look forward to seeing the results of this collaboration in the future. Buried Alive, which is a collaboration between Linman and Mårtensson, is a great piece of heavy rock that almost steps over the boundary into metal occasionally with some big riffs and some great heavy drumming. The heavier sound suits One Desire really well, and I hope this is something that they explore more in the future. Westerlund's big guitar riff dominates, and Linman's vocals actually have quite a big of grit to them which suits the heavier feel. There is lengthy guitar solo section, again featuring both guitarists and it is notably faster which is in keeping with the heavier riffs. This is Where the Heartbreak Begins is the album's closing number, and it is another big ballad. From the simple acoustic opening, all the way through to the soaring chorus, this is contains everything that a great ballad needs. There are even little flourishes of melodic piano which really add depth and additional melodies to the song. It works really well to close out the album, and is a great contrast to the heavier song that precedes it. Overall, One Desire is a really strong debut from this new band and is full of classy songs that are well-written and well-performed. The album definitely has it's own sound that is different from many of the rest of the new melodic rocks out there and I am excited to see what they come up with next.

The album was released on 24th March 2017 via Frontiers Records. Below is the band's promotional video for Hurt.

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