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Grand Illusion: Brand New World

It's been five long years since the mini masterpiece that was Grand Illusion's fourth album, the aptly titled Ordinary Just Won't Do. That release was brimming with AOR and pomp rock nuggets that demanded to be listened to over and over again. Not long after, the outfit split up to "develop as musicians", however fast forward to April 2009 and guitarist/bassist/keyboard player Anders Rydholm found himself recording with drum legend Gregg Bisonette (David Lee Roth, Joe Satriani, etc.) on what would become the basis of Brand New World. Both original vocalists Peter Sundell and Per Svensson are also fully involved again, however Olaaf Trampe, who played guitar last time round is no longer in the band. So instead Grand Illusion have invited some special guests to compliment Rydholm. Step forward Tim Pierce (who has worked with everybody from Bruce Springsteen and Meat Loaf to the under rated Toy Matinee), and Danny Jacob from the band Signal (he also writes much of the music on the excellent Disney cartoon Phineas & Pherb!) who between them handle much of the solo guitar work. It is also worth mentioning that the phenomenal Mike Slamer (City Boy, Streets) shows up on the solo of the song "157th Breakdown".

The AOR edge that Grand Illusion were renowned for is still strongly in evidence, however there is a harder rock element running through the songs this time and while the tougher outlook may take some by surprise, after a few spins everything starts to fall in place. Sundell and Svensson still possess stunning voices that when combined become simply irresistible, with the layered backing vocals and harmonies being amongst the best you will hear anywhere. The opening pair of "Never Find Her Alone" and "All Out Of Love" have choruses that must rate as the catchiest I've heard all year, with Rydholm's smooth guitar and keyboard work making both of these songs essential AOR treats. The appearance of Slamer makes "157th Breakdown" an altogether harder affair with his phenomenal solo, the song itself would have fitted perfectly on The Sign's debut album, with a great riff sparring with some glorious keyboard work. The tougher approach allows the vocal duo to really stretch out and they rise to the occasion with a huge amount of style and power.

The beautifully poised ballad "Emily" brings the pace right back down, however it does so without losing any momentum, before we are back in fist pumping territory through the joyous, uplifting "I'm Alive", which makes you feel just that! At this stage, there's little doubt that Brand New World meets the expectation laid down by its predecessor and "Burning Bed" keeps up the stupendously high strike rate, with a slightly bluesier feel that tempers the high octane AOR and straight ahead rockers perfectly. The next three songs don't quite live up to the standard that has been set so high, as the title track aims for the feel of the opening pair, but just doesn't have the same hooks to seduce you with. "Evil And Pain" and "Warning Signs" both have bright enough riffs and smart keyboards, however they lack the bite required to make a lasting impression. "Playing With Fire" gets the album back into top gear with Bissonette stamping his authority on the song, as he works his way round the kit for a ranging beat that leads into another tremendous chorus. Sundell and Svensson lock together again during "Sacrifice" where some of the notes reached are impressively high, especially when you consider how in control the voices are. "Forever With You" rounds out the album in fine style with the first three minutes being just vocals, piano and strings. After the at times bombast of what has preceded it, the change of focus heightens the impact of the song, before the whole band come together for a fantastic, emotional crescendo.

I do have to add that Brand New World took four or five plays to really begin to reveal its inner beauty, with initial spins leaving little impression. In fact even as I sit listening to it to write this review, the songs just seem to become stronger and stronger and it is definitely a case of the more often you listen to this album, the more pleasures it delivers. Devotees of Grand Illusion's previous work may struggle to come to terms with the beefier attitude of some of the songs, however there are genuinely three or four tracks on this album that are as good as any I've heard in this genre for quite some time.

Track Listing
01 Never Find Her Alone
02 All Out Of Love
03 157th Breakdown
04 Emily
05 I'm Alive
06 Burning Bed
07 Brand New World
08 Evil And Pain
09 Warning Signs
10 Playing With Fire
11 Sacrifice
12 Forever With You

Added: May 27th 2010
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Grand Illusion Web Site
Hits: 3008
Language: english

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