Three years ago, Swedish melodic Hard Rock act The Poodles decided that enough was enough and it was time to call it a day after twelve years and seven records. Unfortunately they decided that a decent-only cover album would be their last release. That being said, The Poodles were a damn fine rock band and even though they were successful, I can’t help but to wonder how big they could have become had they chosen another not so corny name for the band. With The Poodles being no more, the guys went on to pursuit other musical projects and singer Jakob Samuel wasted no time and started two projects at once.

On one hand he started a new band called Cloud Circus, a 70’s based Classic Rock meets Hard Rock meets Prog band with which he has released two songs, songs you really should do yourself a favor and check out and on the other hand he started a solo career which he dived head first into and the album that is out now is the follow-up to his low-key solo debut Past To Present from 2012, an album I must admit I have missed to check out properly. As Samuel was majorly involved in the song writing in his old band, there sure is some big expectations showing up in the back-water of this release.

Opener ”Every Minute, Every Hour” is heavy belter where the raunchy and punchy verses clearly goes for a Metal approach with riff-chuggy guitars. The chorus throws out hooks to left and right and we’re treated with some Melodic Rock melodies and even a nice little Celtic touch, still very hard-rocking all the way. What a killer. ”Stand By You” kicks off with a heavy, tuned-down and ominous guitar-riff which takes the tune into a slower and down-beat verse which contrasts with the following chorus which, still quite heavy, throws in some big, contagious melodies and a poppy catchiness, not a far cry from what he did with The Poodles. Great stuff indeed.

”One Last Time” is a ballad. Smooth and comfy acoustic guitars starts off the tune but it soon takes on a more bombastic shape and a colorful soundscape with some orchestration for good measure. It’s might be a slick tune but it never gets mawkish or saccharine, on the contrary it brings on a deeper structure – and the chorus is amazing. Feels like a big hit to me. The single ”Hey Brother” is a rhythmical beefy pop-groover albeit with some inserted heaviness and a darker touch. It holds a stompy beat and the orchestration here makes for a bombastic soundscape and another one of those mighty chorus that etches itself to the brain right from go. Love it.

Some gritty guitars attacks as they open the ballsy rocker ”Fast Lane”. It’s really a Hard Rock number, concise and direct with an instant heaviness and a solid, tough rhythm. The pre-chorus takes the pace down some into a more held-back structure before the chorus picks up the pace again and brings on a big pop-laden vibe and a distinct catchiness. Very good. Also a bit reminiscent to The Poodles, ”End Of Days” is a straight-ahead yet somewhat held-back rocker with an almost saddening sound due to the darker edges. I think of it as a pop song with a Hard Rock attitude – or maybe the other way around. It’s a good tune but for some reason the chorus doesn’t lift enough for it to be great.

Feeling a bit down? Is fall creeping up on you mercilessly? Well, lend one ear to the upbeat pop-rocking single ”Blame It On Love” and I guarantee you’ll feel better in an instant. It’s a massively swinging summer-song, happy-go-lucky with hooky melodies as far as the ear can hear. Crispy guitars, horns and a funky groove combined with contagious arrangements and a chorus catchier than herpes makes for a clear winner. This is a hit, in my book. Awesome. The more direct and punchy ”Freak” comes with some held-back verses yet with some chunky and fat guitars and the beat brings the tempo up. The chorus is faster and rocks with a raunchier edge, it’s right in your face and strikes with a truck load of catchiness. Very good.

”Ghost” is very direct, Hard Rock laden with some grittier edges. Even though the verse might be a bit toned down, it never gets ballad-like and the big chorus comes with a bouncy stomp, effective hooks and a striking melody, carried by some rough guitars. I dig. ”Home” has a darker atmosphere that almost brings a dystopian vibe. The verse holds a bouncy rhythm where the vocal-melodies is a bit more somber laden. The darkness remains for the chorus which at the same time manages to be quite uplifting much because of the hooky melodies. Very good. ”This Too Shall Pass”, here labeled as a bonus track, starts of more down-beat and darkening and is pretty much a semi-ballad but the chorus is more upbeat and and the the whole arrangement is way more up with another glueing refrain. Good one.

While we all can rest assured that Samuel will never throw a Black Metal or a Techno album our way he’s not predictable enough to record a Poodles record either, so if that was what you’re hoping for, you might be disappointed. Sure, this is a Melodic Hard Rock album but Samuel has no problem throwing in a little bit of whatever he feels like. There are a few references to The Poodles here, of course, he was the singer and song writer for that band after all but never ever does this sound like a new Poodles album. This album is diverse, within the frames of the melodic Hard Rock genre, there are no bad songs in sight and Samuel still has some damn big pipes and a wide range. Both of my thumbs are pointing upwards. Well done – and welcome back.