The flow of top quality melodic hard rock bands from the small country of Sweden never seems to end. Last Autumn’s Dream is a relatively “new” band but consists of veteran musicians that have achieved a fair deal of fame and fortune in other bands. A lot of bands exchange members in between each other, especially in the Swedish melodic hard rock scene, and it is hard to keep track on who´s in what band. Last Autumn’s Dream has been around for 12 years and this is their 11th studio outfit which makes them one of the most creative bands in today´s scene. The band formed as another “supergroup” in 2002 when keyboard player/vocalist Mikael Erlandsson (Lover Undercover, Salute, Secret Service and Phenomena) and German guitarist Andy Malecek (ex-Fair Warning, S.A.D.O.) started talking about persuing a joint musical project. The band kept a high profile from the start recruiting former Europe members Ian Haugland (drums) Mats Levén (bass) and keyboard player Mic Michaeli. They soon started to work on the debut album which was released in 2003 and plainly named Last Autumn´s Dream. The album recieved rave reviews from an excited press but by the time they were ready to record a strong follow-up Europe had reunited and a replacement for the three missing members started. And the replacements were almost as high profiled musicians as the departed ones adding the Talisman rhythm section; Marcel Jacob (Talisman, ex-Yngwie Malmsteen) the world famous bass virtuoso took over the bass duties, Jamie Borger (Treat, Talisman) took place behind the drums and Thomas Lassar (ex-Crystal Blue) stepped up to play keyboards. This new and completely revamped line up recorded II which was released in 2005. Lassar left the band after the release and Erlandsson himself decided to play the keyboard.
Last Autumn’s Dream continued to release a string of very strong albums and staying true to their concept with melodic hard rock with strong hints of AOR (Winter´s Paradise in 2006 and Saturn Skyline in 2007) which established the band as a main contender in a reavamped European AOR scene. The new breath of life in the scene owes much to the credit of Firefest Festival in the UK and it is now more vibrant than it has been in many years with new bands occuring all the time like Vega, Angels or Kings, Wigelius and Oxygen just to name a few. They played a couple of festivals in Europe including United Forces Rock Festival in Ludwigsburg, Germany. After another couple of strong and successful albums (Hanging Shadows in 2008 and Dreamcatcher in 2009) a great tragedy hit the band and the entire world of melodic hard rock in July 2009 when Marcel Jacob comitted suicide (RIP). The band soon found a replacement in Treat bassist Nalle Påhlsson (of which band Jamie Borger also was a member) and effectivley sharing the rhythm section with Treat instead of Talisman. Band leader Mikael Erlandsson has, throughout the bands existance, proved to be a very prolific songwriter and two more albums were released in 2010 alone (A Touch of Heaven – dedicated to the late Marcel Jacob– and Yes). In December of 2011 the ninth studio album entitled Nine Lives was released and it contained a tribute to the late Marcel Jacob in the form of the song “The Last To Know” which was a duet with Jeff Scott Soto and “Angel Eyes” which was a duet with Jenny Redenkvist. The tenth album Ten Tangerine Tales was released in 2012 and now after an unusually long break for Last Autumn’s Dream it is time for the eleventh full-length effort called Level Eleven. This album also introduces Peter “PAC” Söderström as the new guitarist after founding member Andy Malecek left the band for personal reasons in 2014. Söderström was no stranger to Last Autumn’s Dream though having provided rhythm guitars on earlier albums.
Track by track comments.
