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220 VOLT
Walking In Starlight

AOR Heaven (2014)
Rating: 8.5/10

Beginning with a computerised buzz and then overcast by a sturdy, laid-back guitar, the new album from Swedish melodic hard rockers 220 Volt gets underway.

For those of you previously unaware of these guys then you should be ashamed of yourself, because these boys have been in existence since 1979 and marched effortlessly through the 80s, releasing melodic metal gems such as Power Games (1984) and Mind Over Muscle (1985) before splitting in the early 90s.

A number of band reunions have taken place since 2002, accompanied by a compilation album (Volume 1, 2002), a live album (Made In Jamtland, 2005) and an EP (Heavy Christmas, 2009), but now 220 Volt are back with a full-length opus of new studio material.

Walking In Starlight is the much welcomed return for this much-admired quartet and boasts the talents of vocalist Anders Engberg, drummer Peter Hermansson and guitarists and founding members Thomas Drevin and Mats Karlsson.

Musically, this new opus is not your average sugar-sweet batch of harmonies. Instead, 220 Volt adopts a harder edge which relies on a heavy, driving guitar sound which really comes to the fore with upbeat rockers such as ‘System Overload’, ‘Broken Promises’ and ‘Through The Wastelands’, which are all dense-sounding riff-heavy monsters.

Of course, the band is extremely versatile within its sound. For instance, the opening title track boasts a joyous melody of ascending guitars which complement Engberg’s soulful croon. Indeed, Anders has been a vital acquisition to the band, joining in 2012; his simple yet powerful style means that whichever path the band chooses, his tones sit comfortably. A prime example of this versatility becomes evident with the pounding ‘Alive’ which is one of the album’s fastest, heaviest moments, and yet in contrast to this we’re treated to the buoyant bop of ‘Get Me Out’ which features a sturdy bass-line. At the other end of the scale there’s the funky, pop-edged strut of ‘One Good Reason’ coupled with the subtle closer ‘Guiding Light’, which showcases the band at its most evocative.

Walking In Starlight has so much to offer that one can literally become lost in the hard rockin’ grooves which take this band to higher levels. While we know that the AOR genre can be easy on the ears, there are moments on this opus where the combo returns to its roots and comes dangerously close to being a full-on metal band.

Forget the sugar; this is a fiery return to form, and Drevin and Karlsson have every reason to be proud as to how this machine has rolled on and evolved. Let’s hope it won’t be too long before 220 Volts hits us with another ace, because as modern rock albums go this is one of the best I’ve heard for a number of years. Don’t miss out on being struck by 220 Volt.

Neil Arnold

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