If you decide to buy this album just because Ms. Norberg is Yngwie Malmsteen’s ex-wife and you are expecting something similar – Don’t. The composition of this band sounds nothing like what you may expect given its background. The band is huge, consisting of mostly Swedish musicians. There are 7 guitar players and 6 backing vocalists. Yngwie Malmsteen’s ex-wife, Erika is the lead singer. The remainder of the line –up is as follows:
Redas Jefisovas (backing vocals), Sebastian Qvarfordt (backing vocals), Oscar Bromvall (backing vocals), Marcus Blomberg (bass, backing vocals), Tomas Blade (backing vocals), Lena Borg (backing vocals), Jesper Strömblad (guitar, bass), Oscar Bromvall (guitar), Redas Jefisovas (guitar), Tommy Denander (guitar, keyboards), Peter Rooth (guitar), Alex Angleflod (guitar, keyboards), Johan Flodqvist (guitar), and Mic Michaeli (keyboards)
Also making appearances on the album are musicians from Europe, Candlemass, and In Flames. The talent on this album is boundless. And can she sing! Like many European metal bands, Erika saw success overseas, especially in Japan – but not across the pond. Their song “Lost in Paradise” was a big hit in Japan. Their last album was in 1998, Ripe. After 18 years, she is back with Deaf, Dumb & Blonde. When I first listened to Erika‘s Deaf, Dumb & Blonde album, I had a hard time. I found the mixing unusual like I was underwater listening to a siren song. My brain kept trying to fit Erika’s sound into something familiar. Flowing seamlessly from one song to another, the album creates an environment that I found accessed my subconscious and became background noise. While this makes for a fluid album, it also creates the issue of separating each song out for its own merits. For me, it was hard to focus on each individual song, as her voice is very hypnotic.
Technically, Erika is a fantastic singer. She has a raspy, smoky voice that hits you right in the gut. I fully expected her sound to be old skool given her history, however, this album is not that. It has elements of speed metal and AOR with classic guitar riffs and drum solos accompanying it for those of us who identify with classic metal sounds. Very smart move to keep old goatheads and gain new ones. I hesitate to describe this album as melodic because I feel it doesn’t quite fit in with the expectations of that label. More so, it is a new experience combining metal elements of such styles as speed, pop, melodic and classic into a unique sound carried by Erika’s deep tonal singing. The mix, done by William Bleeker is beyond reproach. It is clean and sharp.
Due to the composition of the album, it was hard for me to pick one song that resonated over the others. However, there were some that just ripped my guts out and spit them on the floor. It started with the first track, “Killer”. Hearing Erika’s voice come slashing out of your speakers slams you to the wall and makes you bleed. It is clear why she is a vocal success. The instruments seem to take a back seat in this number, making it clear her voice is the focus. “Heroes of Heartbreak” has a wonderful guitar solo that will please even the most dedicated classic metal guitar enthusiast. Very balanced and clear. “Drama” makes me feel like Erika is playing with us before devouring our souls. Dark and heavy, it harkens back to old skool crunch. The last number that struck me was “Hearts Gone Bad”. Reminding me of pop metal tunes from my high school days, it contains simple guitar chords and uncomplicated drums. No fancy riffs here, no overly verbose vocals, just a good old pop metal song.
While I am not sure Deaf, Dumb & Blonde is my kind of metal, I would definitely suggest a listen for those unfamiliar with the band. Those who know Erika, this may be a new avenue for you with them. Well mastered and produced, it is a solid addition to anyone’s collection. The album would be perfect for putting on at parties to subtly introduce it to people. Not in your face but all of a sudden grabs you by the crotch. “Hey, what are we listening to?” “Erika, dumb ass!”
Erika – Deaf, Dumb & Blonde was released on Escape Music in May 2016.