Album review: ONE DESIRE – One Night Only- Live in Helsinki (CD/DVD)

Frontiers Records (Release Date 11.06.21)

In normal times, it might seem vainglorious for a band to issue a live CD and DVD just two albums into their career. However, in these strange times it is easy to empathise with One Desire, one of the standard bearers of the new wave of Scandinavian melodic rock.

Last year their sophomore album ‘Midnight Empire’ was released to general critical acclaim but they were unable to capitalise on the momentum by touring- though I did see them on one of the last shows prior to the pandemic, supporting Night Flight Orchestra at Islington Assembly Hall, where as I recall their impact was dulled both by a poor sound and the fact the new material was yet to be released.

However last October, they did play an hour long gig on home soil at the On the Rocks club venue in Helsinki, to an enthusiastic, standing and utterly un-socially distanced audience, now captured for posterity, with singer Andre Linnan randomly switching between (helpfully subtitled) Finnish and English.

As with most such releases, the sound is geared towards the audio visual form, which also gives greater context than the audio-only release. However, the DVD is open to criticism technically- with the exception of drummer Ossi Sivula, the band close ups are spoiled by their being bathed in an unflattering pale blue or red light (notably keyboardist Antti Roslander) while the heads and ubiquitous camera phones of those in the front get in the way.

The set opens, as did the new album, with ‘Shadowman’ which boasts a more adventurous and progressive feel, before ‘Apologise’, one of the twin songs from their debut that attracted such attention back in 2017 and where the DVD does add value, capturing some of the atmosphere with crowd shots as they join in with the chorus.

I hadn’t previously appreciated just how good a guitarist Jimmy Westerlund was, and in playing style and poses he bears more than a passing resemblance to Neal Schon. Most impressive is the way his guitar solos carry the melody lines by themselves, best exemplified by the intro to ‘After You’re Gone’, the album’s lead-off single from the current album.

Great melodies and multiple hooks abound on the likes of ‘Heroes’ and ‘Godsent Extasy’ (sic) with less trace of the Europop influences that made the last album a little controversial for me.

A trio of ballads are placed mid-set, and the cameraman switches to an arty black and white mode for ‘When The Heartbreak Begins’, with some great harmony vocals, which is followed by a semi-acoustic duo of ‘Only When I Breathe’ and ‘Falling Apart’.

Antti’s stabbing keys provide a memorable intro to ‘Hurt’, which has to be a modern day melodic rock classic and, starved of live action, I found myself joining in with the crowd’s handclapping mid section from my sofa. The set closes with unusual fashion with the wholly untypical metal of Buried Alive, though the credits play out to the studio version of ‘Battlefield of Love’, rather confusingly left on the audio CD.

There is also a short extra on the making of four of the songs from the new album, the band once again switching between Finnish and English.

While the presentation may be flawed, this is a recommended showcase to become acquainted with of the current rising stars of the melodic rock world. ****

Review by Andy Nathan

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