Sweden seems to churning out new, young melodic rock bands quicker that IKEA can produce new ranges of insanely practical items of furniture – and Wickman Road are the latest example of this production line of acts who also possess one infuriatingly common characteristic: they’re bloody good at what they do!
The band, who hail from a place called Rydaholm in the southern section of the Scandinavian archipelago, has its foundation in two sets of brothers – Henrik and Robert Åkesson, who teamed up with first Carl and then Eric Ahlqvist in the early part of this decade – and it is this familial relationship which gives this debut an album a tightness and a dynamic which it perhaps it would otherwise might have lacked.
Having said that, ‘After The Rain’ is an album which is steeped in AOR tradition, referencing all aspects of the genre from British heroes such as FM and Dare through the likes of REO Speedwagon, Styx and Toto to fellow countrymen such as Eclipse, as they blend classic influences with modern sensibilities.
The opening, title crack is a slice of classically-crafted AOR, with a melodic framework encapsulating an insanely catchy chorus. ‘Breaking Free’ is heavier, with a crunchy opening riff, built on the classic melodic rock foundation of combining huge harmonies with equally mammoth choruses. ‘I Believe In You’ could be ripped st raight from the songbooks of the likes of Jim Peterik, with its swollen bridge and lighter-waving chorus. ‘I Can’t Wait Anymore’ is simply fantastic: a mid- to fast-paced rocker built on alternating grooves with a crunching harmonic and a punchy performance from Eric Ahlqvist.
Indeed, as with many Scandi-AOR acts, it is the singer who steals the show. I don’t know what’s in the water up there, but the quality of vocalists emanating from that part of the world is simply unbelievable at the moment. Ahlqvist has a richness and lusciousness of tone which truly draws out the lifeblood of the songs. He’s also an exemplar of the new generation of singers who continually prove you don’t have to scream to make yourself heard: like many of his predecassors, and thankfully a growing number of his contemporaries, Ahlqvist eases into his performance, breathing life into his voice and, as an organic result, the songs themselves.
No finer example of this is ‘No Matter The Distance’: it’s a very simple ballad at heart, slightly bombastic in its production, but based around the singer’s passionate baritone and a beautifully effective piano refrain. It’s also a song which also highlights the contrasts of the album, as it’s immediately followed by the classic AOR punch and groove of ‘In A Minute’ in a way in which the likes of Survivor blended light and shade so effortlessly.
With this debut, Wickman Road have shown that they have both an appreciation of the heritage in which they are grounded and the attitude – and the ability – to ensure that it is in safe hands for the immediate future.
Tracklist: After The Rain / Breaking Free / I Believe In You / I Can’t Wait Anymore / All Alone / Couldn’t Find The Way / Home / No Matter The Distance / In A Minute / Now When You’re Gone / Time
Recommended listening: I Can’t Wait Anymore
‘After The Rain’ is released on AOR Heaven on 24 June.
© PlanetMosh 2016