by Ron and Don Higgins
Yes is the latest studio album from the Swedish/German hard rock band Last Autumn’s Dream. This band has been described as rock, hard rock, melodic rock and AOR. If this is your first exposure to this great band then you’ll discover that they are in fact, all of the above.
Last Autumn’s Dream released their self-titled debut in 2004. The band was formed by successful solo singer Mikael Erlandsson and successful hard rock guitarist Andy Malecek from the band Fair Warning. It also consisted of three members of the successful Swedish rock band Europe. After Europe reformed, these three members left and the band continued by adding drummer Jamie Borger, bassist Marcel Jacob and keyboardist Thomas Lassar and they recorded a second album. Lassar left after this album and Last Autumn’s Dream became a quartet. The four remaining musicians recorded four more great albums. Unfortunately due to Marcel’s death in 2009, the band needed a new bass player. They added the talented Nalley Pahlsson who recorded their seventh album, Touch of Heaven as well as this new album.
So can a band that’s gone through several band members and released eight albums in about as many years still put out good material? The answer is YES! This album is classic Last Autumn’s Dream. It contains catchy choruses, good songwriting, excellent musicianship and is well produced. The album is diverse in that it has a little of everything for the fan. Some songs are radio-friendly AOR much like the first few albums and some are harder rocking like their subsequent releases and there are a few ballads too.
The album starts off strong right out of the gate with a great hard rocking song called “I’ve Fallen Into You”. It has a little of everything: passionate vocals by Mikael, a nice chorus with good backing vocals, solid guitar work and present, but not overpowering, keyboards. It’s great melodic rock and one of the standout tracks. It’s a good lead into the next song, “The Sound of a Heartbreak” which has a cool piano intro but morphs into an up-tempo rocker. It has a lot of the same qualities as the first track but with more dominant drums and has an early Bon Jovi vibe.
They switch things up on track three, “Another Night” which is a mid-tempo ballad and another one of the best tracks on the album. It’s just a great song and you can really hear Nalley’s contributions on the bass on this one. They pulled the next one out of the stratosphere and did a cover of an old Michael Bolton rock song titled “Fools Game”. This was a top 100 hit for Bolton in the early ‘80s before he became a soft-rock superstar. This new version doesn’t differ significantly from the original but does sound fresher, and although Bolton is undeniably a talented singer, Mikael’s vocal style seems to work better on this enjoyable pop song. Next is a full-on ballad called “If I Could Change the World” and it’s another amazing track. The whole band shines on this one. Lyrically, it’s more of a love song, well a lost love song, as opposed to a song about changing the world itself. The main character is changed and if he could change the world, he’d make the girl love him too. The lost love theme recurs throughout the album. They get back to rocking on “To Be With You” which is what great melodic rock should be. It’s another standout track and Jamie Bolger’s drumming is excellent.
Track seven, “Michelle Don’t Live Here No More” starts off the second half of the album with a nice mid-tempo ballad about lost love again. This is a great AOR song featuring fantastic vocals. “In This Thing Too Deep” is a melodic rocker that’s somewhat reminiscent of the best work by Danger Danger and features a cool guitar solo by Andy.
The next song, “Still Standin’ Where Ya Left Me” is one of the more interesting tracks. The chorus isn’t quite as catchy as some of the other songs but the guitars and drums really stand out. The guitar parts range from sounding like Steve Howe, to Hendrix, to flat out metal — all in one song! And the drums are somewhat jazzy at times. Very cool! Next is “Kissin’ Goodbye My Tears” which is another up-tempo song featuring some ‘80s sounding keyboards and a chorus you can’t help singing along with. All in all a very upbeat, fun song. The 11th song, “Survivor” is a bit heavier and has a different style than the rest of the album. The chorus is more moody than catchy but the song features some passionate lead vocals and great guitar work. The final song, “Alive” also sounds different from the rest of the album but that’s not a bad thing. It is a sad, moody ballad and the slowest song on the album. The guitars shine as Mikael sings again about a lost love and confesses that she’s the one who’s got him feeling so alive. It’s a nice closer to another fine album by this band.
In summary, this is a very satisfying melodic rock album by one of the top groups in the genre. This album ranks up there as one of their best. Will Last Autumn Dream fans like this album? Yes! Will fans of melodic hard rock like this album? Yes! Should you go buy this album? YES!
Mikael Erlandsson – Lead vocals
Andy Malecek – Guitars
Jamie Borger – Drums
Nalley Pahlsson – Bass
01) I’ve Fallen Into You
02) The Sound of a Heartbreak
03) Another Night
04) Fool’s Game
05) If I Could Change the World
06) To Be With You
07) Michelle Don’t Live Here No More
08) In This Thing Too Deep
09) Still Standin’ Where Ya Left Me
10) Kissin’ Goodbye the Tears
Label: GMR Music group
Hard Rock Haven Rating: 9.1 / 10
by Mark Allen
Let’s cut right to the heart of the matter like a hunter field-dressing a downed deer: Salute’s sophomore CD is good, but falls considerably short of being great. The band falls victim to too many average choruses and an over-reliance on standard issue hooks that have been heard thousands of times before to qualify this as something special. But for what it is, a stereotypical serving of slick, shiny melodic rock, it’s a solid enough effort.
