Tag Archives: Pretty Maids

Nordic Union: Second Coming

Released: November 2018

Personnel:

  • Ronnie Atkins: Lead and backing vocals
  • Erik Martensson: Lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • Magnus Ulfsted: drums

Tracklist:

  1. My Fear and My Faith
  2. Because of Us
  3. It Burns
  4. Walk Me Through the Fire
  5. New Life Begins
  6. The Final War
  7. Breathtaking
  8. Rock’s Still Rolling
  9. Die Together
  10. The Best Thing I Never Had
  11. Outrun You

 Back in 2016 two old pros of the nordic hard rock scene: Ronnie Atkins of Pretty Maids (Denmark), and Erik Martensson of Eclipse (Sweden) joined up to make the first Nordic Union album.  It turned out to be a decent, listenable amalgam of the two bands,  with one or two great hard-rock stompers (notably the track “Hypocrisy”).  It was good enough that news of a follow-up was welcome.

Three singles were released and two of them showed some serious promise; alas the third was a slow moving and unabashedly political take-down of Donald Trump.  I didn’t much like it, and it remains my least favourite track on the album.

At any rate, the album also has a lot of slower, more ballady numbers, and while Atkins has a real talent for those kinds of songs they are not my favourites, I prefer the face-melters.  So I was prepared to be disappointed again, for the most part.  Two or three good rocking tracks and an okay batch for the rest of the album…but somehow, I kept listening. And somehow, the whole album started to dig its way in.  I realized after about a week or so that I was listening to this album – all of it – pretty relentlessly.  It was also supplying way more than its share of my daily dose of earworms.

Overall Second Coming is much more consistent than the first album; I find the songwriting to be more mature and confident, which I suppose is to be expected with the experience these guys bring to the table.  Even the slower tracks have a satisfying heaviness. “It Burns” is still not great, but it is easier to overlook now.  Lots of melody here, lots of thick guitar, and of course Atkins’ mighty sledgehammer vocals.  The standout tracks for sure are “Walk Me Through the Fire”, and “Because of Us”, both relentless hard-as-granite headbangers, and I have an inexplicable fondness for “The Final War”.  Ronnie Atkins’ Christianity is not a thing I have ever heard him say a single word about, but it is clearly evident given some of the songs that make their way onto Pretty Maids albums. This track is explicitly The Book of Revelation’s End of the World with a pounding beat, and to be quite honest if we are all to die in a conflagration of good versus evil (which these days does not seem so farfetched), it may as well be to a heavy metal soundtrack.

 

The Music of 2017: Part One

The Best of the Not-2017 Discoveries

Noise Unit: Drill (released 1997)

Before we get to the actual releases of 2017, I will begin with this year’s discovery of a couple of bands who have put out albums that are truly great to my ears, and they come from two very different genres.  Both are old, well-established acts, but as far as I know only one is still active.  But boy – are they ever active.

The first is Noise Unit, an industrial electronica duo out of Vancouver, with links to Front Line Assembly and Delerium, who began back in 1989 with the album Grinding Into Emptiness.  As far as I can tell, their last one was 2005’s Voyeur.  I sampled a few things from Grinding into Emptiness, and Response Frequency, and Decoder, and they were good, interesting, but not attention-keepers.

Then I found Drill, released in 1997.  That was the game-changer.  What an album this is…the epitome of industrial electronica EBM, dense and intricate and as sophisticated as all hell; every time I play it I notice new things.  Melodic and addictive, definitely one of my best discoveries for a long time.

 

Pretty Maids: Pandemonium (released 2010)

And then there is Pretty Maids. Yeah well what can I say. The music we love the most digs into places in our psyche that other things don’t get to, and I have found that there is no predicting what that will be.  That Drill would work was not enormously surprising because I am not averse to the genre to begin with…but Pretty Maids surely was.  Established way back in the hair-metal heyday of the mid 1980s, at first glance they epitomize everything I don’t like about old-time classic hard rock and metal, and frankly their early albums don’t do much to change that perception.   But in 2010 something happened.  Well, Jacob Hansen, a new producer happened, and the resurrection of Pretty Maids makes Lazarus rising from the dead look like a parlor trick.

The last four Pretty Maids albums have rocketed to the top of my all-time album list; I started with their 2016 release Kingmaker and worked backwards from there, and then I hit 2010’s Pandemonium.

By jesus (as my dad would often say) this album might just be THE perfect melodic hard rock album. It has everything  — crunching heaviness, relentless energy, massive performances, even decent lyrics.  The vocal performance on this album is absolutely monstrous: Ronnie’s pipes must be made of cast iron. It don’t think there is a less-than-great song on this album (well, maybe “Cielo Drive”…),  but that title track…it doesn’t get much better than that.  By anyone.   Pandemonium astonishes me  – it fires every metal synapse in my brain every single time I play it, and I have played it almost daily since I stumbled on these guys.   Not just the discovery of the year — this album is the discovery of the goddamned decade, if not the century.

Albums of 2017, the Half-way Point

Okay, it is July, and in about 5 months I will be winding up another year of music.  It is time for the mid-year rundown of what I have found so far: the stuff that is good, the stuff that is not so good, the stuff that should be good but fails, and this year a list of the stuff I missed from previous years.

My music discovery process derives from all manner of sources: recommendations from friends, blurbs from various websites/review sites, accidents, and for the first time *cough*Spotify*cough*, via its weekly Discovery list, which does deliver up some interesting and unusual suggestions, especially given that I do not much stream, so its analysis of my tastes is necessarily limited.

Every year I seem to run a theme – some genre or style of music that tends to dominate my listening.  I’m not really sure why that is or how it happens.  Last year it was largely industrial electronica and ethnic-based post-rock; this year is Old Fogey Year – discovering the music of well-established outfits I heretofore ignored because I thought I didn’t like them.  It seems the older I get, the less of a music snob I become.  That is probably a good thing.

So here is the list of contenders so far, in reverse order of interest, with a brief capsule review. You may notice a certain…theme to some of the album titles.  Naturally, this order is subject to revision at any time.  And I will just note: So far my albums of 2017 were released long before 2017.  I just found them this year.

Continue reading Albums of 2017, the Half-way Point

Pretty Maids — Kingmaker

Released: November 2016

Personnel:

  • Ronnie Atkins – vocals
  • Ken Hammer – guitars
  • Rene Shades – bass
  • Allan Tschicaja – drums

Guest:

Kim Olesen – keyboards

Tracklist:

  1. When God Took a Day Off
  2. Kingmaker
  3. Face the World
  4. Humanize Me
  5. Last Beauty on Earth
  6. Bull’s Eye
  7. King of the Right Here and Now
  8. Heaven’s Little Devil
  9. Civilized Monsters
  10. Sickening
  11. Is That What You Wanted (Look What You’ve Got)

I almost started this, um, review (excursus might be more to the point; bear with me), by calling my new obsession a “guilty pleasure” – but you know what?  Screw that.  I am not in the least embarrassed by stumbling on this stuff, and if you other folks fail to appreciate some of the best damned metal I have ever laid ears on, then that’s not my problem.  I’m just going to try to convince you otherwise.

I checked out Pretty Maids because a good friend is a passionate fan, and I am always interested in learning what greases my friends’ musical wheels.  Often the explorations don’t amount to much, but sometimes something sticks. And I am surprised, I will admit:  Pretty Maids is a glam rock/hard rock/metal outfit out of Denmark, who formed up way the hell back in 1981 and released their first album in 1984: in short they have been around for more than three decades and I had never heard of them.

Continue reading Pretty Maids — Kingmaker