BALTIMOORE – BACK FOR MORE

backformore600

Out now on BLP Music

“Back For More” marks the 12th album from Swedish hard rock merchants Baltimoore and it’s the band heaviest in some time.  As always led by the distinctive voice of Bjorn Lodin the album fuses traditional hard rock textures with a few left turns and interesting musical twists.  In the band are some old faces from the bands past in bassist Weine Johansson and Hammond organist Örjan Fernkvist, who are joined with a couple of new faces in guitarist Mats Attaque and drummer Klas Anderhell.   Bjorn Lodin is still the principle songwriter so the bands trademark sound is still here in spades.

Opener “Cry Out For Innocence” blasts out the speakers with biting intent and Lodin sounds suitably aggressive in his vocal delivery.  With a fast paced riff that wouldn’t be out of place on an MSG record (along with a hint of Uriah Heep’s Easy Livin) this is powerful stuff.  New lead guitarist Mats Attaque makes a great first impression with some soaring lead lines and it all adds up to a great opening track.

“Don’t Say No” keeps the tempo and momentum high but is a more commercial flavoured rocker with a truly infectious chorus. The bottom end is truly thunderous and once again Attaque lays down another blistering performance.

“Until The End Of The Line” slips into mid-tempo waters for a dual faceted track which fuses a restraint verse before building for the bridge and ultimately hitting its stride for the melody rich chorus.  Lodin knows how to craft a song and this is a strong example of how he likes to tease the listener with giving them something traditionalists would appreciate before throwing in a curveball.   A song with good radio potential.

The promo sheet says some tracks were originally written with Lodin’s other oufit HARD in mind.  “Are You Onto Me” may well be one of these numbers as its sounds pretty similar to feel with Lodin’s work on his two efforts with the Hungarian outfit.  A slightly disjointed track which doesn’t possess the immediacy of its predecessors yet finds its feet particularly in the middle instrumental section which has a great folky bounce to it (in a Thin Lizzy like delivery).

“Break Into Something New” is another poppier rock song and could be seen as the cousin of “Until The End Of The Line”.  Lodin throws down his pop vocal for the verse before rising to the rock occasion for the main hooks (the pre-chorus is another charmer) and chorus.  It’s an enjoyable track with a fun nature.

You might think it would be time for a breather but the band keep the rock going for “Means To An End” and it has one of my favourite vocal deliveries on the album from Lodin.  Some really cool harmonised lead guitar fills are here too.

“Gun Of Doom” initially starts out pretty basic but moves into more interesting waters after the monotonous opening and verse riff which do drone on a little, but the bridge and chorus provide some alternative drive, its probably the least accessible track on the album and does take a few listens to reveal its character.

Track 8 brings up the albums lightest moment with a shuffle feel, something  Lodin likes to have on most albums he has done.  You can see why as he knows how to lay a vocal over this feel perfectly, its  a track which has a positive chorus, yet has a dark side elsewhere.  It’s a track that would have also fitted on the bands “X” album well too.

“Say It Like It Is” is a slowish track, with allows Lodin a chance to work the vocal line well.  It’s another track with nice variety, the hanging chords of the bridge work well too.  Punching in and out of Lodin’s vocals are some call and response lines from Attaque.  Its another track that requires few listens to really get into but it’s a slow burner but after several listens of the album has become one of my favourites.

The title track closing the album with a main riffs inspired by traditional Swedish folk rhythms, but given the Baltimoore rock edge.  There is really no-one else out there doing anything like this and its makes for a very original and interesting sound, although the chorus doesn’t always sit easy with the rest of the track.  Once again though good performances all around and that main riff is a delight to the ears.

Overall the twelfth album from Baltimoore is another very strong effort.  Its hard to really say they sound like x and x, the band do have their own sound which is based on influences you may be able to call, but there’s a lot of originality here.

Once again Bjorn Lodin and co have delivered another very good album which may alienate some people due to its lack of conformity in what maybe “expected” in a rock sound, but for those that likes twists and turns in their music this is highly recommended.

Rating – 90%

Advertisements

AN INTERVIEW WITH BJORN LODIN OF BALTIMOORE

band_lg

One of the hardest working musicians in Sweden over the last two decades has to be Bjorn Lodin. With 12 albums under the Baltimoore banner, at least another 10 with him behind the mic for other acts and many more producer credits he’s become one of the most respected names in Scandi-rock history. We caught up with Bjorn to discuss the new Baltimoore release “Back For More”.

Bjorn, we chat again, it’s been a while since Baltimoore’s 2009 release “Quick Fix”, what have you been up to in that time?

After QF, I was asked to join Hungarian band HARD. That call came just right, I was ready for a change of scenery…

Hard took up a lot of your time over the last few years, is that now over and if so why?