For the uninitiated, Salute is fronted by Mikael Erlandsson from Last Autumns Dream, and his huskily emotive voice is one of the best things about this band. It possesses subtle power, not immediately resonating as a reckoning force, but creeping up on you as the songs flow along until you realize you are in the hands of a master vocalist. The lyrics often lapse into timeworn melodic rock clichés, but as sung by a maestro like Mikael, they are elevated above their ordinary origins, his uniquely strong tones wringing every last drop of emotion from each syllable. You may not like everything about this band, but the lead vocalist will not be among your complaints.
The production is another highlight, as bright and shiny as the brass buttons on a soldier’s dress uniform. These songs have been polished more than a narcissist’s mirror, courtesy of guitarist/producer Martin Kronlund. The sonics are full and rich and super slick, which often robs the songs of a hard rock edge but offers plenty to impress the AOR/melodic crowd. While the overall style is guitar-driven, there is a considerable keyboard presence on the album, swirling around the crunchy chords like sonic phantoms, never dominating but definitely a vital aspect of Salute’s approach to the genre. Like all other components, the backing/harmony vocals are perfectly pristine, consisting of layer after polished layer. Not that you can really pick him out of the wall of sound, but David Reece provides guest backup vocals which are seamlessly integrated into the myriad of harmonies. Again, you may have some complaints about this CD, but the production quality won’t be one of them.
So what will there be complaints about? Well, as mentioned at the start, the actual songs are a little on the standard order side. “Higher” strives to be a soaring-with-the-angels opener but never quite achieves such lofty heights. “A Falling Star” is a fine mid-tempo tune, but that’s all it is—fine, nothing more. “Feed Your Hunger” ramps up the energy a little bit but is shackled to mediocrity by an average chorus. The first standout track is “I Will Be There,” a melancholic ballad about love lost that allows enough breathing room for Erlandsson’s vocals to carry the melody and hit you in the soft spot of your heart with its bittersweet power.
Following this gem is a string of songs that range in quality from “pretty good” to “total filler.” Then comes the album’s crown jewel, “Train of Rock ‘n’ Roll,” a hellacious hard rock anthem, boasting a big ol’ chorus hook and big backing vocals to plaster the song in your impressed-looking face like a pulverizing fist. Lyrics read like some AC/DC throwaways, but for pure, head-bopping, foot-tapping, fist-pumping, sing-along fun, this is the best track by far.
In the end, this is a perfectly serviceable, middle-of-the-road melodic rock album, rarely straying into hard rock territory, instead opting to cater to those who like things guitar-driven but not too heavy. All things considered, you undoubtedly have heard better, but you’ve also heard much, much worse. If nothing else, Erlandsson’s superb vocals, the high-end production, and a couple of great songs make this album worthy of at least a half-hearted salute.
Mikael Erlandsson (lead vocals, keyboards)
Martin Kronlund (guitars, bass)
Imre Dauri (drums, percussion)
Henrik Thomsen (bass)
2. A Falling Star
3. Feed Your Hunger
4. I Will Be There
5. Tearing Me Down
6. Heart of the Machine
7. The Long Haul
9. Train of Rock ‘N’ Roll
10. My Part in This Pain
11. Your Servant Tonight
Hardrock Haven rating: 6.5/10
by Justin Gaines
A Touch of Heaven is the seventh studio album from (mostly) Swedish melodic rockers Last Autumn’s Dream. The band, which features singer/songwriter Mikael Erlandsson alongside former Fair Warning guitarist Andy Malecek and Talisman drummer Jamie Borger, had an unfortunate lineup change recently when bassist Marcel Jacob (also of Talisman) killed himself. Former Treat 4-stringer Nalley Pahlsson was brought in to take Jacob’s spot. So now you’ve got a melodic rock band that’s 75% Swedish, 25% German, features former members of Fair Warning, Treat and Talisman, and has Jeff Scott Soto to lend a hand with backing vocals. How can you not be excited about A Touch of Heaven?
The numbers alone give you a pretty good idea what to expect from A Touch of Heaven. It’s 75% Treat and 25% Fair Warning, which makes it 100% melodic rock goodness. It has that impeccable Swedish sense of melody as well as a guitar tone that recalls Fair Warning’s distinctly German sound. It’s almost like a scientist cooked this up in a lab. Erlandsson sounds absolutely terrific, and proves once again why he should be considered one of the genre’s finest singer/songwriters. He has a great range, plenty of power, and just the right amount of emotion, sounding every bit as sincere on party rockers like “Top of the World” as he does on tender love songs like “Candle In the Dark.” It doesn’t hurt that he’s singing against a backdrop of Malecek’s guitar prowess and a tight rhythm section of Pahlsson and Borger.
A Touch of Heaven may be Last Autumn’s Dream’s best work to date. Aside from the doo-woppy “See My Baby Jive” the whole album is one great melodic rock song after another. And you have to love the band’s spirited cover of the Cheap Trick staple “Surrender.” It’s just one of those songs that every melodic rock band should be required to cover at some point.
This one’s easy to recommend. If you like European melodic rock, A Touch of Heaven needs to go to the top of your “must buy” list.
Label: Escape Music
Michael Erlandsson – Lead Vocals, Keyboards
Andy Malecek – Guitars
Nalley Pahlsson – Bass
Jamie Borger – Drums
1. Heaven and Earth
2. Caught In Between
3. Top Of the World
4. Candle In the Dark
5. Come Rain or Shine
7. Last Mistake
8. See My Baby Jive
10. What’s On Your Mind
11. How Long
13. Running On Like Water
14. Jenny’s Eyes
Hardrock Haven Rating: 8/10