Frontiers Records [Release Date 04.09.20]
Perfect Plan’s self titled debut was one of the revelations of 2018, these seasoned Swedes emerging from nowhere with a high quality mix of hard rock and AOR. After keeping the pot boiling nicely with an EP of note perfect AOR covers, I was intrigued whether they could match that quality on a sophomore release.
They could not have made a bolder affirmative statement than the title track: an instrumental intro that goes on for a minute and a half with military style staccato drumming, keys and guitars leads into a massive slice of pomp in which, as before, their trump card is singer Kent Hilli, his vocals deep and powerful yet able to soar into a higher register. A song best recommended played loud.
‘Better Walk Alone’ is typical of the rest of the album, more mainstream with a Foreigner feel in the verses and the Scandi sense of melody of Treat or Europe. Indeed Kent sounds remarkably like Joey Tempest on ‘Heart To Stone’, which is a little disjointed in places but boasts some great guitar runs from Rolf Nordstrom.
Unusually for this genre, their debut album had no ballads as such but matters are rectified here with ‘Fighting To Win’, whose arrangement, piano intro and lyrics are straight out of the Jim Peterik playbook, topped off with very Jimi Jamison- esque vocals. Indeed the Survivor comparisons grow even stronger on the succeeding pair of ‘Every Time We Cry’ and ‘What About Love’ which are little short of sensational- with both being pleasingly guitar heavy they could almost be lost tracks from the ‘Too Hot To Sleep’ album.
Despite what the accompanying press blurb might tell you, there are fewer traditional hard rock songs than on the first album, but ‘Nobody’s Fool’, with its slide guitar intro, bears greater Whitesnake influences- or more accurately all the Coverdale inspired Scandi acts like Snakes in Paradise, Jorn and Damned Nation. It’s a style they carry off equally well, with a bridge nearly as strong as the chorus.
The bar has been set impossibly high and ‘Living On The Run’ falls short of those very top standards, being a little too close to Foreigner in places, both lyrically and musically, but has some interesting riffs and a big chorus that grows on you.
The mid tempo ‘Just One Wish’ is another classic with again very Tempestian vocals on the verse and classic melodic rock hooks on a chorus which is so good you can forgive them for repeating it over and over again.
The one frustration with the album is that they lack the production budgets of their inspirations and while rightly the vocals are placed front and centre, the instrumentation could benefit from punchier production. It’s also long at 12 tracks and well over an hour and ‘Don’t Blame It On Love Again’ has a slightly unfinished feel to it and might have been one to miss the cut.
The defining characteristic of the album is that unlike some of their younger melodic contemporaries such as Creye, One Desire and Brother FIretribe who are embracing more dance-oriented sounds, Perfect Plan write and perform in the same traditional style as their heroes from the golden age of melodic hard rock.
‘Give A Little Lovin’, coming across like a cross between Tyketto and Prisoners in Paradise-era Europe, has more of a groove and a swing to it, before the album closes with a second big ballad in ‘Don’t Leave Me Here Alone’, where their Giant and The Storm influences come to the fore, mixing acoustic and electric guitars and a showcase for Kent’s quite brilliant vocals.
While not quite attaining perfection, Perfect Plan’s second album lifts the bar even higher and four or five of the tracks are as good as anything I have heard in a long while. For fellow lovers of more traditional melodic rock, this is a dream of an album. **** 3/4
Review by Andy Nathan
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