|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Melodic Metal||Produced By: Peo Pettersson|
|Record Label: Pure Metal||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 1989||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 47:37|
Stepping out on his own after recording three albums with the Swedish hard rock band Leviticus, guitarist Bjorn Stigsson combines elements of straightforward hard rock and eighties influenced melodic metal on his first and only solo effort Together With Friends. Stigsson serves as the mastermind behind the project, providing the albums consistent songwriting in addition to handling all rhythm and lead guitar duties. (The lone exception being the track "Come Together" in which Harry Kay makes a guest appearance on lead guitar.) After recruiting Leviticus' rhythm section of bassist Hakan Anderson and drummer Kjell Anderson, Stigsson brought in three talented lead vocalists to help round out the project: Sonny Larsson (Motherlode) contributes a high pitched classic tenor voice, Peo Pettersson sings in a grittier and raspier fashion while Tina Spangberg brings a soulful flavored vocal style. Dan Tibell (Jerusalem) adds just the right amount of texture with his stylish work on keyboards and organ.
While the production values to Together With Friends highlight crisp and clean sounding sonics, the album would have benefited from a bit of big budget polish. The rhythm and lead guitar both evenly rise above the instrumentation. The bass receives an adequate mix, but the drums, on the other hand, can come across sounding slightly muffled.
Album opener "Free" is a piano and keyboard driven instrumental coming in at just under one minute.
A catchy riff backed by a punchy bass line drives the commercial melodic metal of "Come On" from start to finish. Once Peo fades into the mix with some passionate wailing, the song proceeds through its first verse in an upbeat manner prior to slowing for a chorus with a huge radio friendly hook. Stigsson contributes thirty seconds of melodic based lead guitar work to a number I might describe "Come On" as a metal praise number:
I see a crowd of people
From every nation
From every language
They are all dressed in white
And they're dancing and singing to the King
COME ON! COME ON! LETS ROCK TO THE KING!
From heaven the Kingdom comes
I praise and sing to the Lord
Kjell Anderson's rapid double bass carries the fast paced "Lovin' My Woman" through its duration. Taking off in up-tempo fashion, a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar and organ underscores Larsson's high pitched voice as the song quickly rushes through its first verse. After briefly pausing, "Loving' My Woman" attains a energetic non-stop hook filled chorus.
A prominent mix of organ perfectly accentuates the straightforward blues based hard rocker "I'm Gonna Rock". Peo and Larsson highlight the song with a creative lead vocal trade off, Peo taking the first verse and chorus and Larsson the second, both sharing center stage when its first verse is repeated. Background vocals bolster the chorus of a song presenting a pro-Christian metal message:
The band is playing rock n' roll
And they rock, they rock for the King
Yeah the show goes on, everyone feels good
The music tells us we're going for the Lord
The keyboard driven "It's Alright" gives Tina Spangberg the opportunity to display her abilities with an emotionally charged lead vocal performance. The song starts slowly as keyboards carry its first verse before the rhythm section steps forward and reinforces a sweeping chorus with an atmospheric feel. Hakan Horling spices things up with a well timed saxophone solo. "It's Alright" is a song about faith:
When I plant a word from God into my heart
Spirit comes and it grows inside
I got faith, I got hope, and I feel I'll reach my goal
"Way Of Living" is a bluesy seventies influenced guitar and keyboard driven hard rocker similar to "I'm Gonna Rock". Introduced to several seconds of gritty rhythm guitar, "Way Of Living" picks up further in pace at the start of its first verse as Peo takes over with his gritty voice. The keyboards underlining the rhythm guitar at the start of the second help propel the song to a good hard hitting chorus. A keyboard and lead guitar trade off carries a sweeping instrumental passage.
