Frontiers Music president Serafino Perugino has a gift for pairing talented musicians who create amazing new projects. Nordic Union is no exception, and may in fact be his most genius moment yet. The union of Pretty Maids Danish frontman, Ronnie Atkins, and noted Swedish producer, singer and songwriter, Erik Mårtensson (Eclipse, W.E.T.), has born one of the first true melodic hard rock gems of 2016.
Mårtensson had a huge 2015 with Eclipse‘s Armageddonize, and Pretty Maids fans are salivating for their own anticipated 2016 release, but perfectly sandwiched between the two is the eponymous Nordic Union debut, which is 11 tracks of melodic metal bliss. Mårtensson hands over lead vocal duties to the instantly recognizable voice of Atkins, placing his focus on handling the guitars, bass and keyboards. He reached out to his former Eclipse bandmate, Magnus Ulfstedt, to man the drums.
The album opens in glorious form with the dramatic sonicscape, “The War Has Begun”. This mid-tempo number rises and falls with driving riffs and huge vocals. The bass, normally so buried on such albums, really stands out here. Eclipse guitarist Magnus Henriksson lends his fret skills on a tasty solo. The atmospheric vibe flows into the chugging rocker, “Hypocrisy”, with its instantly addictive chorus. Noted death metal guitarist Fredrik Folkare (Firespawn, Unleashed) delivers a decidedly arioso solo to the track.
The moody, “Wide Awake” is a song one might expect from Within Temptation, with its rolling feel and grand scope. Another catchy chorus, and a guest guitar solo delivered by Swedish guitarist Thomas Larsson.
Mårtensson is no stranger to penning melodramatic hard rock ballads, and he serves one up here in the form of “Every Heartbeat”. Larsson handles the solo on this track as well. Whether you use your cellphone or go old school with a lighter, this song will cause fans to light up the arena.
In an album full of fantastic tracks, the album’s first single, “When Death Is Calling” is a signature piece on this record. It resonates with a definite Pretty Maids feel, even without Atkins vocal delivery. Mårtensson’s bass and fretwork truly elevate this song.
Next up is the anthemic rocker, “21 Guns” with its galloping guitar riff and military-esque drum work. The song’s hook stands as one of the record’s most infectious. Mårtensson lays down some of his catchiest guitar work here. “21 guns makes the world go round, but do we care about the body count?”
The second half of the record is as strong as the first with the harmony-laden “Falling”, and racing rhythms of “The Other Side”. “The Point of No Return” and “Go” are powerful examples of well-crafted melodic hard rock, while “True Love Awaits You” is a dark and winding beauty of emotive eloquence. Atkins’ voice blends perfectly with Mårtensson’s.
Nordic Union is a project that could easily have sounded mediocre and forced, but it is perhaps the best pairing of talent one might have imagined. Mårtensson’s flair for addictive melodies and tight production are deftly balanced by Atkins’ brilliant vocal performances. With Nordic Union, Erik Mårtensson and Ronnie Atkins have created what will easily be one of the best modern melodic hard rock albums of 2016. Not a weak or skip-over sung in the bunch. This Scandinavian duo have made an album to be enormously proud of.
Nordic Union releases January 29th on Frontiers Music srl