Swedish AOR band Alien have been around long enough to have seen a song of theirs played over the end credits of The Blob. Yeah, yeah, it was the remake, but that's still 1988 and everyone in the line-up today, I believe, was in the line-up at that point thirty some years ago. That includes a pair of founder members—guitarist Tony Borg and drummer Toby Tarrach—plus lead vocalist Jim Jidhed, who joined only a year later, in 1987. I'm not sure who's playing bass or who's handling the various keyboards.
All these folk have spent time away from the band over the years, with only Borg playing on all seven of their studio albums. This first stable line-up reformed in 2010 and this is their second album since then after 2014's Eternity. I like it, because it's clearly melodic rock but Borg's guitar has quite a bite to it and there's a real energy to what they do. The up tempo opener, You Still Burn, works primarily because of Borg's riff but there's some neat interplay between vocals and keyboards and that's a nice catchy chorus too.
The same happens on Night of Fire, which is opened by thirty seconds of guitar solo. Everything here comes from melody and there are points where it gets soft but, however soft it gets, Borg is never far away with another biting riff. Tarrach's drums are jaunty, almost a summoning call. Jidhed is catchier still and those keyboards pop in even more often to underpin and emphasise his melodies. There's an audible bass too, especially during the spoken word part in the middle of the song.
In other words, this is soft for hard music but hard for soft music and I kind of dig that mild rebellion a lot. I think the album benefits from the band doing that consistently too, far more so than the new Stryper album that does the same thing on occasion but not throughout. This is almost a best of both worlds album: for stereotypical girls who like melody, singalong choruses and obvious keyboards, but also for their stereotypical boyfriends who hate wimpy crap like that and want music that kicks their ass. Or, if you're happy to fight stereotypes, vice versa. Either way, it meets both needs.
When this album mixes it up, it does it for part of a song and then gets back to regular business. The most obvious example is the exotic vocal intro to Into the Future, which promptly gets about as fast and heavy as the album ever allows. Diversions are more common in the intros, like the guitar solo at the outset of Night of Fire, but they can come later too, like the delightful outro to In Her Eyes that's more than the last minute of a sub-five minute song.
The biggest departure, as you might be expecting for a melodic rock album, is the ballad. Fortunately, Alien leave that to the very end so that it doesn't impact the flow of the ten tracks and forty minutes that came before it. This one's called Children and it's voice over solo piano with a little atmospheric keyboards to underpin it. It's actually rather pleasant, even staying that way when it decides to add a solo three minutes in.
Depending on your edition (I'm listening to a Japanese release), there might also be another song, an emotional vocal over folky acoustic guitar piece (plus those inevitable keyboards and, eventually, the rest of the band). It's called Something's Wrong and it feels odd because the guitar could be taken off an early Leonard Cohen song while the vocal sounds more like something Bruce Springsteen might be interested in. Is this a cover? I really don't know, but it plays well to me, as does this album, even if I'd call the bookends the highlights and the rest maybe half a nudge lesser.