Thursday 10 January 2019

Mikael Erlandsson & Last Autumn's Dream - Secret Treasures (2018)

Country: Sweden
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 19 Dec 2018
Sites: MySpace | Wikipedia

Last Autumn's Dream have been knocking albums out almost every year since 2003 and this fifteenth studio release follows a sort of tradition in releasing soon before Christmas in Japan, hence the length of this one with four bonus tracks. The European release won't drop until 2019.

When it does, it's recommended. I'm new to the band, but apparently the selection of tracks here are generally old and discarded ones revisited to see how they'd work out in the modern day. It turns out that they work out pretty damn well, especially given that they make for a lively album, rocking out on the front of the virtual stage inside our heads. Reading up on them online tells me that their last album was a much softer affair, almost into Eurovision pop territory according to one blog.

Now, Lordi may have shaken up Eurovision and made it a viable target for harder material, but Secret Treasures mostly isn't interested in that sort of thing. I could see a ballad like Have to Let You Go playing there, even if it's crafted beautifully, and even Break Another Heart has an Abba vibe, even if it's rather heavier than their fellow Swedes ever got.

Most of these tracks are up tempo rockers, starting with with the opening double of Eye of the Hurricane and Evil, catchy rockers both that grab our attention from the outset. Why, with a different voice leading it, could have been a Van Halen track from their Sammy Hagar era.

That voice, by the way, is Mikael Erlandsson, the driving force behind Last Autumn's Dream since he co-founded the band with former guitarist Andy Malecek back in 2002. A number of these songs were apparently solo Erlandsson tracks, which is why the cover credits the album to Mikael Erlandsson and Last Autumn's Dream.

I have no idea how the material breaks down but it seems consistent to me, so there was presumably never much of a different sound between Erlandsson solo and Erlandsson in Last Autumn's Dream. Sure, there's a neat guitar groove on the remix of Love is the Answer and another one on When She's Gone, which reminds me of Saigon Kick. So does Alice in the Wonderland, courtesy of their solid Beatles influence.

If anything, the songs seem to be competing with each other to see which will be recognised as the bounciest, the catchiest or the most radio friendly. Only one of those categories has a clear winner, because the catchiest must surely be OK, which burrows into our brains immediately and camps out like it never wants to leave again. When She's Gone deserves to dominate the airwaves so it lands my vote for most radio friendly. The bounciest is really up for grabs, with the album's starter and finisher vying hard for that title in completely different ways and everything in between staking a claim too. That's not a bad situation for a melodic rock band.

The Japanese bonus tracks are all remixes of older tracks originally released on the II album back in 2004. They all sound good to me, perhaps a little heavier and more guitar focused than the rest of the album, but they underline my real takeaway from Secret Treasures, namely to check out what this band have been doing for the last decade and a half. I've clearly been missing out.

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