There are projects and there are projects. With Frontiers it’s either something put together by the label where both song-writing and production are done by the label’s go-to men and then there are those that the label might be behind but where the members themselves take charge of song-writing and production duties. Crowne from Sweden belongs in the latter category. This band consists of four pretty well-known guys – vocalist Alexander Strandell (Art Nation), guitarist/keyboardist Jona Tee (H.E.A.T), bass player John Levèn (Europe) and drummer Christian ”Kicken” Lundkvist (The Poodles). In the beginning, lead guitarist Love Magnusson (Dynazty) was a member as well but he has since bowed out but is still onboard as a guest, bringing in the guitar solos. As for production duties, Jona Tee took that chair and he’s also the main-song writer here. And as we know from pervious projects, Jona Tee usually equals for great songs.
The opening title-track and single tells us right from go where this record is headed. Uptempo on a solid beat, this number is based on classic Hard Rock but slides towards both Melodic Rock and AOR-smelling melodies. More heavy than glossy, the song brings on a heavier H.E.A.T vibe. It’s rich on harmonies, it holds a ballsy riff and the chorus goes right into my brain. Great stuff. Also a single, ”Perceval” kicks of with a catchy guitar riff on a heavy vibe where the drums goes for a bouncy stomp. Parts of the tune can be attributed to early Europe and there is even a nod or two towards Metal in here. With delicious vocal-melodies and a spot-on chorus, the song goes for the win. Terrific.
Leading single ”Sharoline” goes more for a radio-friendly AOR-ish vibes but with some edgy and crunchy guitars and a powerful rhythm-section. It’s a straight-forward rocker with big melodies that easily could have ended up on a H.E.A.T album where hook after hook succeeds each other. Magnusson’s guitar solo brings old Rising Force and Mr Y to mind whereas the in-your-face refrain more or less screams hit. This one should’ve been all over rock-radio the second it was released. Great. Mixing a Metal-like rhythm-section with big pop hooks, the upbeat AOR-rocker ”Unbreakable” brings on an intense live-feel and a chunky groove. The raunchy guitars blends brilliantly with smoother melody-lines and another striking refrain brings the song home splendidly. Very good.
The upbeat and punchy ”Mad World” comes on strong with some powerhouse rhythms. The song’s foundation is a concoction of classic 80’s Hard Rock and Metal but the big melody arrangements is closer to H.E.A.T and Art Nation, especially the contagious chorus. The verses holds back on the tempo but it speeds up when it builds up for the chorus. This is awesome. With risk of repeating myself, I still have to mention the likeness of H.E.A.T when ”One In A Million” comes along. This smooth AOR-rocker contains lots of keyboards on a straight-forward rhythm and it wouldn’t have been out of place on said band’s latest album. A mountain of hook-laden melodies and an enormously catchy chorus makes this song a perfect single-choice – the hit-potential here is endless. Brilliant.
”Sum Of All Fears” goes for a more Classic Hard Rock vibe albeit very melodic and with a smoother outlook, very 80’s laden. The chugging riffs are all entrancing and the heaviness of the bass and drums makes for a good punch which lies some in contrast to the big melodies, hooks and catchiness. Especially the big chorus hits right where it should. I dig. ”Set Me Free” is more of a semi-ballad with verses that are quite laid-back with a big Scandinavian AOR vibe, slick and clean. The song is quite big on Tee’s big keyboards and at times it sniffs around the backyard of Pomp Rock. A big Arena Rock ballad chorus takes me back in time where this stuff millions – and the quality of this track makes it worth just that. Very good.
Groove-laden and stompy, ”Make A Stand” is a mid-paced hard-rocker with a pumping bass-line and some chunky guitars makes for a solid live-feel while the smooth vocal-melodies gives the tune a slicker outlook. When Magnusson’s terrific solo comes in, the song takes on a faster pace before it goes back into the original mid-tempo. Again, we get a phenomenal refrain that sticks right from hello. Crowne goes back into Melodic Rock mode with ”Cross To Bear” albeit with more crunch and heaviness than the standard mel-rock track. However, the beefy riffage gives the song a bit of classic Hard Rock structure as well and the song smells of both Poodles and Art Nation. That said, the mighty chorus could have ended up on a H.E.A.T record any day. Good stuff indeed.
The album closes with the fine-tuned ballad ”Save Me From Myself” and it holds equal parts AOR and Melodic Rock. There’s a darkening atmosphere that lies all over the track, giving it a somewhat melancholic and even saddening approach. Some of the vocal-melodies reminds of their Swedish colleagues Wildness whereas there are also trace of Art Nation and H.E.A.T weaved in. Strandell really shines on this one with some soulful vocals which gives the tune an emotional touch. The big early 90’s sounding power balladry of the chorus is of the kind that will bring out the lighters – well, cell-phones nowadays – if the guys ever takes this band out on the road. Splendid.
What we have here is a stellar melodic Hard Rock album that throws an eye towards AOR and Melodic Rock made by a bunch of a damn fine musicians – and Jona Tee proves once more that he is a terrific song-writer no matter who is writing for. Erik Mårtensson – competition is coming your way big time. Sure, this album is not revolutionary in neither sound or material but who gives a crap when you get music this strong. Being the main song-writer in his day-job in H.E.A.T, it’s impossible to not draw parallels to said band but by no means is this a H.E.A.T clone. Singer Strandell is the least known name here but the guy is a brilliant singer with a personal voice and it’s time he gets some recognition as well. It’s a pity that Magnusson chose not to be a part of this band because his awesome playing fits this stuff like a glove. Anyway, I hope that this isn’t just a one-off despite the members’ busy schedule because this band deserves to have a real life of their own.