Heavy metal and hard rock are going through pretty hectic times in the mid-2000’s; new bands are popping up everywhere like mushrooms in the rain and at the same time the very description of heavy metal widens. Bands are stretching the boundaries of traditional heavy metal in very inventive ways, resulting into music that in turns offers something completely new and interesting, or material which quickly dissolves into the bottomless pit of failures, unnoticed or uncared by next to anyone. But amongst all the new ideas and concepts that keep bombarding the listener from all directions, it’s often the old recipes that deliver the hardest punch. Sometimes, it seems, many bands try so hard to evolve into something new that they forget one of the biggest things good heavy rock music is supposed to do – it should rock!
Enter Leverage, a band from Finland, thrusting on hard with their well performed brand of 80’s style heavy rock. The band’s 2006 release ‘Tides’ offers an addictive set of hook-laden, melodic hard rock tunes filled with strong echoes from classic hard acts such as Whitesnake, Rainbow and Journey to name a few, but at the same time mixing in some very personal, sometimes even progressive, twists and turns to keep the mix sounding fresh. All this delivered with nice dual guitars, seamlessly working rhythm section and very prominent keyboards, results in one well-oiled hard rock machine. Vocalist Pekka Heino (who also handles the mic on his other band Brother Firetribe) adds the final important ingredient to the sound with his clear and powerful voice. One of the more recent bands that Leverage reminds me of, is excellent Denmark-based group Cornerstone. Not only is there a resemblance in songwriting, but at times Heino’s voice gets remarkably close to that of Cornerstone frontman, ex-Rainbow-voxman Doogie White.
Highlights on the ‘Tides’ album include gloomy mid-tempo track ‘Twilight Symphony’ that has a combined feel of late-80’s Whitesnake and early Rainbow. Sharp rocker ‘Superstition’ kicks off with some strong keyboards and through pleasantly chugging riffage culminates into a catchier-than-glue chorus that is bound to cause some involuntary tapping of feet and fingers. To show the moodier side of the band, two real gems on the album are ballads ‘Stranger’ and ‘Gone’, both full of well displayed emotion and again superb choruses. As far as hard rock ballads go, these two songs are really top notch.
Overall ‘Tides’ is a very good melodic hard rock album that’s only setback is the slight inconsistency in songwriting. The best songs are excellent and only seem to get better with each listen. On the other hand there’s a couple of tracks (Sails, Marching To War) that struggle to get past the ‘ok’ level due to certain feel of being a bit too generic and lacking that special ‘catch’ to set them on fire. But still, nothing makes the listener go for the skip button of the CD player at any point so in the end the album can be described as very entertaining.
To me Leverage was one of the most pleasant new finds of last year and if they’re able to keep the standard of their future releases this high, I’ll keep on smiling. And should they manage to improve from this, we might be looking at one of the top bands of the whole melodic hard rock genre.
1. Fifteen Years
5. Follow Down That River
8. Marching To War
9. Twilight Symphony