Album review: ONE DESIRE – Midnight Empire

One Desire-Midnight Empire

Frontiers Records (Release date 22.05.20)

Three years ago young Finns One Desire suddenly emerged with a very impressive first album which made many people’s end of year melodic rock lists.  It has taken a long time but they hope to regain momentum with this follow up, though the curtailing of all tours just after they had set out with the Night Flight Orchestra was rotten timing.

Opener ‘Shadowman’ is a striking statement of their enhanced ambition:  it weighs in at six and a half minutes and boasts symphonic metal influences including at times double-kick drumming, yet the chorus is still very melodic.

Opening with a supremely catchy guitar melody,  ‘After You’re Gone’  is poppier but an instant classic to follow in footsteps of the two first album classics ‘Hurt’ and ‘Apologise’. Indeed just when you think it can’t get any better, they add a further bridge with a massive hook two thirds of the way through the song.

Many of the younger Scandinavian bands are embracing modern pop production techniques, indeed the master of the genre Max Martin was once one of their number himself. However in this case they take the pop sound too far on ‘Down and Dirty’ and ‘Godsent Extasy’ (sic) with only good guitar solos from Jimmy Westerlund keeping the rock element. Indeed on the former the fey vocals of Andre Linman even reminded me of Neil Tennant of the Pet Shop Boys.

‘Through The Fire’  is a second epic song beyond the scope and scale of their debut and even if it isn’t the strongest song, the closing guitar solo is again superb.

However ‘Heroes’ which is closer to traditional Scandi AOR still has that dancey feel while the quality of the album is already starting to drop off with a sense of déjà vu from earlier songs. ‘Rio’ is a modern sounding ballad on which Andre sounds great, though it may be too saccharine for some tastes, and ‘Battlefield Of Love’ is dull and unfocused, though enlivened by an unexpectedly spectacular keyboard solo.

‘Killer Queen’, though again with poppy overtones, boasts some fine vocals as Andre soars Tony Harnell-like but the ballad ‘Only When I Breathe’ is dominated by electronic sounds and is reminiscent of one of H.E.A.T’s more ambitious missteps on their ‘Into The Great Unknown’ album.

In most ways this album is a great leap forward rather than more of the same, which One Desire are to be commended for. There are a few really impressive moments to be sure, but the Euro disco overtones ended up being a little too much for me to stomach.  ***1/2

Review by Andy Nathan

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