Back in 2018, Swedish Melodic Rock act Perfect Plan released their debut album All Rise, an album that struck down like thunder and lightning in melodic Hard Rock circles with raving reviews and thumbs up from pretty much everyone who heard the album. Rightfully so because without being revolutionary by any means, the album was a solid affair with an almost ridiculously high lowest level. After a cover E.P called Jukebox Heroes in 2019, the band released the follow-up Time For A Miracle in 2020. Despite enormous expectations in the back-water, Perfect Plan rose to the occasion with an equally great record which cemented the band as one of the best new bands within that genre. Not bad for a bunch of middle-aged guys who decided to restart their career after many years in hiatus.
Not only did they have the songs, they also proved to be damn fine musicians – and lead singer Kent Hilli is one the finest singers that I have heard in later years. All this makes it a bit confusing that only a year after Perfect Plan’s latest effort, said singer decides to release a solo album. The press-release talks of a Melodic Rock album so the big question is, why make a solo album in the same genre as the genre his day-job dwells in? Is Perfect Plan all of a sudden no more? Is he testing the waters? Well, no matter his reasons, another album with Hilli at the mike is interesting and since he has teamed up with Mike Palace with whom he co-wrote the songs. Palace was also in charge of the production, the mixing and he plays all instruments on the record. This really can’t go wrong, right?
Opener ”The Rumble (Never Say Die)” says no, it really can’t go wrong. A bit more AOR and polished than Perfect Plan, this mid-paced number takes on a bigger AOR meets Pop vibe, smooth but not glossy with a big 80’s touch and a fine groove. Parts of the song has me thinking of Stan Bush when he’s at his best and the song contains strong melodies, a truckload of hooks and a terrific chorus that hits bullseye right from hello. A bit more moody, the single ”Cold” is still a quite slick AOR-stomper with a big, mid 80’s sounding keyboard sound and it comes off as a more Pop Perfect Plan tune. The big chorus is a monster, somewhat reminiscent of a band like Giant. This is fabulous.
”All For Love” is a stompy Pop number that soundwise takes me back to 1989 but for some reason it doesn’t sound the least dated. The slick sound is accompanied by a – all in the name of AOR – gritty guitar which brings up the intensity and the live-feel and it contrasts brilliantly against the poppy vocal melodies. Catchiness is the word for this Journey/Bad English smelling tune – the chorus is majestic but even the verses are catchy. Great. ”I Can’t Wait” is even more slick, pink n’ fluffy with a big 1987 touch and some ”whoa whoa” thrown in for good measure. For someone like me who grew up on this stuff, the song is spot-on – and a time-machine back to when life was all about fun and nothing else. I love this.
Leading single ”Don’t Say It’s Forever” throws around enough hit-potential to sell. This upbeat number has a lot in common with Hilli’s day-job in Perfect Plan but a bit more AOR-laden. It holds a slight resemblance to Foreigner and even though it’s quite slick, I really like how the guitars and keyboards gets an equal share of space here. The refrain is huge and so is the soundscape and even though it sports some major Pop-vibes, it never goes sugary. Great stuff. ”Miss Up To No Good” takes a bit of a turn with its grittier guitars and Classic Rock turns and a blues-laden groove. I hear Giant, Palace and a bigger Stadium Rock twist but with Melodic Rock melodies and the refrain is direct and infectious. Fact is, the whole song is. Good stuff.
On a slower note, the poppy ballad ”Heaven Can Wait” might hold an 80’s touch but instead of going all mushy it brings on a more melancholic and mellow vibe without any cheesy or power ballad tendencies. It’s emotional and pretty deep with a slight theatrical touch to the arrangements. Besides that it also sports an instant hook which makes the song stick right off the bat. Very good. Bringing on a major Survivor twitch, ”Does It Feel Like Love” is a full on AOR song with a large dose of Pop influences involved. It’s a direct tune with an effective and striking chorus that screams hit. In the late 80’s this song could have bought Hilli a mansion in Beverly Hills. It wouldn’t have been out of place on a Palace record either. Great stuff.
”Love Can Last Forever” is a hybrid between a semi-ballad and held-back AOR number where a large dose of the 1989 version of Whitesnake involved – think the poppiest moments of their Slip Of The Tongue album. A chunky rhythm, smooth yet infectious melodies and a masterful and über-catchy refrain makes this a nothing short of addictive track that damn well knocked me for six. ”Never Be Mine” is slower and laid-back with a slightly darker tone in the verses but the chorus goes more stompy, American Arena Rock and holds a huge, catchy AOR riff and a big mid 80’s laden chorus that hits home right on the spot. Closing track ”Still In Love” is a full-on power ballad, smooth and clean with a slick arrangement and some grand vocals all over. The backing vocals even touches on Gospel choir territories. There’s an early 90’s American stadium ballad touch here with a magnificent refrain that’s just irresistible.
If you’re a fan of AOR and Melodic Rock fan, then this album is a must. That also goes for fans of Perfect Plan because Hilli’s day-job and this aren’t exactly worlds apart – this record is a bit poppier with more slower tempoed songs. But it’s a strong album, really damn strong. Song wise, there’s nothing to complain about at all and neither is Palace’s playing or Hilli’s amazing voice – at times i get a big Jimi Jamison feel from him and you can really be worse off than that. I’m still a bit confused by the fact that Hilli decided to make a solo record with songs that easily could have fitted Perfect Plan but on the other hand, why not? And with an album as good as this, who cares? I’m just glad I can have both – and I guess so is he.