So, I wasn’t planning on reviewing this album, but my name got put on it somehow, so I figured “What the hell?” and took the self-titled debut from NORDIC UNION (January 29 via Frontiers Music) for a spin. Wow. I love when accidents happen like this, especially when the result is a new favorite album. The two principals of this partnership are Ronnie Atkins (PRETTY MAIDS, AVANTASIA) and Erik Mårtensson (ECLIPSE, W.E.T.), and they’ve made one of hell of a great album. It’s got a melodic metal/hard rock feel to it, with hints of AOR and buckets of hooks all over the place.
Magnus Ulfstedt (ECLIPSE) handles the drums, and they’re a perfect fit for the music – unassuming and nothing flashy. They’re an integral part of the album while staying in the background – no unnecessary fills or tricks, just a beat that fits each song and keeps it moving. Erik holds down the bass line as well as all of the other instruments, and it’s a beautiful sound – crunchy and sharp and a great accent to each track.
Speaking of Erik, his guitar work is nothing short of amazing – but that’s what most of us expect from him. He goes from a delicate touch to some seriously insane guitar solos at the drop of a hat, and the songwriting is, for the most part, impeccable. If you’re a fan of W.E.T., you’re going to love this disc – the feel is the very much along the same lines as his releases with Jeff Scott Soto and Robert Säll.
Up front handling all lead vocals is the legendary Ronnie Atkins, and he absolutely crushes it. I had honestly started to get bored with PRETTY MAIDS over the last few releases, but Ronnie’s work in NORDIC UNION and AVANTASIA have reminded me that he’s a great singer and that he’s only getting better with age. The rough edge to his voice provides a certain bite to the songs that makes them stand out from other recent hard rock releases and it just works.
Most of the songs are great and feature guest appearances from a veritable Who’s Who of Swedish guitar gods: Thomas Larsson, Magnus Henriksson, and Fredrik Folkare all drop by to contribute some sick solos that make this a special release. The second half of the album does slow down a bit – it’s not really that much of a shortcoming, but the first six songs just knock you over with such force that it’s hard to live up to the standard set in the first 30 minutes.
This is essential for fans of PRETTY MAIDS, ECLIPSE, and W.E.T. If you love any of these bands, you’re going to find a lot to like right off the bat when you fire up this disc. Anyone who loves some great hard rock and melodic metal should definitely give it a try as well; you don’t want to miss out on a great disc like this.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Hypocrisy, “Wide Awake”, “When Death Is Calling” “21 Guns”, “Every Heartbeat”, “The War Has Begun”