I took one look at the promo and said to myself: Proud? Could that be…? Apparently, yes it could. Back in the early to mid 80’s, Hard Rock and Metal were on the rise in Sweden and at one point it seemed like everyone with long hair and a guitar got themselves a record contract. I remember reading about this band in a magazine back in 1984 when they had released their debut – and up until now – only album Fire Breaks The Dawn. Since there were so many bands releasing records in Sweden around that time, a few of them I missed out on and Proud was one of those bands. Until this day, I have never heard a note from that album, so I don’t have a clue whether it’s good or not. Maybe it’s time to check it out now and hear what they had to offer back then.

Proud started out back in 1982 as Burn but changed the name as Burn was already taken and when their debut was released two years later, Proud was their name. I remember the album got some attention and that it got a good reception from rockers around me. But nothing really happened back then so they broke up. 36 years later it’s time for a follow-up and of course, we don’t get the original line-up, only two out of five members remain – singer and guitarist Anders Magnell and bassist Bobby Horvath with drummer Mats Christiansson taking over from Anders Holmqvist. Also involved is Richard Larsson who guests on keyboards. I really dunno what to make of this as I can’t recall any of their old stuff, which of course means that Proud to me is a completely new band.

Opening up with the album’s leading single ”Sail Away”, we get an upbeat melodic Hard Rock number in mid-tempo that rests solidly on a chunky beat with some crunchy guitars yet driven by a smoother keyboard sound. What we’re given is an 80’s sounding – melodically wise – rocker that holds some 70’s rock-vibes as well while the guitar solo winks towards a neo-classical touch. The chorus is totally bulls-eye and sticks right off the bat. Very good. Guitars and keyboards meets halfway in the full-on AOR-number ”Broken Dreams”. It’s a straight-forward, mid-paced tune with a direct and distinct main-melody that also holds a gorgeous piano-arrangement. The extremely hooky chorus, taken right out of Survivor’s pocket, is so catchy it’s ridiculous. Awesome stuff.

”Magic” is more of a Classic Rock belter with some AOR features weaved in. The song also comes across as slightly pomp-laden as well as 80’s Rainbow influences where the crunchy guitars and smoother laden keyboards goes off side by side. With a big, effective refrain that holds some majestic backing vocals, the song is a real winner. No wonder it was released as the latest single. Should’ve been a hit. ”Born For Your Love” is straight ahead with rough edged riffing and a fat, beefy Hammond. At times, the vocals are a bit held-back, especially in the verses but the chorus is uplifting, strong and distinct with an intense catchiness. Very good.

More edgy guitars and more Hammond comes along in the crunchy, Classic Rock laden ”Crying In The Night” where a vigorous rhythm and a big look at classic Hard Rock lets their inner Whitesnake out and mixes it up with some smoother, 80’s laden Rainbow vocal-melodies. It’s distinct, powerful and very memorable with a striking refrain. Good. The Classic Rock vibes continues with ”Dangerous” with its Hammond-like sound blended with some 80’s sounding synths which opens the song, raw guitars and a muscular beat which carries the tune into being a future live-killer. The chorus is an absolute belter that etches itself to the brain right from go.

Like a time-machine back to the mid 80’s, the blipping synth that starts the song takes us into an even more 80’s pop-melody which lies over a straight ahead rhythm. It’s an upbeat AOR-rocker with every 80’s ingredient possible – very slick and glossy. But instead of sounding dated it comes off as relevant and it’s clear that these guys know their 80’s music but also knows how to bring on a modern twist to the whole thing. Of course, we’re treated with an uplifting chorus that sticks hard, a chorus that would have been all over radio and MTV back in the day. Great. Mid 80’s Europe meets Rainbow in the straight forward melodic hard-rocker ”Hold On”. A tasteful main-melody, big keyboards and crispy guitars sets the standard for the song and the infectious chorus is the icing on the cake. Great.

On a more raunchy note, the driven and mid paced ”I’m Ready” goes for a more classic Hard Rock vibe built on a stompy and ballsy foundation of edgy drums and fat bass-lines yet where the guitar might be both gritty and heavy – there’s a raucous organ involved – the song is smoothened out with some cleaner and slicker keyboards. It’s slightly pomp-laden but the big Melodic Rock type chorus makes this a hard-rocker with AOR tendencies. Good one. The album closes with upbeat AOR-rock in the shape of ”Fly Like An Eagle”, a slick yet not saccharine number. It’s an uplifting number that has a spark and feels like it belongs on the stage – and the chorus is a beast full of catchiness and contagious hooks everywhere. A great way to close an album of this caliber.

I must say I’m impressed even though I really didn’t know what to expect here. I just might have to visit Fire Breaks The Dawn to see what these albums have in common – if they have anything in common at all. On here Proud base their music on melodic Hard Rock but isn’t shy of throwing in Pop, AOR and Melodic Rock and it doesn’t sound mawkish or sugary at all. The fact that the album doesn’t include one single ballad is a surprise but I don’t miss one at all. It’s clear that the guys hold their 80’s dear but then again, it sure seems like they hold their 70’s dear too and the symbioses of the two works splendidly. But most importantly, the 36 years it took for them to get their second album out has been worth the wait because here we get 10 songs where none of them is worse than good. Highly recommended.

8/10