TeamRock+ Exclusive: H.E.A.T's guide to the new Scandinavian AOR

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“It was awesome that a band like Europe were from the same small town as we were,” says Crash, “and it felt like somebody had to bring on their legacy.” H.e.a.t’s native Sweden might be awash with young AOR guns these days – from Houston (pictured) to the more obscure likes of Midway – but it hasn’t always been that way. “When H.e.a.t started out in 2007 we were the only band I knew of doing that kind of music,” Crash continues. “But today there’s so many bands doing it, and there’s a lot of enthusiasm for AOR and melodic rock among younger musicians.”

Saying this, it remains a largely underground phenomenon. “Most melodic rock bands aren’t getting played on radio or seen on TV,” Crash explains. “But it can definitely get bigger, and I think in the future we’ll see Swedish melodic rock with more of an edge to it.”

Indeed, while there’s no shortage of acts releasing purist AOR (the aforementioned Houston, Universe…) there’s a sense that the genre is being moved forward. “Eclipse are doing well in that regard,” Crash says, “their last album was really kick-ass. And I’d definitely mention Streamline and Art Nation, and a cool band called Grand Theft Culture. And if you wanna hear something cool from the vaults, try It’s Alive. One of the members, Max Martin, became a famous songwriter, who wrote for Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson.”

So yes, Europe might be the name to beat, but they aren’t the only ones flying the Scandi AOR flag – as Crash’s selections below prove…

The Killbilly 5ers

“They supported H.e.a.t during a Swedish show a couple of years back, and they gave us a CD. And that was the only CD we had in our tour bus, so it played over and over, and we still thought it was really good. I don’t think it was even released through a record company; they did it all themselves. But H.e.a.t really dig them. It sounds a bit like hillbilly melodic rock. Check out Whippin’ Boy, for a start.”

Jono

“That’s a cool band from Gotland, Sweden’s biggest Island. It’s a bit Queen-ish, quite theatrical, and the guitarist also plays with Within Temptation. They’re playing at Vasby Rock festival this year.”

Grand Theft Culture

“They have the old eighties melodic rock sound but have added dubstep and keyboards, and it sounds really cool. They have that modernness that works for radio, but you can still hear they were totally inspired by the eighties. Different members in the band have played with various eighties-oriented groups that H.e.a.t have encountered over the years. And the guitarist and drummer were in the house band for the Queen musical [We Will Rock You] in Stockholm.”

Universe

“Some old-school stuff here. They were from the same era as Europe, same sort of school of thought, but Europe kinda sky-rocketed and Universe didn’t make it so big. But Universe are working on an album now, actually. They’re getting ready for a comeback very soon.”

Houston

“Of course, I have to mention Houston [pictured]. They’re just doing great straight-up AOR. They haven’t added anything else in the way Grand Theft Culture have; it’s pure AOR, and they’re doing it really well. I loved a song of theirs called Hold On a few years ago, which was really catchy. They’ve also released two covers albums; one had a Michael Bolton cover, and a cover of Counting Stars.”

Reach

“Their debut, Reach Out To Rock, is out now. It’s really competent melodic rock – it sounds young and hungry. They’re in their mid-twenties, I think. And the funny thing is that, if I’m not mistaken, the guitarist of Reach came pretty far in Swedish Idol as a singer. Most of the melodic rock world in Sweden followed him when he was on the show.”

Midway

“I think they have a lot of potential. They’re younger than the other bands I’m talking about here, but they have cool songs. There’s a lot of potential in the group. They kinda sound like H.e.a.t three or four years before we started H.e.a.t, trying to get all the pieces together. It’ll be interesting to see where they go.”

Diamond Dawn/Streamline

“Well, first of all there was a really good one-hundred-per-cent AOR band called Diamond Dawn. They released an album, Overdrive, on Frontiers in 2013, and supported us on tour in Sweden. But they parted ways with their singer, and the rest of the guys formed Streamline. They’re working on a new record now. I think they’ll take a step forward from pure nostalgic AOR to something more individual.”

Art Nation

“This is the band that Alexander Strandell, the singer from Diamond Dawn, started when the others formed Streamline. It’s very much melodic rock for 2015; they have a contemporary take on it I think. Try their latest single, Leave It All Behind.”

Martina Edoff

“It’s H.e.a.t musicians playing all the music on Martina’s new album [she’s been a popular backing vocalist in Sweden since the early 90s]. The single Before I Die is out now. The songwriters include myself, Jona Tee [H.e.a.t keyboardist], Erik Martensson of [popular Swedish band] Eclipse, and the album is also produced by Jona Tee.”

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