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(AOR Heaven)
Release Date: 31st August 2015

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

art nation

I suppose it's a sign of the truly global world we now live in that decades on from AOR (or soft rock or whatever else you like to call it) had it's glory years with bands such as Journey and Foreigner selling millions of albums in the USA, the centre of the AOR world now seems to be in Scandinavia. Or in particular Sweden.

While global sales in the millions may be something unlikely to be repeated by any genre there are a ton of bands from the frozen north who stay true to the style and prize great vocals, harmonies, swathes of keyboards and guitars plus choruses that stick in your head.

The latest of these to burst onto the scene are Art Nation, formed by former Diamond Dawn man and occasional guest vocalist with Amaranthe, Alexander Strandell. After a year of honing their sound on the road 'Revolution' is their debut album and very impressive it is too.

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Strandell has the quintessential AOR rock voice full of melody and a clean kind of power and he handles all those high notes and singalong choruses to perfection. The musicians are top notch too with guitarist Christoffer Borg and keyboard player Theodor Hedstrom particularly impressive throughout. There is a nice, crisp sounding production from Jacob Hansen too, another essential for this kind of rock music.

All that is well and good but the most important thing for any AOR band is how good are the songs? The answer to that one is that for the most part they are pretty damn good. All the standard AOR bases are covered here from the chugging rocker that is 'All The Way' to the jaunty rhythms and dynamics of the stop start 'Start A Fire' and the straight ahead catchy hookline laden pop/rock of '3000 Beats'.

art nation

'Look To The Sky' is the inevitable over wrought ballad but it's nice that they restrain themselves from going full band power ballad on it and keep it to a very effective combination of piano and vocal only. Another unexpected turn is the heavy, riff laden melodies of 'Wage War Against The World', hardly power Metal but I didn't expect anything this heavy on the album. The album even ends on a pomp rock note with the sub-Styx sounding 'All In'.

The problem with a band being happy to be part of a genre they love is that devotees will love the style of the album if it is done well enough but those looking for something more adventurous will find things predictable and even boring. 'Revolution' ends up somewhere in the middle of all that.

Much of the album is high quality but by the numbers AOR however in some places and in particular with the last three tracks Art Nation show that there is more to them than that. Overall it's a pretty enjoyable album if not totally (ahem) revolutionary and I hope the follow up sees them stretching things out even more as I think they have the potential to make something really special.

Line up:
Alexander Strandell- Vocals
Christoffer Borg- Guitars
Johan Gustavsson- Guitars
Simon Gudmundsson- Bass
Theodor Hedström- Keyboard
Carl Tudén- Drums




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