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Album Review: Grand – Grand

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Review by Andy Hawes for MPM

Frontiers Music S.r.l. have once again tapped into the seemingly inexhaustible supply of AOR talent from Sweden and present us with their latest pink and fluffy offering, the debut and self-titled album from the band called Grand.

Grand is essentially a studio project featuring vocalist Mattias Olofsson, a man blessed with the kind of AOR voice that can move mountains, melt glaciers, level forests and deliver epic love-lorn classic AOR in spectacularly epic fashion. He is joined by Jakob Svensson, whose guitar, bass and keyboard skills give this album exactly the sort of vibe that this kind of project needs. Rounding the trio off is drummer/bass player Anton Martinez Matz.

This is proper AOR and no mistake. The guys clearly worship at the altar of fellow (and now defunct) Swedes Work of Art and it’s that band who come to mind most while spinning this album. Naturally, with Work of Art being a reference point, classic 80s Toto are also there in the mix along with a whole bunch of more obscure Scandi Soft Rock artists such as Toys of Joy, Time Gallery, etc, as well as pretty much any other classic AOR/Melodic Rock acts from the past 30 years.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=0qH3EgfZFa4

Kicking off with the absolutely blindingly good AOR of ‘Caroline’ and ‘Stone Cold’ (the latter being so Work of Art it’s scary!), you’d be hard pushed to find a better opening duo of tracks in this kind of AOR style. Full of everything the genre needs, (i.e. parping keys, polite yet suitably soft rocking guitars and ridiculously good vocals and massive hooks) these songs simply scream ‘class’ even if we have heard it all a gazillion times before.

The quality drops just a tad for ‘Make It Grand’ which seems to believe that it should chuck in a few early 90s soft Hair Metal style ideas in – quite why Grand felt the need to dilute the AOR sound in this way I don’t really know, but I’m happy to report that the AORmometer whips itself back up to the max for the stupendously catchy and very West-Coast AOR/Pop of ‘The Price We Pay’, which has a chorus of quite staggering catchiness.

‘Johnny On The Spot’ kicks up the rock quotient by a tiny amount, but the keys and layers of chiming 80s sounding clean guitars keep the chugging rock guitars suitably in check and the chanted chorus takes us back to dip our toes into Melodic Rock territory with Olofsson’s screams lifting the fadeout into the stratosphere.

The AOR returns big time with the quite delicious ‘Those Were The Days’, which has a chorus that piles on the 80s cheese in quite spectacular fashion before more AOR wonderousness emerges with the very delightful ‘Once In A blue Moon’ which combines stunning 80s keyboards with delicate guitars quite brilliantly.

The production on this is staggeringly good, with the layers of keys adding way more power than one would expect, pulling back just enough to allow the lovely verse melodies to breathe. Along with the two opening tracks, this is a clear standout.

The Work of Art influence returns in very obvious fashion with the urgently up-tempo ‘Too Late’ which is yet another superb piece of modern AOR, guitars and keys combining perfectly to create a quite delightful AOR dish with another extraordinarily catchy chorus and a pretty epic keyboard and guitar solo to boot.

We’re on the home straight now and Grand show no signs of slowing down. There can sometimes be a tendency for bands peddling this kind of stuff to get stuck in a mid-tempo groove, but I’m happy to report that there’s no such issue here, as ‘After We’ve Said Goodbye’ keeps the tempo suitably up and even gives us some classic mid-late 80s Toto influence on yet another incredible chorus.

Penultimate track ‘Ready When You Are’ keeps the tempo high and is perhaps the first time that the Grand boys really break into a proper Hard Rock sweat. This track sounds like the sort of Melodic Hard Rock that appeared by the bucketload on a host of 1980s B-movies. Of the three more rocky tracks on this album, this is by far the most effective, as it feels a little less contrived than the other two and it’s also insanely catchy – rather like most of the rest of the album.

Grand close the album with ‘Anything For You’ which is the closest they come to a proper ballad. I’m not really a fan of ending an album with a ballad, especially when the rest of it has been pretty uptempo, and I would have liked this track somewhere in the middle of the album, but it has to be said that, as modern AOR ballads go, it’s pretty darned good and does close the album on enough of a high.

Look, I’m the first person to admit that this album will be an acquired taste. If you’re a fan of the sort of Scandi AOR that Frontiers S.r.l. love so much, especially bands like Work of Art, Lionville, etc, then this will be right up your AOR boulevard.

Fans of harder styles of rock will almost certainly want to give this a miss, as it’s very West-Coast. As for me, I love it! There’s nothing new under the sun here, but as an AOR afficiando, I can heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone with similar pink and fluffy AOR tastes! A quality debut for sure!

From the album GRAND. Buy or Stream: https://orcd.co/grandaor

Subscribe To Frontiers Music Srl: http://radi.al/SubscribeFrontiers

“Grand” Tracklisting:

  1. Caroline
  2. Stone Cold
  3. Make It Grand
  4. The Price We Pay
  5. Johnny On The Spot
  6. Those Were The Days
  7. Once In A Blue Moon
  8. Too Late
  9. After We’ve Said Goodbye
  10. Ready When You Are
  11. Anything For You

LINE-UP:
Mattias Olofsson – Lead and Background Vocals
Jakob Svensson – Guitars, Bass, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Anton Martinez Matz – Drums and Bass

Social Media:

https://facebook.com/grandthebandsweden

https://instagram.com/grandthebandsweden

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