The album starts off in fine style with “Kiss Me” which reminds me heavily of Gotthard and Erlandsson‘s vocals sometimes reminds me of the great and late Steve Lee. The comparisons with Gotthard (especially Homerun – Human Zoo period) are running throughout the entire album. Its an up-tempo rock song with a feisty and soulful chorus. Definitely one of the stronger cuts on the album with a great and surprisingly fresh sounding chorus. It is followed by “Follow Your Heart” which is a mid-paced melodic rocker in the vein of The Poodles with a nice grooving riff and a catchy chorus. Then it is time for the first ballad “Fight The World” which also features female vocals from Melinda Erlandsson Wåhlander. It has a nice keyboard from Erlandsson and definitely something for a fan of power ballads. Up next is the AOR flavoured “I´ll Be There For You” (co-written with Jeff Scott Soto and released by Talisman on their Truth album in 1998) which continues on in the vein of the Scandi-AOR made famous by bands such as Alien, Stage Dolls and Return. Then we are treated with “Losing You” and we get a surprisingly heavy riff from Söderström which soon turns into a great melodic pop/rock song with some very melodic singing from Erlandsson and an infectious chorus once again. Track no 6 is called “Go Go Go – Get Ready For The Show!” and this is a really catchy little tune and one of my favourites on the album. The song kicks off with a roar from Erlandsson and some nice keyboard fills in the background of Söderström‘s riff. A slightly more aggressive vocal from Erlandsson on this song works really well within the context of the song. There is also a grooving bassline from Påhlsson pulsating throughout the whole song. I find myself slightly headbanging involuntarily.
After this great treat we are in for “Delirious” which is another shining track with a huge hook and great melodies to carry the song forward. After these two great songs we get another piano ballad in the form of “Made Of Stone” that somehow makes me think of Bon Jovi, mainly because of the song structure and over all “feel”, and it is a slightly stronger track than “Fight The World” in my opinion. It is followed by another slow rocker called “Stick Around” which is a good melodic rock song but not one of the stronger tunes on the album. Up next we have another highlight with the great “Star” which instantly makes me sing along to the contagious chorus line and in the 1980´s this would probably have received heavy rotation on the radio. This song has been in my head for a couple of days and is very hard to get out which is not always a sign of a quality song but this time I am sure it is! The last “real” song on the album is “Plz” which is a slow rocker where Erlandsson begs us to believe him. The Japanese edition that I have in my hands says it has a bonus track called “Oh Darlin´” which is of course a cover of the famous song and adds very little value in my book. My top picks from the album would be “Kiss Me”, “Go Go Go – Get Ready For The Show!”, “Delirious” and “Star”.
I was only remotely familiar with Last Autumn’s Dream before they were booked to Väsby Rock Festival and I decided to check them out. The band has continued to plough through despite major setbacks and losses of great musicisans and band members. They continue to release records jam-pakced with infectious melodies and shout along choruses. Being a huge fan of melodic hard rock it is hard to believe I did not get into them before. Probably becuase there is so much new music being released and I chose to focus on other releases. What a mistake! This is a really great album and I have spun it many times the last couple of months. Last Autumn’s Dream play melodic hard rock with a heavy dose of AOR and hints of pop and never fail to deliver melodic rock with a positive message and feel good mood. For a heavy metal fan some of the songs might seem to “poppy” I guess. Having lost founding guitarist Andy Malecek does not seem to have affected the band in any major way. The album comes with a distinctive vocal gravel and a pefect balance between synth led pomp and heavier hard rock harmonies. Level Eleven is a great record and Erlandsson‘s feel for melody and writing a great hook is still very much in place. The band never stray to far off the established formula. Being the main songwriter, band leader and only remaining original member it is safe to say that he is the driving force behind the band. The band has kept a steady course and not compromised with their music throughout their career. This type of 80´s flavoured melodic hard rock might not be the most popular genre today, especially in North America, but these guys have “top quality” written all over them.
Level Eleven is filled with great songs and especially fans of Gotthard, Europe, Treat, Talisman, Fair Warning and Scandi-AOR should take a listen to Level Eleven. It will please any lover of sweet melodies and it´s hard to point out any fillers when you get a bunch of fantastic songs. A couple of months so far into 2015 and this might be the strongest album so far that I have listened to. I would give this album a very high grade of 8/10 geeks and I am really looking forward to catching them at this years Väsby Rock Festival in mid July. This album will be perfect to play in your car on a hot summer evening so I will certainly spin it again. Maybe it´s your turn to discover Last Autumn’s Dream as well? Just remember to crank it up ´til eleven!