|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Erik Mårtensson|
|Record Label: Ulterium||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
Christian Liljegren is quite the veteran in the Christian metal scene. Getting his start in the mid-nineties with the 70’s influenced hard rock outfit Modest Attraction, Christian later joined forces with guitarist Carl Johan Grimmark and formed Narnia in 1996. Narnia went on to release five critically acclaimed albums with Christian at the helm, ranging in style from neo-classical metal to melodic metal to power and progressive metal. The artist also record four albums as a member of Divinefire, a group combining elements of the melodic and the extreme, in addition to participating on projects with Flagship (progressive rock), Wisdom Call (metal/hard rock) and Audiovision (melodic power metal).
Audiovision debuted in 2005 with the full length effort The Calling, an “all star” project in which 3 lead vocalists, four guitarists, two bassists and seven keyboardists participated. Focus, the group’s spring of 2010 Ulterium Records sophomore release, however, proves more of a full band effort in featuring primarily the contributions of a core group of five musicians: Christian Liljegren (lead vocals), Simeon Liljegren (bass), Torbjorn Weinesjo (guitars), Thomas Weinesjo (drums) and Olov Andersson (keyboards).
Torbjorn and Thomas are renowned for their work in the progressive doom band Veni Domine while Olov is also a member of Grandstand. Simeon was involved with Modest Attraction at the same time as Christian.
Musically, Focus is similar to The Calling in that it traverses melodic metal territory with the occasional foray into power metal and bluesy hard rock. The album is characterized by its catchy choruses, polished vocal melodies (almost Stryper-like in capacity), shredding lead work and Christian’s trademark soaring vocal abilities.
Focus finds Christian delivering perhaps his finest effort to date. On “Keep The Fire Burning” (a rousing rocker) and Stryper cover “The Way” (Audiovision nails it perfectly) Christian lets loose with some screams and falsettos we have never heard from him in the past. Otherwise, he shows the full range to his voice on “We Will Go”, a hook driven piece with a frenetic tempo, in addition to “The Gate”, a majestic seven minute semi ballad. All around, what we have on Focus is a vocalist who is relaxed and at ease in the studio while enjoying himself in the process.
Torbjorn Weinesjo proves in no uncertain terms he is not a one dimensional progressive guitarist, bestowing his edgy soloing abilities to “The Son Will Come” and “I Will Belong”, two bluesy hard rockers that hearken back to Modest Attraction. His passionate work on “Fruit Of Love”, the albums most tranquil number, deserves mention as well.
The adept musicianship continues with Olov Andersson, whose accenting keyboard work always stands out within but never unnecessarily dominates the mix. I particularly enjoy the Hammond B-3 he adds to the anthem-like “Invitation”. The drumming of Thomas Weinesjo adds a steady foundational presence. “You Are The Reason”, a four minute symphonic power metal excursion, allows him to let loose and bestow his technical abilities.
Production values come across polished and refined, although Christian’s vocals are slightly forward in the mix. By no means a distraction or drawback, this a good thing in that it allows the group’s forthright message to stand out that much clearer.
Relentless storms of guitars and pounding drums characterize album opener “Invitation”. An occasional hint of Hammond B-3 can be heard in the background while Christian adds a complementary touch of low-key grit to his delivery. The creativity continues into the songs instrumental section, beginning to a keyboard solo that transitions to a lead guitar only to return to keyboards again (with the latter having a classical feel).
Liljegren cuts loose with one of his trademark screams at the start of “Keep The Fire Burning”. As the song proceeds ahead, it smoothly drifts through its lower key verses prior to building momentum for a background vocal driven chorus in which the rhythm guitar asserts itself fixed and firm. I cannot help but be reminded of Narnia in the process (Enter The Gate era).
Everything about “We Are Not Alone” speaks of up-tempo: rollicking pace, energetic aura and non-stop momentum all prove decisive as hints of keyboards and frenetic drumming lead the way. A tastefully done keyboard solo carries the songs instrumental moments.
“The Son Will Come” brings a bluesy hard rocking vibe. Upheld by walls of crunchy rhythm guitar, the song slowly grinds its distance in driving fashion but can prove refreshingly melodic for a chorus fortified by the bands trademark polished backing vocals. Torbjorn cuts loose with a scratchy guitar solo.
“You Are The Reason” brings some symphonic power metal touches during its instrumental opening. The song, otherwise, comes across as quintessential melodic metal with its refined flavorings and chorus of a near stately capacity. Some technical drumming from Thomas Weinesjo helps things flow better overall.
“Fruit Of Love” might be a bit out of step with much of the albums material but proves consummate nonetheless. Musically, it brings some of the albums more tranquil moments with its quietly played guitar and bluesy underpinnings. A relaxed – almost serene – aura prevails in the process.
“We Will Go” begins to an accompanying audience track and some crisp open air guitar (kind of like “Sixteen” by Daniel Band). The song romps its remaining distance, bordering on the infectious with its upbeat tempo and non-stop hook driven chorus. Torbjorn goes nuts on this one, adorning the final minute with his scorching lead work. Good range shown by Christian as well.
Bluesy hard rock would be the best way to describe “I Will Belong To You”. Mid-tempo in capacity and driven by a muscular low end, the song is six minutes of mettle and fortitude as Torbjorn, again, puts on a clinic with his blues driven playing (in terms of both his rhythm and lead guitar abilities).
Audiovision nails the cover of Stryper’s “The Way” perfectly. Similar to the original, the Audiovision version allows for a weighty vibe highlighted by deep sounding backing vocals and the same type of inauspicious chorus experience. Where the song differs – and allows Audiovision to provide its own signature mark in the process – is the left turn it makes for a symphonic based passage upheld by choir-like backing vocals. Christian accents things with a couple more high pitched screams.
Every well know group or artist has its signature song. Kiss, for example, is best known for “Rock And Roll All Night”. Rez Band? “Shadows”. Now, Christian has had his share of standout moments with Narnia and Divinefire but “The Gate” proves his “magnum opus”.
The closest any of the albums material comes to ballad territory, “The Gate” represents seven minutes of scintillating mid-paced metal upheld by slower passages sustained by a quietly played guitar and others in which a staunch rhythm guitar stands in support of the emotional scene. Great melody is conveyed in the process. But what puts things over the top is the bands larger than life backing vocals- polished, refined and Stryper-like in capacity.
Closing things out is the albums instrumental title track in which some bluesy lead guitar is joined with ethereal keyboards.
If you are a fan of Audiovision’s debut, The Calling, then Focus will be certain to appeal to you. Christian remains in fine form while his band mates – particularly Torbjorn on guitar and Olov on keyboards – put in top performances. You will find good variety to the songwriting (something for fans of just about all aspects of Christian’s career) and no “filler” or “throwaway” tracks. In the end, nothing but high quality melodic metal certain to rank with the better releases of the year.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Invitation” (3:32), “Keep The Fire Burning” (4:35), “We Are Not Alone” (3:06), “The Son Will Come” (4:05),
“You Are The Reason” (3:53), “Fruit Of Love” (4:46), “We Will Go” (4:24), “I Will Belong To You” (5:49), “The Way” (4:09),
“The Gate” (7:37), “Focus” (3:25)
Christian Liljegren – Lead Vocals
Torbjörn Weinesjö - Guitars
Olov Andersson - Keyboards
Simeon Liljegren - Bass
Thomas Weinesjö - Drums