Well, here’s a release I can easily see falling through the Angry Metal Cracks. One is the first (and maybe last) release by a supergroup of sorts led by Michael Andersson, vocalist for Swedish melodic metallers Cloudscape and featuring members of such renowned acts as Dream Evil, Hammerfall and Yngwie Malmsteen. Now, we all know supergroups can be very iffy propositions and Fullforce is no different. It seems whenever a group of talented musicians get jammed into a room to write and record, disaster is as likely to result as triumph. So where does this one fall? Pretty much exactly in the middle of the two extremes. There’s some top notch, super melodic metal here and some rather generic, boring duds. What makes this album of particular annoyance to Steel Druhm is how good the good stuff is. With some real winners on display, its a total buzz kill to have roughly half the album fizzle out and fail to keep the momentum going Fullforce (yeah, you knew it was gonna happen at some point). OK, it’s time for your slightly bitter host to examine One in a non-bitter fashion.
Having been familiar with Michael Andersson’s work with Cloudscape and enjoyed much of it, I was interested to hear what direction he would go with One. Well, its not much different than Cloudscape stylistically. As opener “Mythomaniac” washes over the listener, they’re greeted with brisk, energetic metal with a major emphasis on melody, catchiness and classy performances. As openers go, it’s a very good one and it straddles the line between the AOR hard rock sound of the Allen/Lande albums and the crunch and prog of Symphony X. Andersson’s vocals are well done and compelling and his band backs him up admirably. However, its the followup “None of Your Concern” that really grabbed me and smacked me silly. This is humdinger of a ditty and super addicting. Again in the vein of the Allen/Lande albums, it takes an infectious hard rock style and gives it just enough metallizing to kick copious ass. Great guitar work, excellent vocal phrasing and a big hooky chorus that will keep you coming back for lots more. With “Heart and Soul” they pump up the heaviness and intensity and its another instantly accessible gem with a winning chorus. Clearly these guys can bring the tools to the tradeshow and by this point I had visions of 4.0’s and 4.5’s dancing in my iron head. The next two tracks are also rock solid and keep the winning streak alive and then, it comes to an abrupt halt.
The album’s second half feels like it was written by a completely different group and the intensity, catchiness and overall quality take a significant step backwards. Songs like “Rain” and “Suffering in Silence” have moments of quality but feel flat, sterile and bland. Worse yet, numbers like “Wall of Secrets,” “Father Spirit” and “Into the Cradle” never seem to get going at all. There’s a partial recovery near album’s end with “I Bleed” but by then, I’d been ravaged by the Filler Gremlin and I was greatly displeased by this.
In fairness, the performances themselves are great from beginning to end. Andersson is a very good vocalist and his professionalism is always apparent. While he doesn’t possess the most unique style or delivery, he makes the most of his voice with a lot of excellent vocal choices. Likewise, the guitars by Stefan Elmgren (ex-Hammerfall, ex-Lost Horizon, ex-Cans) and Carl Johan Grimmark (Rob Rock, Narnia) are impressive and they do their share to keep things lively, provide meaningful solos and sundry noodlings. These guys are all solid, experienced musicians and the first half of One shows the great things they’re capable of doing together. Sadly, their songwriting lets them down badly on the back half.
Half a great melodic metal album, One is a paean to iTunes and such similar MP3 tools that allow the buyer to cherrypick tracks. If the first half was released as an EP it would get a big fat 4.0 or better. While the second half is a downer, I’m impressed enough with Fullforce to hope for a second album and more consistent songwriting. If you like melodic metal with a hard rock vibe, give this a sampling but avoid the second half if possible.