Swedes Mean Streak have gone about their business quietly over the last decade or so, recording and releasing an album of solid heavy metal every couple of years or so without really making any waves beyond their immediate fanbase. With Blind Faith, their fourth full-length release and first for new label Rock of Angels Records, all that is hopefully about to change.
Ironically this upsurge in career trajectory comes at a time when the band have delivered their least traditional heavy metal album ever – in relative terms. Whereas once Mean Streak were the alpha and omega of Priest/Maiden assimilation, they’ve broadened their palette significantly over the years, meaning that Blind Faith is a far more hard rocking album than anything the band has produced thus far.
As I say, this is all relative, and fanes of Adele aren’t going to suddenly start flocking to the band’s colours after hearing the likes of the Dokkenesque Retaliation Call. But there is more melody here, there are more singalong choruses than ever before and I for one am happy to welcome these adjustments with open arms.
There’s still metal in abundance, of course; Opening Track Blood Red Sky kicks things off at a fair rattle in the tradition of other Mean Streak openers such as Whom The Gods Love Die Young, whilst the quite superb Settle the Score recalls mid period Helloween in all their glory. At the centre of all this, as ever, are the classy vocals of Andy La Guerin, a man who is surely now going to be recognised as one of the top metal vocalists in Europe on the evidence of this release. Quite simply he’s got every style in the book covered, and as Mean Streak move slowly away from their NWoBHM roots that’s only going to become a more valuable talent to the band.
Guitarist Thomas ‘PLEC’ Johansson is in similarly impressive form throughout, supplying crystalline solos and spirited riffage in equal measure and really acting as the foil to La Guerin on every track – they make a great partnership, whether on the out-and-out heavy stuff or anthemic highlights such as the distinctly Gotthardian hard rock of Tears of the Blind.
Love is a Killer is all guns blazing Euro power right out of the top drawer – Primal Fear would welcome the track on any of their albums – the heads-down appeal of the scintillating riff attack being augmented by one of the best choruses on the album and another superior performance from that man La Guerin. Come Undone takes us back to the early eighties with its lurching, brooding riffs and epic singalong chorus, whilst Fire at Will is the heaviest track on the album yet still comes replete with another memorable chorus.
Penultimate track Caught in the Crossfire is possibly the album’s only weak link – though it’s not actually a bad track at all, just a little mundane compared to the material surrounding it – which leaves the excellent Gunnerside to round things out as they started – in supremely melodic, metallic fashion.
It’s been great to watch this band’s evolution over the years, and it’s going to be great watching go from strength to strength as time goes by. I’ve a feeling that Blind Faith is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for Mean Streak.
Blind Faith is released today (June 2nd) by Rock of Angels Records