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Arkado “Open Sea” Album Review by Banyon G.

Arkado band members scaled

The genre of AOR/melodic rock has its roots in the U.S., with bands like Journey, Toto, Foreigner, Survivor, Boston, and a few others at the forefront.  While Sweden had been a dominant force in global pop since the early 70’s, It was not until hard rock’s popularity in the early 80’s that we began to hear world-class AOR/melodic rock from Sweden.  Bands like Europe, Alien, Treat, 220 Volt, and Universe hit the scene along with a plethora of more obscure bands.  But as popular tastes changed in the 90’s and beyond, these bands lost their sparkle.

Somewhere in the late 00’s, Swedish AOR and melodic rock had a renaissance.  Since then, there has been an explosion of new talent in the Swedish scene including bands like H.E.A.T., Work Of Art, Eclipse, House of Shakira, W.E.T., Heartwind, Streetlight, and so many others.  And some of the older bands have even regrouped and have been touring and releasing new material.

Arkado is one such band that has regrouped.   They actually began in 1983 under the name BB2BB2 released one single on vinyl that became an immensely popular hometown football anthem.   But life moved on and the band was put on hold.  It was not until 2020 that the members of Arkado reformed and recorded their first full-length album “Never Say Never.”

The band’s name is a kind of anagram – technically a semordnilap – based on the name of their hometown in Ödåkra, Helsingborg.  When spoken in English backwards Ödåkra becomes Arkado.  Those clever Swedes…. 🙂

It is hard to dislike a band like Sweden’s Arkado – they sound so earnest, so genuine.  Their brand of melodic rock has such positive – dare I say romantic – energy.  They sing encouraging songs about enduring love, about valuing relationships over chasing material things, and about concern for the environment.  And there is no showboating; the songs are the stars here.   

There is a keen sense of drama in the music of Arkado – from the dramatic baroque keyboard passages to the driving rhythms and precise guitar lines to the emotive vocal delivery of Philip Lindstrand (Cruzh, Nitrate), this band makes an impact. This is not music that will comfortably remain in the background while you vacuum or fold your laundry.   It is not especially heavy but has a strong presence to it.

Despite the band’s spirited delivery, I admit I was not immediately taken with this album. I liked the sound of it, and there were some great riffs and strong musicianship.  But…the choruses.   They tend to be very sing-song-y, and in a way that I felt did not always fit with the rest of the song.  For example, there will be a song like “Rising High” with some great driving riffs, a fantastic second verse lead-in to the chorus section, and then…. a chorus that makes me want to move on to the bridge or next verse.   To be fair, there are times when the sing-along chorus works well, such as on “Unchain The Night,” which reminds me of Bon Jovi’s “Runaway.”  At other times, the choruses are a noticeable tone shift.  A few even sound similar to each other.

I did not know what to make of this style of writing at first.  But I read an interview with the band, and this does seem to be what they are going for.  They want to create melodic rock with big hooks and sing-along choruses.  In that sense, they have succeeded.  And after several listens, I began to get acclimated to their style.  And a few songs were starting to stick in my head.  Now I can say I appreciate what they are trying to do, and it does not feel as “alien” anymore (Swedish rock pun there, lol).   

Still, I can’t help but wonder if an outside producer might have smoothed out the ‘less graceful’ choruses so that they fit more seamlessly with the rest of the song.  This album was produced by band member Mikael Svensson (keyboards, backing vocals), from what I can tell from the notes.

Still, this is a fine effort even if I cannot fully appreciate every aspect of the songwriting.   There are some great highlights, especially the single “You Make Me Feel,” which is a fantastic AOR song.   Also top notch is “Her Mother’s Lullaby,” “Unchain The Night,” and the emotional ballad “Show The Light Again.”

The album has a lot of positive energy, and it is hard to stay in a sour mood while listening to it.  And Philip Lindstrand’s vocals do not sound like anyone I’ve heard before. They have a dramatic flair that helps drive the music.  I have also seen live clips of Arkado, and he and the rest of the band are very good in a live setting.

This is an interesting band, and I will keep my eye on them to see where they go from here.

Banyon’s Rating: 8/10

Arkado album

Track list:

  1. Voyage
  2. Open Sea
  3. Running Through The Night
  4. I Gave My Heart
  5. You Make Me Feel
  6. Rising High
  7. Her Mothers Lullaby
  8. Long Way To Go
  9. Unchain The Night
  10. Like Something Heaven Sent
  11. Show Me The Light Again
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