by Mark Allen
Staff Writer —
When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll dreams, it seems axiomatic that the fire of raw hunger belongs solely to the young. Granted, there are exceptions to the rule—rules always have exceptions—but are there any headbangers out there who would argue that Reload has the same spark as Kill ‘Em All? That The Spaghetti Incident is equal in quality to Appetite For Destruction? That Generation Swine is as musically ferocious as Girls, Girls, Girls? Young bands scraping in the dirt and trying to make a go of it are just naturally hungrier and more zealous than bands that have already clawed their way to the pinnacle. By its very nature, success tends to stifle the creative flame that starvation can so often generate.
The Norwegian band Valerie is a young, hungry band; every member is between the ages of 17 and 19. And while their eponymous debut may not go down as a classic, it is certainly a very good album, with a sound straight out of the ‘80s glam rock playbook. Matter of fact, that is how the band advertises itself: “Valerie is 1987 in 2012.” It really cannot be said any better. This sounds like hair metal, looks like hair metal, and is possessed by the same pop-metal spirit that defined the burgeoning Sunset Strip scene back in the ‘80s. You can call this mousse abuse music if you want, but the word “abuse” really should not be applied to something that sounds this good.
The band has more than enough talent to carve out a niche within their genre. Vocalist, guitarist, and band namesake B.T. Valerie has a smooth voice that works well with this kind of slick, polished melodic hard rock, but he is equally capable of turning up the attitude on the heavier numbers. Even better than his singing is his axe work; the man really gives the six-string a workout. Laying down the rock steady beats are drums that pack a punch. Maybe not quite the knockout blow of a heavyweight contender, but you will not walk away from this album accusing the skin-work of being weaker than a balsa wood bar-stool. The bass and keyboards do what they are supposed to do, filling in the spaces between the guitar-drum domination.
The songs themselves are quite hooky, with sing-along choruses and big, layered backing vocals. Sure, it’s all a little simplistic and never deviates from the retro hair-metal formula, but what it lacks in innovation it compensates for with old fashioned hard rock fun, a crucial ingredient that all too often is forgotten in today’s rock music scene.
Just one listen to these songs will emphatically prove that Valerie has about as much interest in modern rock as a vegetarian has in visiting a slaughterhouse. But while these throwback tunes don’t stand a chance at making it onto mainstream radio in today’s musical climate, they easily could have been hits back in the ‘80s. “Vixen” has a Dokken vibe to it, with walloping guitars, an anthemic chorus, and some of the biggest backing vocals the album has to offer. “When Two Hearts Collide” is the band’s first single and you can see why: it’s catchy and it rocks but it doesn’t rock too hard. The bouncy, hard-edged pop hooks would have been right at home next to Bon Jovi on FM radio circa. 1987. Even the mandatory power ballad, “Love is Not Enough,” is pulled off with aplomb, over the top without crossing the line into cheesiness. Dig out those Bics and get ready to wave them all over again…
This is not the kind of album you listen to in amazement while thinking, “Man, I have never heard anything like this before.” No, this is the kind of album you listen to and think, “Man, I have heard this kind of thing before…and I really missed it.” Drop the top in your cherry-red convertible, pick up a bikini-clad hot chick to ride shotgun, race down the highway at speeds that qualify you for the pole position in the Indianapolis 500, and let the wind whip through your hair while Valerie provide the perfect summertime cruising soundtrack.
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock, Glam Metal
BT Valerie (lead guitar, vocals)
Erlend Omdal (drums, vocals)
Augustus W. Clark (bass, keys, vocals)
Magnus Christiansen (guitars, keys, vocals)
1. It’s Not Love – It’s Not War
2. Heat of the Night
3. When Two Hearts Collide
5. Tear Down the Wall
6. Love is Like a Heart Attack
7. Taste the Bullet
8. Love is Not Enough
Label: Hellish Records
Hardrock Haven rating: 8/10