I have a new rule. Whenever Jonas Källsbäck drums on an album, it’s going to be good. Last month’s Night Flight Orchestra was fantastic. From what I’ve heard, Gathering of Kings will rock. And there’s this Mean Streak album, Blind Faith. Not to be confused with the 80s girl band Meanstreak, this version is a Swedish traditional metal band, ostensibly named after the Y&T album and song of the same name (which saw heavy rotation on my turntable back in 1984, in the form of K-Tel’s Masters of Metal album). How similar is this band to the ill-fated Y&T? Well, for one thing, Max Norman produces this album, and he produced Y&T’s early work — not Mean Streak, that was Chris Tsangarides, but still, it’s a connection, right? Are the Y&T/Night Flight Orchestra connections enough to make Blind Faith awesome?
It sure doesn’t seem so at first. “Blood Red Sky” is an unenthusiastic straightforward metal song. Sure, it’s uptempo, high-energy, but something’s missing. What is it? It’s the uninspired vocals, the way the lead breaks rip through the speakers, and the fact that it’s not a memorable song. Really, it’s not a good opening track. I’ll take Judas Priest’s cheesy epic of the same name, thank you very much — and that’s not a good song either. So after one track I’m regretting my decision to grab this.
The sour taste doesn’t last long, though. Mean Streak redeem themselves immediately when second track, “Animal in Me,” kicks in. Mid-paced with chunky riffing, a driving beat, and a just barely audible trilling synth patch, this is pure traditional metal at its best. And oddly, the lead breaks don’t tear your face off like on “Blood Red Sky.” The other key point of this song is something that’s prevalent throughout Blind Faith, and that’s Mean Streak’s penchant for big, catchy choruses. When you combine excellent musicianship with solid (yes, generic, but well-done generic) arrangements and earworm choruses, you’re left with an album you want to keep playing. It also helps that no song goes past the five minute mark. These guys stick to Songwriting 101 theory, making the songs that much more effective.
Aside from “Blood Red Sky,” there are no weak points on Blind Faith. The album as a whole is catchy as hell, and chock full of quality ingredients. Production (aside from the occasionally way too loud guitar solo) captures the essence of the band – and if you’re still not clear, that essence is traditional metal rooted in the 80s. I guess Max Norman is as good as anyone for getting that sound. After a rough start, Andy LeGuerin nails it on the mic the rest of the way, with passionate delivery that isn’t rooted in caricature (I’m looking at you, Sir Russell Allen) and the occasional blood-curdling wail to close out songs. Thomas Johanssen tears through the songs with aplomb, bombastic solos and tight rhythm work. And speaking of rhythm, the duo of Källsbäck and Peter Andersson anchor it all with power, never overdoing it.
Thus does Blind Faith fall in with some other feel-good retro albums, like Amber Galactic and the latest from Brother Firetribe: it’s pure dad-metal, but hey, a lot of us are dads, and we like metal, so this fits the bill. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, but the sameness is welcome due to the quality Mean Streak brings to the table — thus a 3.0 rating and not higher. Olde guys such as myself can sit back in our reading chairs, puff wistfully on our pipes, and listen to Mean Streak while yearning for not only the golden age of metal, but also for our hair.