Little known fact: I had never heard hide or hair of ISSA, the Norwegian melodic rocker before last week. She is back with album number four, Crossfire, out now via Frontiers Records. And since I first pressed PLAY on the promo I have been wondering not only what the hell is wrong with me, but also how on Earth I could have missed this. Big vocals, guitars and keyboards aplenty, and the mesmerizing hooks of a bygone era make for one great listen from beginning to end! You can make all the 80’s comparisons you like because many of them will apply. As someone with a YUUUUGE love of the music from that time you’ll get no complaints from me.
We start off with the title track “Crossfire”, quite possibly THE feel-good anthem of 2015. This is a song that I simply cannot stop smiling and bopping to when I’m driving. It’s the perfect jam for when it’s Friday, you’ve just punched out at work and you’re off for the weekend. I’m movin’ and groovin’ as I type this, I can’t help it! Next up is “New Horizon” which is heavy on the keys and even heavier on the hooks. And would you look at that? FM vocalist Steve Overland stops by for a duet on “Raintown”, a lovely ballad that I think you’re all gonna fall in love with. “Long Time Coming” oozes AOR greatness and ISSA really lets it all out on the choruses. Your arm hairs will stand up when she does. Wow, just wow.
Changing it up once again is “Fight Fire With Rain”. Not quite a ballad, and not exactly a rocker, this tune still hits the mark. It’s one of the prettiest offerings on the record, too. Mega-Mega-Sized is the best way to classify the refrain of “Heartbeat” another kickass driving song that warrants multiple listens and my other favorite after “Crossfire”. “Electric Lights” blends the rock guitar perfectly with the keys and in fact, I had no idea where it was going at the start, something I love to see and hear from a song. “Ghost Inside My Heart” is pure mid-tempo rock from start to finish. And speaking of lights, “Red Lights” is another standout. ISSA’S delivery on this one is so amazing I almost couldn’t stand it. I close my eyes and I’m 15 again, mowing the lawn with this kind of stuff in my Walkman, stopping frequently to rewind the tape (YIS, tape!), and I can’t help but grin broadly from ear to ear.
The final two tracks are damn near flawless as well. “We Rise” is designed to burrow into your brain and make a nice home there, an uplifting song that anyone who has any self-doubt should listen to daily. There’s nothing you can’t do, and this song only cements that feeling. When it goes up a step in the last minute you’ll feel your heart soar along with it. “Only You” is the type of closer that pulls you in and takes you on a ride. The drums loom large, the synth pours forth like fog, and the guitars chug along nicely.
All in all this is a wonderful recording from ISSA. Big hooks, positively feel-good lyrics, and a slew of powerhouse guest stars like Daniel Palmqvist (XORIGIN), Alessandro Del Vecchio (HARDLINE), Steve Newman (NEWMAN), Robert Sall (WORK OF ART), Daniel Johansson (DEGREED), and Stephen Chesney along with superb production from John Greatwood and James Martin (VEGA) make Crossfire one of my favorite records of 2015. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to buy Albums One, Two, and Three!
STANDOUT TRACKS: ALL OF THEM