In the ashes of the Glam Rock band TrashQueen, the AOR trio Cruzh (pronounced Crush) was put together in 2013 and after two E.P’s – Hard To Get (2013) and Aim For The Heart (2014), the trio – vocalist Tony Andersson, guitarist Anton Joensson and bassist Dennis Butabi Borg with Louisian Boltner helping out on drum – signed for a full-length album for Frontiers. After some heavy marketing, the band released their self-titled debut album in 2016 but even though the record was embraced with open arms by reviewers, it didn’t exactly set the world on fire. I dug the record and gave it 7/10 but in hindsight I might have been a bit too generous there because hand on heart, I haven’t exactly played that record to death since it came out.

Things turned awfully quiet around the band after the album’s release and I wasn’t actually sure whether the band still existed or not. Well, it turned out that Cruzh is still very much alive and healthy, albeit with a new line-up. Gone is singer Andersson with Alex Waghorn (ex – Reach) in replacement and also a permanent drummer in Matt Silver with an outside helping hand from Erik Wiss who contributes piano and keyboards. With the debut being a very slick and polished affair where the sound was very much of Scandinavian AOR standard, the news that the new album would be both rougher and edgier felt like a step up.

The opening title-track and the album’s third single says yes, we do have a more raunchy Cruzh here. That said, the fact that the song is more more gritty and Hard Rock laden doesn’t mean that the band has gone Metal or anything like that. No, this upbeat and kick-ass tune is more in the vein of a H.EA.T. meets Crazy Lixx than the AOR sound of the debut. It’s an energetic number built on a big riff and a busy rhythm with a beefy soundscape but with the smooth and direct melodies that is pure Melodic Rock. The chorus is really contagious and the whole tune oozes of live-show opener. This is very good stuff indeed.

More AOR-ish, the leading single ”We Go Together” comes in a mid-pace with a late 80’s pop-rock groove and glossier outlook. Big keyboards, chunky guitars and hooks as far as the eye can see (well, as the ears can hear, really…) with a ridiculously infectious refrain full of harmony vocals. Very singe-along friendly and catchy. Some radio-station really should’ve picked this up. Very good. The second single ”Turn Back Time” follows and this one’s more straight-forward and crunchy with some edgy riffage yet with some big pop-vibes, slick synths and a highly catchy and intense Boston-like refrain that screams hit for miles. Good one.

”Are You Ready” might come off as a bit clichéd lyrically and with it’s Def Leppard ”Pour Some Sugar On Me” groove meets late 80’s Treat with the ever so 80’s popular ”hey” chants inserted. I must admit I can’t really fathom the refrain as it feels done to death by now but on the other hand it holds a fat rhythm and a kicking beat. It’s an ok song where I like the verses more than the chorus. The mellow and held-back piano-ballad ”Cady” starts out quiet and stripped with only piano and vocals but get s bigger with a layer of vocals and keyboards which creates a larger soundscape. The whole arrangement is really beautiful. It’s not a big 80’s power ballad, more a sentimental and emotional tear-jerker. Very good.

Latest single ”New York Nights” takes us back to the debut sound-wise with it’s glossy, smooth and slick AOR outlook. Highly keyboard oriented, the verses also bring on some crunch in the guitars to balance things a bit whereas the chorus on the verge of sugar addiction – and also slightly clichéd with its ”New York nights – whoa whoa whoa”. It’s a good tune, damn catchy but a bit saccharine 80’s overkill. The glossiness continues with the Scandi-AOR sounding, mid-paced ”All You Need”, a song that also goes back to the sound of the debut. This one, however, is one catchy as hell mthrfkr albeit a bit too mainstream. A good song nevertheless.

”Line In The Sand” is slightly dramatic, slower and darker with engaging and edgy guitar-work and a solid rhythm, a bit moody and Classic Rock indulging in the verses. It’s a bit down-beat with laid-back vocal-melodies but the chorus however contrasts with a more upbeat rhythm and a shining melody with a bigger AOR touch and a striking hook. It’s highly catchy and sticks right off the bat. Very good. They go for a more gritty, hard-rocking and bluesy outlook with the groovy rocker ”Moonshine Bayou”. It’s a rowdy and rhythmic stomper with a party vibe and an early 90’s Arena Rock twitch – and an organ instead of a synth-sound which gives the tune even more grit. The chorus is distinct and goes right for the throat. Maybe my favorite song on this record.

”Paralyzed” is a Stadium Rock belter that would have been a crowd-pleaser deluxe back in 1987 – and it should be one in 2021 as well. Mountains of keyboards rubs shoulders with crunchy guitars over a driving beat and some effectively catchy vocal-melodies, sharp hooks and a stunning refrain that could have made this band a household name back in the day. This is awesome – make this a single, please. They close the album with ”N.R.J.C” – short for ”No Rush, Just Crush” – an acoustic down-beat ballad, slow and stripped with smooth melodies, a sticky chorus and big backing vocals not a far cry from Mr Big’s ”To Be With You”. Good stuff.

First of all, yes, this album is heavier and more gritty than the debut but that said, the music is still AOR and Melodic Rock. It’s also better both in song-writing and production than said debut. Waghorn may have been the weakest link in Reach back when – not bad but his voice was thin and a bit swaying – but here his voice has grown. It’s stronger, more potent and the range is much broader – and for me an asset to the band. As a whole, Cruzh feels more like a real band here and the dynamics between the members is more striking. The album contains a couple of fillers too many for the full monty but as a whole, this is a really good album and if you’re into this genre, the album is well worth a buy.