When Reach regrouped and redefined their sound – from an AOR band into a more modern Hard Rock act, from a five piece to a trio – back in 2018, their then new album The Great Divine was one of the biggest pleasant surprises of that year. They went from being a quite ordinary Scandi-AOR band – I have no idea what I thought of when I reviewed their debut – to a kicking rock-trio that fired on all cylinders and they had grown a huge deal as song-writers as well. Three years later and the band is back with a new record, the second with this this line-up, still a trio. Where the band would go musically and genre-wise with this one wasn’t even guessable as the last record told me to expect the unexpected. Expectations are high – to put it mildly – and my hope was that the new album not only would be just as good as its predecessor but as unpredictable as well.

Opener ”New Frontier” starts out like some kind of a soundtrack to a Spaghetti Western movie with twanging guitars and a laid-back feel complete with some whistling. Even though the verses might be a bit more held-back, the song is a rhythmic rocker with an infectious groove. There’s also a trumpet-like sound that embraces the song which creates a sparkling dynamic. And without going the least radio-rock on us, the chorus is direct and effective and the whole tune really blows my mind. What a killer. The following ”The Law” is grittier with a chunky beat and guitar-driven with a rhythmic stomp and beefy riffing. The verses takes a bit of a down-beat structure while the chorus attacks with vigour and spark. Said chorus is also a kick in the gut, firey and in-your face. Awesome.

”Young Again” is an upbeat, stomp-grooved pop-rocker with a bit of an 80’s touch of poppery and a main melody that’s taken from 50’s Pop over a Hard Rock foundation. A smooth keyboard, nice harmonies and contrasting touches all over the song plus the fabulous, spot-on beast of a chorus makes this song a winner. It’s catchy and at times a bit sugary but man how this sticks. Love it. ”Satellite” goes more for a straight-forward and crowd-friendly vibe where the pop-flirtatious vocal-melodies gives you no time to get away, they stick to the brain before you can say hit. It’s a rocker but the guitars are a bit more subdued and not as raunchy. This is really amazing stuff.

Reach takes a real left-turn with ”Motherland” with its dance-hall, big-band Jazz swing grooves and danceable beats. It’s one dramatic tune with 30’s music that takes on Rock-touches and horns where every melody is completely unescapable. With a chorus so strong even a deaf person would go bananas, the song is a strike of genius. One of the album’s finest moments – if not THE finest. ”The Seventh Seal” sports a spacey atmosphere over a pop-rocking chunky beat and a dark laden soundscape and the song holds a mid-tempo rhythm. There’s almost a hypnotic feel over the track that embraces you like a warm blanket. It’s a contagious half-ballad that will have you hooked in no-time. Very good.

”Higher Ground” starts out as a slow-burner with laid-back verses and a dramatic arrangement and a vibe of musical theatre but the stadium-hooky chorus is very direct and holds a huge, prominent pop-feel that stands on a heavier foundation. They also drop small doses of reggae, big-band Jazz and a slight Muse influence and the massive refrain completes the tune in a brilliant way. How fantastic. ”Cover My Traces” is pretty much a darkening pop-tune in a chunky Rock disguise. It’s a bit monotone – and I mean that in a good way – in the verses which contrasts nicely with the memorable melodies and the big-hook chorus. The tempo is slower here and it’s a magnificent tune.

With ”The Streets” they choose yet another path. This one’s an edgier, heavier and a more straight-forward rock-belter, pretty in-your-face and the rhythm-section is steady and solid with a beefy punch. There’s even a twist of Heavy Metal baked in but as always with this album, they like a contrast and the tune is spiced up with some orchestrated synth-strings. Every melody is spot-on and the chorus rings in my head for days – what a terrific number. The album closes with the title-track, a laid-back slow-burner of a pop-influenced Melodic Rock tune sniffing around the border of balladry and lots of feel in the vocal-melodies. The tune is on the soft-ish side but never slick and the chorus is a monster, catchy but not radio-commercial at all. It’s a great tune and a perfect closer.

Expect the unexpected, huh? Damn right it is. That could have been the title for this album because from start to finish you never know what will show up next. Some might call this pretentious but it’s far from that. No, this is a band that have decided to just go with the flow and include everything that sounds good no matter what, to push the envelope musically. This is a varied album that surprises and amazes, that’s hard to categorize, where no song is like the other. It’s on the verge of musical schizophrenia but it never comes out as a split-personality – it sounds like one band from the first song to the last. Talk about leaving their comfort zone and stepping outside of the box. It might not be for everyone and some might have a problem taking it in and for some it might need some extra spins even though it fell into place after the first spin for me. No matter what, you’d be a fool not to at least give this a shot. A very exciting effort, the biggest surprise of 2021 so far and easily on my top 10 list of the year. Reach’s biggest problem now is how they’re gonna top this the next time around.

9/10