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Spin Gallery: Embrace

Listing all the artists that multi-instrumentalist and producer Tommy Denander has been involved with in one capacity or another, would by itself fill this review and then some. Whether it's Frederiksen – Denander (with Fergie Frederiksen ex of Toto), Radioactive, Stryper, Paul Stanley, or Toto themselves, his input always guarantees quality of performance and clarity of sound. So to have him write, perform and produce on Spin Gallery's second album Embrace should already be giving an indication that what is contained within could be pretty special.

The debut album from the band hit the streets back in 2004 and saw Denander team up with singer and co-writer Kristopher Lagerstrom along with fellow vocalists Christian Antblad and Magnus Weidenmo. Together the three singers created a multi layered vocal master class over the quirky, melodic back drop of Denander's slick, poppy, yet rocking songs.

Five years on and Spin Gallery are now in essence Denander and Lagerstrom with the percussive talents of Glen Marks. So having relied so heavily on the triangular attack of three singers on the debut, has Embrace suffered from featuring Lagerstrom alone behind the mic? Resoundingly the answer to that is NO! With the producing talents that Tommy brings to the table, Lagerstrom's performances are layered to give the effect of beautiful harmonies and whilst the music itself is of the highest quality, vocally the album is a sublime revelation. Every note sung is uplifting and joyous and considering some of the lyrical content is intensely deep and dark, that in itself is a feat to be proud of.

The melodies contained within the music are to die for as well, this isn't in any way straight ahead AOR, the themes investigated are too wide and varied to be put into that restrictive box. However any AOR fan worth their salt will find a huge amount of pleasure in the dense thick keyboard and guitar passages spread liberally throughout Embrace. A prime example is the angular staccato riff and piano interplay in the verse of "Stone By Stone" that is played against a huge vocal and chorus hook that just refuses to lose impact with every listen. The light poppy "Eyes Wide Open" has an almost a-Ha like keyboard line that once more slides beautifully alongside Lagerstrom's Joey Tempest meets Jon Anderson, slick, fragile, yet commanding voice.

Everywhere you turn the quality refuses to dip, "Indulge", the only true (power) ballad on show is perfectly paced and devoid of cliché, whereas "Blood In My Veins" while keeping the tempo sedate uses a plaintive acoustic guitar to highlight one of the simplest vocals on the album and a rich almost Robert Plant sheen is evident in places. "Everything Fades" is almost New Wave in it's attack, while "Brilliance of the Drugs" reminds of Kip Winger in it's complexity and atmosphere.

Lagerstrom whilst not accompanied on the majority of the songs is joined by two special guests in the shape of Robin Beck, whose Ann Wilson like roar blends well on "Just A Momentary Why" and the tremendous talent that is Dan Reed adds his superb rougher tones to the best track on the album "You Do The Things You Do". Reed's voice is a welcome contrast to the silky smooth tones that grace the rest of the songs.

As mentioned earlier, the sound on this album really couldn't be improved on and with songs and performances as strong as this, Embrace is not just one of the best Frontiers Records albums I've heard all year, it's one of the best albums I've heard all year, period.

Track Listing
1. Embrace
2. Stone By Stone
3. Just a Momentary Why
4. Brilliance of the Dugs
5. Eyes Wide Open
6. Blood In My Veins
7. You Do The Things You Do
8. Indulge
9. Without Love
10. Tie Toe
11. Everything Fades
12. The End

Added: January 3rd 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Label's Web Site
Hits: 2931
Language: english

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Spin Gallery: Embrace
Posted by Pete Pardo, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-01-03 08:01:46
My Score:

The latest album from Spin Gallery, Embrace, is essentially the work of the duo Tommy Denander (guitar/keyboards/bass/loops/production) and Kristoffer Lagerstrom (vocals), with some help from drummer Glen Marks and a couple of guest vocalists. It's pretty obvious that the band Toto has greatly influenced Denander, as Embrace could almost be the next Toto release, had that band not packed in it recently. From the melodies, to the searing Lukather-ish guitar work, this is top notch hard rock/AOR from Spin Gallery, the same kind of slick & memorable material that we could count on from Toto for so many years. Tunes like the title track and "Stone By Stone" are highly enjoyable numbers, brimming with tasty production values and tight musicianship, and "Brilliance of the Drug" almost reminds me of the poppy prog of Billy Sherwood's band Circa. Harder rockers such as "Without Love" and "Everyhing Fades" let Denander's crunchy guitar riffs and Lagerstrom's soaring vocals take center stage, and you can almost predict big things for this outfit if they ever decide to flesh out the line-up and take this project to another level.

End result is very solid AOR, and another winner from the Frontiers Records roster.

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