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Album Review :One Desire – Midnight Empire (Frontiers)

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There has been a wave of Scandi AOR/Melodic Rock bands launched at the rock world over the past few years, many of whom are pretty good at what they do without necessarily setting the world on fire, and thus one might be forgiven for expecting ‘business as usual’ and just another pretty decent, generic offering from this, the second album from Finland’s One Desire.

Well, if that’s what you’re thinking, prepare to have your perceptions altered somewhat – this is really good!

One Desire kick off this album with a monstrous statement of intent in the track Shadowman’. With an atmospheric intro accompanied by clips of old movie dialogue, with colossal hooks galore, more twists and turns than Spaghetti Junction and a masterclass in light and shade including some gorgeous guitar work, this is one helluva way to open an album. Generic AOR this is not!

They follow this with the first single ‘After You’re Gone’, which is a little bit more what you might expect from this kind of stuff. Except that this is just, well, ‘better’. Ok, it still has the classic ‘Whoo-ooh’ hooks that have been a feature of this kinda thing for decades, but the thing just doesn’t let up from start to finish. Powerful, highly melodic, with a perfect blend of guitars and keys, this is quality stuff.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKXa-R-X30I&w=560&h=315]

The quality continues with ‘Down and Dirty’, which again uses plenty of light and shade in the production and excels in both the hookline and guitarwork departments. ‘Godsent xtasy’ is similarly powerful and melodic with an excellent use of a cool key change to elevate the chorus still further. This is all looking very good thus far!

Through the Fire’ starts off all quiet and acoustic, with vocalist Andre Linman singing in a lower register before kicking into his usual range. The chord sequences here move around rather more than many typical AOR tracks and the melodies are more adventurous than usual in the verses.  Once again, the production is excellent on this, with loads of clever light and shade punctuating the track throughout its 6 minutes and 29 seconds. In lesser hands, this length of track could become boring, but not here!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb4qbf5hZEQ&w=560&h=315]

The band then pick up the pace again with ‘Heroes’, which is perhaps the most ‘generic’ track thus far, but you just can’t argue with the irresistible melodies and that chorus is absolutely huge.

Rio’ then starts off gently with tinkling piano, tuneful guitar and delicate drum loops before kicking into melody overload. This is absolutely stunning and sounds like the sort of AOR that filled the best movie soundtracks in the 80s. Linman’s vocals are particularly fine here as he stretches his range in that wonderful chorus.

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‘Battlefield of Love’ and ‘Killer Queen’ are more powerfully driving tracks, the former with some big down-tuned guitars thundering away behind the layers of keys. These are perhaps the least immediate tracks thus far, but are rewarded by repeat listening. They are kinda reminiscent of Brother Firetribe’s early stuff, which is no bad thing.

The final track is ‘Only When I Breathe’, which is a lovely ballad. After the big driving rock of the preceding two tracks, this is a great change of pace and a cool way to finish the album containing yet more fine vocals and very well-arranged instrumentation.

If you’re a fan of the modern Scandi AOR/Melodic Rock sound, you really should buy this on sight as you’ll absolutely love it! Even if you’re not normally a massive fan of this kinda thing, but dig a bit of AOR once in a while, you really should give it a listen.

The song writing is extremely good and the production and arrangements throughout are superb and, in places, offer something a little different to other bands in the genre. The range of tempos works well, with enough variation to keep the listener interested throughout.

All of the band members put in very strong performances and there really aren’t any weak tracks. Put together, this all means that One Desire have created a truly excellent piece of work that should elevate them into the upper echelons of the crowded Scandi AOR/Melodic Rock scene. Absolutely essential!

Tracklist:
1. Shadowman
2. After You’re Gone
3. Down And Dirty
4. Godsent xtasy
5. Through The Fire
6. Heroes
7. Rio
8. Battlefield Of Love
9. Killer Queen
10. Only When I Breathe

Line-up:
André Linman – lead vocals, guitars
Jimmy Westerlund – guitars, bg vocals, lead vocals (5)
Ossi Sivula – drums
Jonas Kuhlberg – bass

Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

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