I absolutely love Melodic Rock … anyone who knows me will tell you that! They will also tell you that I spend a small fortune buying albums, both past and present, trying to keep up and keep my finger on the pulse of this genre. However, there will always be bands and albums, good and bad that slip under the radar, or if they have been noted by yours truly will take their place in the never-ending queue awaiting my attention ….. and my wallet !!
Swedish rockers The Poodles are one such band. Yes, of course I’ve been fully aware of their existence since 2006, when they burst onto the scene with debut album, Metal Will Stand Tall. I even saw them live at Firefest VI in 2009, but obviously their performance didn’t impress me enough to add them to my “must have” list. So, here I finally sit with Tour De Force, the 5th offering from the band, and the the bottom line is … I’m impressed !!!
I’ve had it on constant spin for a week now, and each play brings something new to the fore – it is not an instant melodic fix by any means. The opening sonic salvo of “Misery Loves Company”, “Shut Up” and the brilliant “Happily Ever After” hits you like the biggest Scandinavian sledge hammer you could lay your hands on. The lead guitar duties are carried out brilliantly by Henrik Bergqvist, and you can only sit, listen and marvel in his expertise. Initially, the intensity of the album felt too much for my sensitive ears but, with that intensity comes melody, swagger and choruses to die for.
By the time “Viva Democracy” escapes the speakers the pounding rhythm section of Pontus Egberg(bass) and Christian Lundqvist(drums) is your ally, and again, its chorus warrants your participation. “Going Down” immediately impressed me, and highlights every aspect of the band -vocals, harmonies, lead and rhythm guitars, and of course the tribal drums are of the highest order.
Finally, “Leaving The Past To Pass” comes to the rescue, and allows the listener time to absorb the previous onslaught whilst enjoying this heart-wrenching ballad. Songs like this can often expose vocal weaknesses in a band, but Jakob Samuel carries this off perfectly. For the vast majority of the album he can only be described as similar to Jorn Lande, but this ballad displays his softer side.
“40 Days And 40 Nights” is the most commercial song on the album. The power and intensity has been reigned in slightly, but this doesn’t detract from the fact that this is a great singalong song. “Kings And Fools” is a concoction of everything heard so far, but the changes of pace and power, the light and shade, the bluesy undertones, and the anthemic chorus make it a song worthy of inclusion.
“Miracle” is about as AOR as this album gets, and it’s one of my favourites. “Godspeed” is another accessible song, and continues the mid-tempo trend – it made me wonder if the album was beginning to fade away too soon, but I needn’t have worried. “Now Is The Time” picks up the pace once more, and that intensity which dominated earlier returns with a vengeance. I’ve already mentioned Jorn Lande, and at this point I must mention that this song reminds me of “Masterplan” (circa “Aeronautics”)…. which is no bad thing !!!
Only Just Begun, is not a bad song by any means, but I think it suffers from that one-song-too-many syndrome, and therefore maybe should have been kept for the next opus.
The bonus track, “En For Alla For En” is interesting – apparently used as the official song for the Swedish Ice Hockey team 2013. Whilst sung in their native tongue it is still enjoyable, and closes the album in some style.
In conclusion, “Tour De Force” is a very good, solid and impressive album. However, it is not instantly accessible, and the more spins you give it … the more you will get out of it.
I will certainly be moving The Poodles further up my list of most-wanted albums … that’s for sure.
Jakob Samuel – vocals
Henrik Bergqvist – guitars
Pontus Egberg – bass
Christian Lundqvist – drums
Misery Loves Company
Happily Ever After
Leaving The Past To Pass
40 Days And 40 Nights
Kings And Fools
Now Is The Time
Only Just Begun
En For Alla For En (bonus track)
“Tour de Force” is available now on Frontiers Records.
Review by Dave Crompton