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Melodic Rock Round-up: Summer 2012

Album Review

Dave Ling on new releases from Hartmann, Wigelius, Oxygen, Estrella and Aldo Nova

Hartmann: Balance

As a former frontman of the Teutonic power metallers At Vance, Oliver Hartmann is an established name on the European rock scene. The decision to go solo and pursue a more melodic direction paid off with Out In The Cold, which was among the best debut releases of 2005, though since then it’s been a case of diminishing fortunes – four years later, critics and fans sought the singer’s blood following an ill-advised flirtation with modern rock on the dismal 3. Awarded a glossy mix by Sascha Paeth, the self-produced Balance is a welcome affirmation of Hartmann rediscovering his mojo. The man has an exceptional voice that’s put to best use on slower-paced tunes like Fool For You and After The Love Is Gone, with the relatively sedate All My Life and Save Me as good as it gets for students of the man’s catalogue. A heavied-up cover of Tears For Fears’s Shout is sure to reintroduce the cat to the pigeons over at the internet message boards, but with Balance, the Rüsselsheim native has not only ridden out the storm, but he’s come out the other side to drop anchor at an idyllic Pacific island. (8/10)

Wigelius: Reinventions

The link between TV talent shows and melodic rock grows ever stronger. Anders Wigelius was discovered after singing Don’t Stop Believin’ on Swedish TV by Issa/Murder Of My Sweet producer Daniel Flores, who encouraged the 25-year-old to make an album. Do You Really Know and Next To Me are creditable examples of Scandi-AOR that doff their hat at W.E.T. and Work Of Art. (6/10)

Oxygen: Final Warning

Led by Tony Niva, a frontman who hits notes that only dogs can hear, Oxygen hail from Sweden and play a distinctly clutter-free style of melodic rock that’s as pure as a mountain stream. Regrettably, their lyrics can be utterly cringe-inducing (When Tomorrow Never Comes, for example), but the quartet know how to write enjoyable songs based upon contagious hooks. (8/10)

Estrella: Come Out To Play

With the tutelage of Uriah Heep/Ozzy keyboardist John Sinclair and Heep producer Ashley Howe, these young Aberdonians have crafted a strong, confident and infectious debut album, full of crisp mid-Atlantic melodies and anthemic, often Def Leppard-style hooks. Should Estrella manage to swallow the shit they’ll surely face during the next few years, they could be in with a shout. (7/10)

Aldo Nova: Aldo Nova

Discovered by Blue Öyster Cult manager Sandy Pearlman, Aldo Nova burst onto the scene in 1982 with a critically acclaimed debut that went on to sell two million copies and became regarded as a genre gem. Now remastered along with its successor, Subject, the quality of Fantasy, Hot Love and Heart To Heart render the later disappearance of the Canadians all the more unfathomable. (9/10)

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