With the benefit of hindsight (and a more strict review schedule meaning I listen to a lot more music than I used to), I do find it a bit hard to believe that I gave Reckless Love’s last album (2013’s Spirit) one of my album of the year nominations. Don’t get me wrong, it has some great songs (I still enjoy some of the songs from it whenever I replay the record), but it doesn’t strike me as an especially impressive record now. I had this same problem with Reckless Love’s first two records: when I first heard them, they sounded great, but, when time went past and I gave myself more time to weigh them up, I realised that there wasn’t a lot to make them especially noteworthy in the long run. You can put this down to the rambles of a grumpy git who doesn’t know how to have fun if you want to, but I think Reckless Love’s big problem is not that they’re bad, but that their songwriting is 80s glam metal without anything special to make it genuinely stand up to the test of time.
Anyway, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Reckless Love, I’ll fill you in quickly. They are a Finnish glam metal band from the city of Kuopio (one of the largest cities in the country, for the benefit of those not familiar with the geography of Finland) who originally started out as a Guns N’ Roses cover band in 2001, but moved over to writing their own original material alongside a slight name change. They didn’t really get a lot of attention for a good while (although frontman Olli Herman had a brief tenure with the band Crashdiet under the name H. Oliver Twisted), but they eventually got signed and released their self-titled debut in 2010. Their next album, Animal Attraction, was released in 2011 and Spirit was released in 2013. After about two and a half years, we now have their follow up, InVader (subtle move, guys…). The band’s lineup has been consistent since their first album, comprising the earlier mentioned lead vocalist Olli Herman, guitarist Pepe Salohalme, drummer Hessu Maxx and bassist Jalle Verne.
Speaking honestly…I think InVader is not as good as Spirit, but, once it grows on you, it is a surprisingly fun listen that, while unlikely to remain with you for a long period of time, is backed with some decent songwriting that should make it an enjoyable record if you like glam metal and don’t mind very poppy music.
The band’s sound is basically undiluted 80s glam metal, with a lot of pop influence (even more so than might be expected from a glam metal record!). This isn’t to say that the band don’t add new elements to their sound, but you could sum up the vast majority of the band’s sound as this and not be too far from the mark. For some reason, the band also includes a rap verse at the start of their song ‘Pretty Boy Swagger’, which DOES make sense in context (the verse is saying that the song’s protagonist is a rocker, not a rapper…which he says while rapping. Sure, seems legit…), but still feels very weird to me, because rap and glam metal are not genres that I could see mixing even slightly well. This sort of crops up in ‘Rock It’ as well (the verses are more akin to rapping than spoken word), but there’s no reason for it there, which leaves me scratching my head even more than ‘Pretty Boy Swagger’ does. I get that including new elements into your sound is a good way for a band to evolve, but there are some things which don’t mix well and glam metal and rap are probably one of the biggest examples I can think of, up there with combining Celtic music with country or combining opera and jazz…actually, that last one has been done excellently by Hakon Kornstad, so that’s a bad example!
Anyway, the songwriting on the album, surprisingly, is very subtle. On first listen, I thought the whole record was pretty dull, but, as I gave it a bit more time, it actually started growing on me enough that I didn’t find this quite as big a problem as I had originally. Some of the songs still leave me somewhat impressed (the earlier mentioned ‘Pretty Boy Swagger’ and ‘Rock It’ spring to mind, but ‘Child of the Sun’ is honestly so dull that it’s hard to enjoy), but, for the most part, the record is comprised of songs that are solid, though nothing exceptional. Some of the more pop heavy songs (like ‘Monster’, ‘Scandinavian Girls’ and UK bonus track ‘Keep it up All Night’) are probably going to be a bit of a love it or hate it affair for people who like things a bit closer to the standard glam formula, but I found them good fun once I switched the part of my brain off that demands deeper complexity. I think the big problem is that the record is mostly built upon performances which aren’t especially complex (lead guitarwork notwithstanding), which means that it feels a bit lacking on a deeper listen, but, on a casual listen, it’s a lot of fun, so this is probably going to make it something that anyone who isn’t already on board of the glam train will dislike and the lack of anything that is especially unique about the record (it’s definitely retreading previously established territory without a lot of desire to put a new spin on it) will make it something which people who have glam metal as part of their comfort zone may find a bit lacking, although it’s certainly not going to upset people who do like glam metal!
The instrumental performances, as I mentioned earlier, aren’t especially complex, but there’s certainly nothing here that is bad about the performances. Salohalme is a fairly good guitarist when he gets a chance to show off his chops, but it’s usually just in the lead guitarwork, as his rhythm guitar work tends to be fairly uncomplicated, possibly as a side effect of the band’s genre not being one which encourages highly technical performances. The bass guitar doesn’t really do a lot of interest beyond providing a solid base upon which the rest of the music is built upon. To be fair, this is a bit of a trend in most glam metal anyway (the vast majority of bassists in glam metal aren’t especially noteworthy for their instrument skills), but I feel that Verne is a bit underutilised as a result of this trend. The drumming is fairly decent, but, again, is mostly providing a base upon which the rest of the music is built upon, which isn’t a bad thing, but doesn’t make it especially noteworthy to most people.
Olli Herman’s vocals are pretty much what you would expect them to be if you were asked to picture a stereotypical glam metal vocalist: high pitched (tenor range, specifically), somewhat smooth vocal tone without necessarily being operatic and a poppy touch that keeps them fairly in glam territory. He’s got a fairly wide vocal range which stops him from falling entirely into the generic label (there are some songs where he reaches down to a rough baritone, although it’s obviously not his comfortable vocal register, and reaches up to some very high notes with his falsetto), but he mostly sticks to a typical tenor range, so listeners who are expecting a lot of vocal acrobatics may want to curb their expectations a bit, as he doesn’t go for that a lot.
The production on the record is very clean. It’s not quite to the levels of cleanness that you hear from the likes of, say, records mixed by Colin Richardson (where it ends up having a very “studio” sound, for lack of a better way to put it), but you can tell that there’s been a lot of polish on the production side of things to make it sound slick. This means that the bass guitar spends most of its time somewhat difficult to hear, as with a lot of metal albums produced in this fashion, and the mastering is probably a bit excessive. However, there’s nothing necessarily BAD about this sound, just that it could be improved by turning the mastering down and giving the bass guitar a bit more of a boost in the mix.
Overall, I think it’s fair to say that, some weird decisions and the lack of anything especially new or unique aside, InVader is actually not that bad. I would say that it doesn’t live up to the standards set by Spirit for me, but it’s not a bad record and I can see some people really liking it. Worth a listen if you like very poppy glam metal and aren’t too fussed about originality.
InVader was released on the 4th of March by Spinefarm Records.