The latest bunch of AOR/hard rock hopefuls to get an airing via the good offices of Uber AOR label Frontiers Music is Sweden’s Lionville. Their press release promises ‘a high profile project dedicated to pure AOR with a touch of Westcoast and melodic rock; Lionville draw inspiration from acts like Toto, Richard Marx, Giant, Bad English, Survivor, and Boulevard’, which of course is enough to set even the most miserable old goat (I’m looking at you, Mr. Editor)’s tastebuds quivering. Have the band been hamstrung by such bar-raising presser shenanagans?
On the whole, I’d have to say no. Despite the lofty brainthoughts that press release engendered, Lionville manage to just about live up to the hype. Vigorous opening track I Will Wait starts things up with the band at their most mundane; It’s a conveyor-belt Frontiers hard rock track, sounding like a bit of an Eclipse/Work of Art mashup. It’s not bad but it ain’t world-conquering AOR! However give the band a bit of time to establish an identity and the rewards present themselves for reaping pretty promptly. By the time they get to track four, the superb ballad Heaven is Right Here, they are firing on all six AOR cylinders. Lars Säfsund doesn’t quite have the best voice for this kind of music – he lacks a bit of grit for my taste – but he handles the material well, and the combined harmonic assault of Säfsund and guitarist Stefano Lionetti carry Heaven… along very well indeed.
The title track does have a whiff of Toto to it, and it’s on this smoother material that Säfsund comes into his own. This track has a real yacht rock ring to it, and could easily have found its way onto the last Toto album – it’s that good. One More Night is pretty spine tingling too, making all the right AOR moves in the verses before blossoming into a fine chorus that sounds like a track Steve Lukather and David Paich might have written for a long-lost US TV sitcom. Which in my troubled world is a good thing…
The second half of the album doesn’t hit the highs quite so often – although there’s no significant dip in quality, please be assured – but fiendishly the band save the best till the absolute last, with the album’s standout track, Image of Your Soul, bringing down the curtain in glorious fashion. It’s a tremendous piece of melodic hard rock, rooted in the legacy of the greats (and again Toto loom large as an obvious influence) but with a spankingly modern production approach that sounds absolutely like a million dollars has been spent on it.
It hasn’t, of course, but artifice is half the trick, no? Whatever, I cannot urge you strongly enough to get involved in this album if you count yourself as a fan of AOR or melodic hard rock. Hours of listening pleasure await you if you do.
A World of Fools is out now.