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Frontiers (2010)
Rating: 8.5/10

I think the last Pretty Maids album I actually bought was Future World (1987), so excuse my ignorance. Who would have thought that some 25 years later they’d be still rocking out… and rocking hard too.

Pandemonium is the Danes’ 11th album, and what a corker it is. How many of those old, once thought extinct bands are going to keep coming back harder and stronger? Pretty Maids are a force to be reckoned with. The facts are, if some new, polished metal band had released this opus then the press would be all over it claiming them to be the next big thing. But Pretty Maids have always been criminally underrated, and in Ronnie Atkins we have a snarling vocalist who still hits the notes as the guitar attack of the aptly named Kenneth Hammer do exactly what they say on the tin.

Pandemonium really does live up to its name, boasting ten tracks (11 if you get the digipak version with a bonus remix of ‘It Comes At Night’), with every one a barnstormer. Atkins is more Joe Lesté (Bang Tango, Beautiful Creatures) in his gnarly approach, but he can also croon too. The opening title track features a chugging riff and a keyboard-laced groove that reaches an infectious chorus, this being a mighty slab of Euro metal with high quality production.

‘I.N.V.U.’ drifts in on a sea of bass courtesy of Kenn Jackson and then becomes a lump of molten metal, with a killer riff and Allan Tschicaja’s volcanic drums. The band effortlessly injects some subtlety until the big anthemic chorus erupts.

Time after time, track after track, Pretty Maids hit a winner. ‘Little Drops Of Heaven’ floats in with a lush keyboard effect and Atkins’ narrative. This is probably the most melodic track on the album; a lavish 80s style hair metal ballad with slow, sultry drum plod. Favourite track however has to be the marching ‘It Comes At Night’, with its demonic chug, and Atkins’ fierce growls, with the drums wrenching the track into a guttural chorus. Even the injection of keyboards doesn’t dampen down the attitude of this track.

‘Final Day Of Innocence’ follows suit, beginning like The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ (from 1971’s Who’s Next) before rising from the ashes of its enemies, with Atkins giving a more laid back vocal as Hammers’ guitar storms the beaches backed by the drum barrage of Tschicaja. This track has one of the album’s best choruses; proof that the old guard are still the most reliable when it comes to top notch metal. The album tip-toes out on the sighing ‘Breathless’, a late night radio rocker that has a strong ballad feel; imagine a beefier Def Leppard as it sways.

There is a real drama and emotion about Pandemonium and one can’t help but be swept away by it all. A glorious record.

Neil Arnold

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