Once in every moon (well, probably a bit more often than so) an artist or a band becomes a big hype quite unexpectedly as the music might not be that year’s flavor but it was a long time since I have experienced the kind of big-bang hype that Swedish AOR:sters Nestor is in Sweden right now. They have two big hit-singles which are all over rock-radio (I’m not too sure about mainstream radio, though as I never listen to that crap), their album is big both in sales and on Spotify streams and they seem to be booked on tours with everyone and their mother – they’re the latest addition to Sweden Rock Festival in 2022 and more of those will probably come as time goes by. And they play 80’s Rock, glossy, slick and sugary where AOR and Melodic Rock meets, not the most hip genre, so to speak.
But who are these guys then? Well, Nestor – Tobias Gustavsson (vocals), Jonny Wemmenstedt (guitar), Marcus Åblad (bass), Mattias Carlsson (drums), Martin Frejinger (keyboards) – started out already in 1989 as teenagers and had the band going for a few years without any results and then put the band to rest. The guys went on to do other things with singer Gustavsson working as a song-writer for artists like Pink, Britney Spears and Kylie Minogue. However, the guys stayed in contact during the years and when Gustavsson got the idea to start up Nestor again as he had a bunch of songs in style with old 80’s Hard Rock, the rest of the guys were all game. They quickly decided on going all-in with the 80’s pop-rock style, both musically and image wise and the rest is, as they say, history. This band is the big success of fall/winter 2021 when it comes to the Hard Rock branch.
”Fanfare For The Reliable Rebel” is an atmospheric intro that leads us right into the debut single ”On The Run”, a huge hit. What strikes me directly is that the riff is more or less nicked shamelessly from Kiss’ ”I’ve Had Enough (Into The Fire)” (Animalize, 1984) and the actual verse borrows big from said song, only glossier, more keyboard oriented and a not as heavy arrangement. The chorus is, even though it’s quite standard Scandinavian AOR, their own and it’s catchy as can be – no wonder it became a huge hit. I wasn’t all that impressed when it first came out but it has grown on me since. It’s a good song but a couple steps from being great.
The title-track is a smooth little number, poppy with AOR-isms that takes me right back to 1986 again. With a galloping rhythm and a straight ahead outlook, the song brings on some smooth harmonies, a glossy soundscape and immediate melodies all over with a chorus that sticks right from go. A great number with a big chunk of hit-potential. The colorful and infectious ”Stone Cold Eyes” brings on some slick pop-rock with a big AOR vibe with a slight touch of Treat meets Journey inserted. This tune could easily had been written back in 1987 – and if it had been, Nestor would have given any band from that time a run for their money. It’s a splendid tune with a refrain so catchy it’s hurtful and it’s impossible to get rid of once it stuck. Single material deluxe, in my book. Awesome!
”Perfect 10 (Eyes like Demi Moore)” starts out slow on a ballad note but goes off quick into a hybrid groove of pop-disco-AOR where Kiss’ ”I Was Made For Lovin’ You” shows up in the verse albeit on more held-back note. The chorus on the other hand throws a slight glimpse at ”I Surrender” (Rainbow) on an upbeat rhythm with some ”Runaway” (Bon Jovi) meets early 80’s Aldo Nova synths. The main melody is massive, the pop-vibes are glossy and the chorus is huge and extremely contagious. The ”she’s got eyes like Demi Moore and a body like Sharon Stone” might be a bit of a cheese overkill but the song is so damn good, I’ll let it slide. The hit-potential is big here as well.
While sporting a huge 80’s sound, ”These Days” has a verse that is Van Halen’s 1991 hit ”Right Now” rewritten with the same bass/keyboard stomp but with a bigger 80’s sounding synth all over. The chorus screams hit for miles and even though the theft of Heart’s ”What About Love” – albeit more upbeat – might be really obvious, it’s still one heck of a song that could have been on any of the 80’s action-movie soundtracks. Another hit-single to be. I dig.
The latest single, the ballad ”Tomorrow”, didn’t create even half the fuss the two first singles did, which is understandable as it’s not even half as strong. To go all-in 80’s, the band hired 80’s icon Samantha Fox to duet with Gustavsson – a real cool move. It’s a soft and laid-back number with a bit of Disney-score feel to it. It has a saddening atmosphere to it and the vocal-melody is at times reminiscent of the Europe-track by the same title, a song I was never that fond of. The tune has a bit of Gary Moore’s ”Empty Rooms” over it as well and the phrase ”no one can save us, the damage is done” is more than a little poke at Bon Jovi’s ”You Give Love A Bad Name”. It’s an ok song but nothing overwhelming.
And speaking of ”Empty Rooms”, the verse-lyrics for ”We Are Not OK” is ”Empty Rooms” word by word. I don’t have the credits for the album here but if Gary Moore’s name isn’t in there, things could get ugly. As a song, it’s pretty good without flooring me. It’s smooth and slick with a big 80’s keyboard and a big soundscape with a more modern, Scandinavian AOR touch and the chorus holds an intense hook. ”Firesign” is a way grittier and rougher rocker where a number of influences shows up. I hear the crunchy riff and melody of Sammy Hagar’s ”One Way To Rock” in the verses mixed with slice of Mr Big’s ”Daddy, Brother Lover, Little Boy” and a pinch of ”Wild Child” (WASP). It’s a headbang-friendly rocker, upbeat and kicking with intense melodies and a sing-along friendly chorus-chant which is just massive. This is a live-opener, in my book and one helluva song.
”1989” is the second single and another huge hit for the band. Even though it’s enormously catchy, it’s really hard to look past the fact that the song is – except for the chorus, maybe – a glossier rip-off of Kiss’ ”I’ll Fight Hell To Hold You”. That being said, I can’t stop humming this catchy pop-rocker and the big chorus-hook grabs a hold of me hard. It’s actually a damn good song but again, if Paul Stanley’s name isn’t credited here and this tune ends up in the Kiss camp, I smell trouble because it’s really that similar. The album closes with the slow pop-laden ballad ”It Ain’t Me” that contains some musical-theatre-like vocal-harmonies. It’s mellow and down-beat inside a grand soundscape and the AOR-vibes are huge, taking the tune into power ballad territory. It’s a great song but I feel the album would have benefitted from a more uptempo rocker as a closer.
I have always stated that I don’t give a shit about being totally original and inventing the wheel again as long as you have your own identity, sound and killer songs and therein lies the problem here. To borrow things from others, nicking bits and pieces here and there is one thing but Nestor has a tendency to simply rewrite stuff which not only gives them a Steel Panther-ish vibe – without the juvenile and low humor – but also takes away the band’s personality. But with that being said, they have also released an album with a whole bunch of damn good songs which I really cannot not be seduced by – because even though there are a couple of only decent songs here, there’s not a bad track on the whole album and it’s full of hit-singles to be. They’re also entertaining as hell, great musicians and it’s obvious they sport a great passion and love for what they do. The thefts aside, I really like this and yes, I will make sure this record ends up in my collection. I also really look forward to seeing them live when I get the chance.