Nordic Union // Review By: ian Dunbar - Rating: 9.5
In today’s society it is simply not acceptable to stereotype. It is a trait that is, at best, seen as negative. However, there are some things in life that make us, quite rightly, jump to immediate and justifiable conclusions. German efficiency, Japanese order and well, let me suggest a third; Scandinavian musicianship.
You see when our editor kindly offered up a list of new albums to review, I mentally undressed and crawled over broken glass in the dessert to get this one. Rightly or wrongly one of my long standing beliefs is that any album featuring musicians from the Nordic/Scandinavian regions will be a very strong one, so is my prejudice warranted? Well, let’s see; who are these guys?
NORDIC UNION is the name behind the new musical collaboration, built by Frontiers President Serafino Perugino, between singer Ronnie Atkins of the legendary Danish Hard Rock institution PRETTY MAIDS and the up-and-coming Swedish songwriter and producer Erik Martensson of ECLIPSE and W.E.T. fame. Throw into the mix drummer Magnus Ulfstedt, a drummer who has played with the likes of Jimmy Jamison and more recently played bass with ECLIPSE. With guest guitar appearances from Thomas Larsson, Fredrik Folklore and Magnus Henriksson, you have a group of individuals who are as talented as Hans Christian Anderson and tighter than a Volvo gear change (well come on, Scandinavian metaphors are difficult at the best of times).
The melancholic intro of “The War Has Begun” lulls you into a false sense of security and before you have chance to reflect, the guitars come in and take your face off. They drag you into a bass driven verse and onto an anthem chorus that immediately had me imagining being stood at the front of their first gig and singing every word. Tracks about war have a tendency to be a bit formulaic and whilst the sentiment has been sung about a million times over, the musicality takes if far beyond what it could have been. What a start, it is a killer track.
“Hypocrisy", like the first track, takes you slowly and gently by the hand then, without warning or apology, rips your arm off with a killer riff. Once again, the production is huge and reaffirms the aural gratification provided by the first track. And, once again, the chorus is memorable; singalongability is now officially a new word, although not according to my spellcheck.
“Wide Awake” is an apt title for track three, because by now, you surely will be. An upbeat, but slightly less in your face track with once again a chorus you will be singing in the office by mid morning.
The album continues with “Every Heartbeat” a slow burner, a great vocal performance and as it is the first ‘quieter’ track is is a chance to sit back and really absorb the great production value of this album. The middle section of the album (unless you are listening of vinyl of course) provides momentum of sustained quality and musicianship with tracks “When Death is Calling”, “21 Guns” and “Falling”. The latter is already a favourite of mine.
Approaching the end of the album and I realise that there is no self indulgence here with the longest track on the album being a little over four minutes. That is refreshing from such a group of musicians who have come together with some great songs. Having said that “The Other Side” for me is the weakest song on the album. That does’t make it a dog by any stretch of the imagination, it simply struggles to compete in such prestigious company when you compare it to the other tracks on offer. Ending the album we have “Point of No Return”, “True Love Waits” and “Go”. They are three tracks of quality that, along with the rest, already has be thinking about the follow upalbum.
Nordic Union has everything. Power, dynamics, musicianship and a vocal performance that is difficult, if not impossible, to criticise. In addition, it is well produced and has songs that are very memorable. “One listen whistlers” as my wife calls them. It is a project that deserves live exposure which is something that projects like these often lack, which would be a huge shame.
So, I am more than happy to report that my stereotypical view of musicians from that part of the world was wholly justified. This is a great collaboration. You have to buy it. I just hope that this is one Union who don't go on strike.