Yes, it sure did. At first I was going back and forth but after about a year I moved to Budapest and set up camp there. I brought a bunch of recording stuff and guitars so I could keep working with productions I had going. I had a very nice apartment and the owner was kind enough to let me sound proof it and I made it quite useful. I produced a female Hungarian artist while I was there, recorded drums in my studio in Sweden and did the rest in Budapest. We made 2 albums with Hard, and did some live shows. It was a great adventure, and sure wasn’t something I would have imagined doing but after a year and a half away from my family I called it. We’re still in touch but right now I’m focused on Baltimoore. If there’ll be another record with me and Hard, it won’t happen anytime soon.

Ok, the new album “Back For More”, when did work commence on it?

I love writing songs and wanted to make a 3rd Hard album, so I started writing stuff while still living in Budapest, and made some demos. The songs I came up with wasn’t what Hard was all about… I wrote most of the songs for the other 2 albums and tried to get some of my vibe in there… I guess I took it too far this time.  Anyway, that’s what I do so, I still liked what I’d come up with and decided to do them with Baltimoore. So with none of my new songs suitable for a new Hard album, the idea of a new album skidded to a halt. I went home for X-mast 2011 and tracked some drums and bass with Hempo and Weine, then back to Budapest for another 3 months before I wrapped it up and moved back to Sweden.

Did you have any other musicians lined up or in mind from the start?

Yes, I tracked lead guitar with János Szücs in Budapest, and Hempo (Hilden – drums) was on for a while but he got a severe back problem so he had to step down. He’s had some surgery now and is doing better. Mankan (Sedenberg) was also on for a while, to play rhythm guitar, but it turned out to be too difficult due to workload and logistics. Anyway, when I came back to Sweden I first made my Swedish solo album ready – that I’d been working on for 10 years, and then got Klas Anderhell in to track the final drums. It’s been a curvy stretch…

Mats Attaque.

Mats Attaque.

What was the catalyst to getting Mats Attaque on board; I believe you two have previous history?

I realised in order to get this done I needed a guitar player who played a lot like me – but better. Yes, we were in a band together in the mid 80’s, the band prior to Baltimoore. Several of the early Baltimoore songs came about around that time. We also grew up in the same area and share a lot of rhythm. He’s got a great voice and guitar tone and he’s influenced me and my playing for sure. I had been meaning to look him up many times but… Anyway, I called him and he was available. He turned out to be perfect for this. Made my day!

When did rest of the band join and why where they picked?

Rather than being ‘picked’ they were politely asked to join and be ready to take the abuse J

At first, we weren’t gonna use organ – only twin guitars, but after Örjan Fernkvist and I had a session with the songs there was no turning back. Örjan and I go way back and he’s been on several recordings with me over the years. He even played on the first Hard album. Weine (Johansson) was the first guy I asked. He’s been in the band since 1991, with the exception for Quick Fix, where Björn Lindkvist was playing bass.

We should probably point out that back in the mid-late 80s you signed a solo deal but called it Baltimoore, not Bjorn Lodin.  12 albums in do you think this has been a help or a hindrance? Do fans not get upset with line-up changes?

The band I was in with Mats – Ready Steady, were demoing for a label. That fell through and I was asked to do a solo album. At 23 years old, it didn’t sit well with me going solo. I wanted to pursue the opportunity, especially since it was Scandinavia’s biggest label at the time, but not as ‘Björn Lodin’. I made 2 albums with the same producer and he had a clear vision of how it should sound and I really had no say… I’m glad I didn’t, it turned out very good – despite I was rather ‘unmanageable’ at the time J. However, it wasn’t the sound or approach I had in my head and that’s why I’ve re-recorded many of the early songs.

As far as fans and line-up changes go… Not really…maybe in the beginning people were confused, thinking this was a ‘normal’ band, but by now I think they have gotten used to it. Hell, I’d even replace myself if the right singer comes along!

backformore600

So what’s on the new album? Tell our readers about the 10 tracks and why you think they are worthy enough to be released?

-It’s 10 of the best songs I’ve written J. Big credit to Mats for stirring the pot the way he did! I feel this record is just right. It sums up what Baltimoore’s music is all about. We tried our best, like we always do…this time – in my book, we nailed it.

This was all recorded at your home studio right?

Yes, except some guitar tracking that we did online.

This album is probably the band heaviest since the Nikolo Kotzev days, there’s a nice bark to it, it sounds great and Mats is on fire.  How do you keep the energy and consistency so high in the bands long running history?

I feed off others. After a few years trying to get a steady line-up, forming a band etc. I gave up – way too many compromises involved, making the creative process suffer. I decided to do my music this way. I know it might look as an unconventional way of playing rock music… I’ve certainly answered this question many times over the years, but after I sobered up back in 1994, I decided to just go with it.

When I first teamed up with Nikolo Kotzev in 1992, we had no choice but to produce, record and mix ourselves. I realized then that it was the only way to do this. I didn’t want to rely on anyone making my music ready, so after we split up I went at it myself…figuring out how to record and mix. I’m learning new things every day.

REAL DRUMS!

REAL DRUMS!

