Dead But Not Forgotten
Sun Hill Production (2015)
Formed in 2005, this is album number three from Sweden’s Degreed, but although I’ve spun this latest platter several times now I still can’t decide if it’s a winner? Degreed features 2008 Swedish Idol finalist Robin Ericsson who has that sort of tame yet soulful melodic rock croon which sounds very now, but he’s surrounded by a myriad of sounds, some of which I like and some of which I do not.
First up there is the positives within some of the riffs of Daniel Johansson, who when given the license to roam comes up with some fiery grooves which give certain tracks, like ‘Kill Your Darlings’, that extra steel.
However, on the negative side the band seems a tad safe and generic at times, plodding along with a mediocre AOR slant – but that’s probably because of bassist Robin Ericsson’s vocal style which although competent rarely excites me. Also, Mats Ericsson’s drums are at times a touch too weak for my liking and get lost in the mix.
With album opener ‘The Scam’ we hear the band opting for racier climes, the bass, guitar and drums working well together to up the pace, although the overall premise is one of a basic hard rock by numbers traipse which is easy on the ear and does exactly what it says on the tin.
With these sorts of records I’m often left feeling unfulfilled, gagging for an extra slice of weight or attitude. Such is their contemporary design and glossy sheen that Degreed seem all too comfortable in their middle-of-the-road groove, appealing to the masses to some extent but lacking real soul and energy to stand apart.
As the album shifts along I’m left rather frosty by the grey dynamics of ‘Face The Fact’; a dreary almost melancholic drone which isn’t a million miles away from Sixx A.M.’s style of lifeless rambling. Indeed, randomly click “play” on any track here and you’ll find yourself faced with an air of familiarity and safeness that leaves me feeling that Degreed are just like a million other melodic rock acts. Maybe it’s just not my thing, but the likes of ‘Madness’, ‘Shame On Me’ and ‘Love Me Love Me Not’ all seem to bleed into one as downbeat melodies attempting positivity but just so stuck in that rut of modern glumness.
I could certainly imagine these guys in the charts, but that doesn’t mean they have something spectacular to offer. Indeed, the only tracks which seem to boast a smattering of fire are the aforementioned ‘Kill Your Darlings’ with its riffage, the catchy ‘Better Safe Than Sorry’ which finally offers up a grittier vocal style, and ‘The Final Ride’ with flecks of aggression again in the guitar. For me though, this feels like a heavily strained record and one which meanders like a raindrop down the windowpane; happy to join millions of others in its never-ending quest of normality.
Dead But Not Forgotten actually depresses me as a record, and apart from the rare upbeat patches it is one constant grey haze which lacks sparkle. I guess I have to be cruel to be kind, but Degreed’s latest episode really is a composition lacking colour and adventure, and yet for some reason it will probably appeal to a wide range of music fans because of its tameness.
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