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Frontiers (2013)
Rating: 7.5/10

If anyone has heard the lead single ‘Mother Of All Lies’ then you’ll know what type of hard rock extravaganza you’re in for. The last Pretty Maids opus, Pandemonium (2010), was a rewarding heavy metal experience, and Motherland follows suit as a clean-cut, well-polished metal album.

Personally, I still prefer the band’s older material, particularly the 1984 opus Red Hot And Heavy, and while their current sound is far removed from those fiery days, the Danes can still pack a punch. The five-piece are masters at melting together crystal clear melodies and Gothic-tinged Euro metal, and the result is a wholesome sound bolstered by the soaring, yet oaken wails of Ronnie Atkins whose soul never seems to age.

The two lead off tracks to promote the album are the synth-driven ‘Mother Of All Lies’ and ‘Sad To See You Suffer’, the former being a rather smooth ride with its political theme. Atkins’ vocals soar above the sweeping guitars of Ken Hammer and Allan Tschicaja’s drum backbone. However, in my opinion, ‘Mother Of All Lies’ is probably the weakest track on offer. Drenched in melody the song fails to deliver the goods except with Atkins’ vocals which effortlessly shift between tones, and the same could be said for the pop-tinged ‘Sad To See You Suffer’. Considering both of these tracks are “singles” I’m left disappointed, despite being impressed by the crisp production.

Even so, the remainder of the album lives up to expectations for the most part. Straight ahead rocker ‘Hooligan’ sees the band doing what they do best; René Shades is a killer bass player who shudders the spine with his bellow, and again Hammer’s guitars are pivotal.

The band really shine though on the stupendous ‘Bullet For You’ which deserves to be a hit. It’s the kind of track that serves up an infectious chorus that digs its heels in to the extent you’ll be humming it all the way to the shops! ‘Why So Serious?’ provides similar pleasure, as the band effortlessly shifts between moods again, one moment cutting deep with a heavy guitar, the next providing us with a pensive soundscape in the form of the moving ‘Infinity’.

Although Motherland lacks the consistency of its predecessor it’s still a solid record, but for every beacon of a track, the light then seems to dim, particularly with the average ‘I See Ghosts’ and album closer ‘Wasted’ which both drift by without any real effect.

Motherland is far from being a bad album, but because Pandemonium was such a rocker, it’s fair to say that this time round the band hasn’t quite hit the right notes. However, when Pretty Maids does get it right – and they quite often do – they are one of Europe’s finest. Maybe I’m just hung up on that last opus and also the fact that those other rock veterans Saxon have just released an absolute corker in the form of Sacrifice.

Neil Arnold

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