After the energetic melodic metal of "Stand Up" begins with a scream from Larsson, the song quickly moves ahead until it peaks for a high octane chorus shored up by a punchy bass line. Stigsson takes center stage with an excellent neo-classical influenced guitar solo. "Stand Up" is about how God's Kingdom is an everlasting kingdom:
All around the world it comes
Everywhere on this earth
Like a fire it comes right now
Stand up, stand up, stand up, the Kingdom is hear
Kjell Anderson's rapid double bass returns to fortify the fast paced "Come Together". Once Larsson steps forward with his abundant voice several seconds into the song, he helps take it at breakneck speed to a chorus delivered in a powerful manner by deep sounding vocal harmonies. Harry Kay makes a guest appearance on lead guitar and flat out destroys with a flashy thirty second guitar solo. "Come Together" reinforces both the albums message and the mode in which it is communicated:
This kind of music will never stop
This kind of message will never end
You're gonna rock, rock for the King
In every nation, they'll rock for the Light...
The time is here to set the people free
To give the world the message of Jesus Christ.
Opening to a few seconds of double bass and a scream from Peo, the blues flavored hard rocker "Majestic In Power" moves through its first verse to a near perfect mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Slowing slightly, the song attains a gritty chorus that comes across worshipful in feel:
The Lord will reign, forever and ever again
The Lord will reign, majestic in power
Stigsson's bluesy lead guitar work tops off a song with a message taken from Exodus 15:
Pharaoh’s army was hurled into the sea
They sank and drowned in the Red Sea
'Cause they persecuted God's people
And Your hand was majestic in power
"King Of The Glory" takes the album in a commercial influenced melodic hard rock direction. After the song commences to an upbeat blend of guitar and drums, it tapers off upon arriving at its first verse as keyboards stands in support of Larsson's sharp sounding voice. The rhythm guitar, however, returns to a more prominent place in the mix as "King Of The Glory" picks up in pace for its pop flavored chorus. The only drawback to the song comes in the form of its lack of a guitar solo. "King Of The Glory" takes a worshipful tone in its lyrics:
Everyday is a gift from You, my Lord
Everyday I'm walking with You
You lift me up and my heart is singing to You
I love You my Lord and this is to You, a new song from me
Sing, to the King of the glory
Kicking in to an energetic combination of rhythm guitar and keyboards, "Here It Comes" does not miss a beat as it evenly flows to a catchy chorus in which Peo displays the full range to his raspy voice. Stigsson and Tibell combine for a cool seventies style keyboard and lead guitar trade off. "Here It Comes" draws it lyrics taken from Isaiah 60:
Arise, shine, for Your light has come
And the glory of the Lord is shining on you
Darkness as black as night shall cover all the people
But the glory of the Lord will shine from You
The album closes in a strong manner to the piano based ballad "I'm Free" in which all three vocalists participating on it are given the opportunity to exhibit their abilities. Spangberg handles the songs first verse as it takes on a worshipful quality:
Everywhere I can see His majesty and glory
Oh Lord, I rejoice, You are the living God
The emotionally charged chorus that follows continues "I'm Free" in its worshipful direction:
I am free, I'm free
Christ set me free
And the Kingdom of God grows in me
Peo takes control of the second verse before "I'm Free" breaks for a clean sounding synthesizer solo followed by thirty seconds of passionate lead guitar work. Subsequent to Larsson carrying its third verse, the song repeats its chorus one last time and closes to a minute of keyboards and lead guitar.
Together With Friends stands the test of time as nothing less than a first-rate Christian hard rock album. When taking into consideration the quality of its songwriting in addition to the top-notch talent performing on it, I cannot help but think the album would have sold a million copies if given the same promotion as Stryper's To Hell With The Devil. (Just my opinion.) All around, I would rank Together With Friends a notch ahead of any Leviticus album, and, for all practical purposes, remains to this day the best project Stigsson has been association with.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Free" (1:04), "Come On" (5:30), "Lovin’ My Woman" (3:04), "I’m Gonna Rock" (2:35), "It’s Alright" (6:18), "Way Of Living" (4:05), "Stand Up" (4:05), "Come Together" (3:03), "Majestic In Power" (3:14), "King Of Glory" (5:02), "Here It Comes" (3:48), "I’m Free" (5:44)
Bjorn Stigsson – Guitars
Sonny Larsson, Peo Pettersson & Tina Spangberg – Lead Vocals
Dan Tibell & Dan Fernstrom - Keyboards
Hakan Anderson – Bass
Kjell Anderson – Drums
Harry Kay – Guitars
Hakan Horling – Saxophone