Review by Andy Hawes for MPM
Nothing Left To Lose is AOR vocalist Kent Hilli’s second solo album following on from 2021’s The Rumble and his work with Perfect Plan and the latest incarnation of AOR supergroup Giant.
There is no denying the quality of HIlli’s vocals. He has the voice of an AOR god, an impossibly wide vocal range and a deliciously warm and rounded tone; powerful and dynamic, with the ability to add a layer of quality to everything he touches, lifting the quality of what is often fairly generic AOR/Melodic Hard Rock and that’s exactly what is going on here.
There is nothing new under the sun on Nothing Left To Lose. To be fair to Hilli, that’s the case with pretty much everything in the AOR field these days, so in order to stand out, either the material has to be utterly banging or the vocal performance has to be stellar. In the case of this album, the latter is certainly the case as Hilli wraps his golden tonsils around each and every track on the album, adding a diamond sheen to every track, although there are also some real gems in some of the material here too.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with anything on this album. ‘Too Young’ opens the album with the sort of warm familiarity that this genre tends to bring to the table, with everything doing exactly what it should and every instrument being in exactly the right place on a good, solid opener.
Nothing Left To Lose’ is also a very good track with big guitars, a huge hook and monstrously powerful vocals. However, things really take off with ‘Could This Be Love’ which hits the AOR chorus motherlode in utterly spectacular fashion, layers of colossal backing vocals and a fabulous melody launching this into the stratosphere in stunning fashion. It’s one of those tracks tailor made for the repeat button and is an absolute belter!.
‘A Fool To Believe’ keeps the quality high, starting out with a pretty heavy chuggy riff, but then sliding effortlessly into another colossal AOR anthem with one of those mega-catchy Euro-AOR choruses and a pretty cool guitar solo. This, plus another superb vocal performance from HIlli lift this track well above the ordinary.
‘Everytime We Say Goodbye’ is one of those lovely mid-paced semi-ballads that all the best AOR acts do so well and Hilli makes great use of his vocal range to take this track soaring into the sunset. ‘Stronger’ is next and manages to chuck everything including the kitchen sink into an AOR anthem that takes us back to the 80s with some aplomb. It reminds me of the sort of stuff that you’d hear on any 80s B-movie and that’s no bad thing. Special mention must go to the keyboard player (Alexander Jonsson) who has certainly done their AOR homework and pretty much every 80s AOR keyboard trick is lurking in here somewhere.
‘Does He Love Like Me’ throws a nice bit of saxophone into the mix and lightens the production just a little, but truthfully, this track is pretty generic AOR and lacks that killer hook to lift it above the ordinary, although HIlli’s voice is its always fabulous self throughout and the solo section, combines guitar and sax rather wonderfully before ‘Start It All Over’ takes us into deep into Survivor territory, with Hilli doing an uncannily brilliant Jimi Jamison impression on a track that wouldn’t have been out of place on Survivor’s brilliant Too Hot To Sleep album.
Whoever wrote this has certainly channelled late 80s Survivor in staggeringly accurate fashion, albeit with slightly heavier guitars. A standout track for sure.
‘Heard It All Before’ is a dodgy song title to choose when you do AOR, as it is a common criticism of the genre. And, sadly, the title is pretty much exactly what I was thinking while this song played. This really is a very ordinary track and even Hilli’s sterling efforts can’t lift it out of its mediocrity. Sadly, ‘Saving Us’ fares little better., although the chorus is slightly better.
Nothing Left To Lose closes with ‘Only Dreaming’ which starts off all atmospheric, rather like 1987-era Whitesnake did in the middle of ‘Still Of The Night’, but when the track kicks in, it does it with the most cheesy and obvious chorus of the entire album, thereby ending the album on a bit of a whimper, although Hilli once again does everything he can to lift the track.
Overall then a bit of a mixed bag. At its best, it’s utterly fabulous, but although it starts well and peaks from tracks 3 through to 8, it does descend into the realms of the generic in its final three tracks. Not that there’s anything really wrong with any of the tracks, even the last three. They are all perfectly competent AOR/Meloidic Hard Rock.
It’s just that a singer of Kent Hilli’s ability deserves material that is way beyond the ordinary and the generic.
There’s still plenty to enjoy here for the AOR fanatics to enjoy and maybe I’m being just a little harsh, but it’s a jungle out there in AOR-land with a ton of contenders for the AOR crown and, while it’s a good little album, Nothing Left To Lose’ just lacks that killer punch to take it to the top of the pile. With more consistency in the quality of the material, it would be up there with the best of them.
Here’s the track listing for NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE:
1. Too Young
2. Nothing Left To Lose (Ft. Jimmy Westerlund And Kai Hahto)
3. Could This Be Love
4. A Fool To Believe
5. Every Time We Say Goodbye
7. Does He Love Like Me
8. Start It All Over
9. Heard It All Before
10. Saving Us
11. Only Dreaming