What were you looking for sonically in this release?  Does the music take your ears where you need to go or do you dictate the sound from the off?

I’ve been looking for this sound for a long time J. Once the songs have passed pre-prod, you need to make the recording a certain way in order to be mixed in a certain way. This is the difficult part! I’m no friend of the plastic and artificial sound from drum samples. I don’t care how good the song is – if I hear a sampled drum in there I turn it off. Once the songs were arranged and ready to be recorded – they already had the sound. Of course it can be mixed different ways, but the main part of the sound is in the arrangements…how the drummer plays, how hard the strings on the rhythm guitar was hit etc. Putting the final make-up on and making the final tweaks in the mixing took a long time but it was all down hill.

Lyrically where were you looking this time round?

Well, I’ve always strived to improve my writing in English, and sometimes manage better than others… My lyrics are basically about me and what’s around me, my outlook on things. I vent in my songs. I also invite other writers sometimes and this time my friend Theresia Scher wrote one song and we co-wrote another. Writing in English is difficult!

The album has a digital only release, is this a result of changes in the industry and if so how do you feel about that?

Yes, it’s the only thing – if any, that made any sense this time. I don’t do my music with the music industry in mind. But sure, this is the worst possible business adventure one can think of. It will change, eventually…

You are an ardent voice against Spotify etc, is the music scene ultimately doomed?

Na, musicians/artists will always find a way and some will just stop what they’re doing – people in general are the ones being fukked in the ass J. Spotify, YouTube, Google and the likes (if they don’t change their approach towards song writers and artists – and why would they?) will end up with legacy catalogues and mainstream stuff. That business model simply doesn’t make any sense to a working musician to be part of. But hey, we can always go on tour and sell t-shirts, right?!

You seem to know everyone in the Swedish music scene, yet you don’t follow the pack and like unearthing fresh talent, why aren’t you taking the easy buck and doing what is expected of someone with your reputation?

I don’t think there’s an easy buck anywhere… And as far as the pack travels, I guess I’m still trying to find mine J. There are many different ways to do music. But being a musician/composer on the path of exploring and figure out what’s within is probably not the smartest career move. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too much navel contemplating left to do!

Looking back over the 12 albums do you have any regrets? 

None whatsoever! It takes time to figure things out.

I know you love the stage so has the limited touring activity with Baltimoore been something you’d have liked to have done more with, or are you comfortable with it’s predominantly studio only status?

Yes, there’s nothing like being on stage with a good band. It hasn’t been in the stars for this band, something I’ve given a lot of thought…and the logistics in members being all over the place hasn’t helped. This time around we’re not too far away from each other and I hope we can set something up for later this year.

What next for the band and yourself for 2014 and beyond?

Well, at the moment I’m mixing and co-producing Thomas Larsson’s upcoming album. I’ve also cracked open the legacy Baltimoore albums and are preparing them for a new mix and some new overdubs. It’s about 70 songs, so it will take some time…hopefully they will be out in 2014. Some videos are in the making…

I’m also doing a sort of country album with original songs together with another line-up. Not sure that I’ll do the hick-up thing with my voice though J.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Not really. I hope people give this album a shot and that they’ll find something they like in there!

Bjorn, many thanks for your time, it has been a pleasure.

Thanks!

Order Baltimoore – Back For More at:

LARS ERIC MATTSSON – OBSESSION

Out now on Lion Music

Lars Eric Mattsson delves into his back catalogue for this remastered version of his fourth solo album, 1998’s Obsession.

Gracing one of the worst album covers we’ve seen in a while might not give off the best first impression of what’s contained within, but fear—ye-not, for this is highly likeable hard rock with neo-classical touches.

Vocals come courtesy of the  gravel throated Bjorn Lodin (Baltimoore) who teamed up with Mattsson on a number of releases, and really Lodin’s distinctive voice is in many ways the perfect foil for Mattsson’s unique guitar work.  Very European in nature, there is a definite Scandinavian tint to most tracks. Whilst lacking the progressive sophistication of Mattsson’s more current releases, the more simplistic nature of this material (albeit still with a frequent doses of Lars’ “outside the box” progressions and lead motifs) makes the likes of openers Caught In Your Web and Alive accessible and agreeable from the off.  Lodin comes across as a man possessed which his voice in fine fettle, whist Mattsson rattles off the riffs with considerable aplomb.  Fans of Malmsteen’s earlier works will get a kick out of this no doubt.

For the most part the production is basic, the opening of Just A Leo being a good example, but in some ways this adds to the albums charm even more and won’t really detract from your enjoyment.

What also adds to the albums charm is Mattsson’s ability to thrown together rock motifs which almost traditional Scandinavian folk in the likes of Messenger which is unique to say the least but highly enjoyable (good solo on this one too).  Long Way Home will please fans of Deep Purple with its driving delivery and parping Jon Lord style Organ and piano flourishes.

Time And Again throws us another curve ball with a smooth 80’s pop meets metal approach.  Sense And Obsession manages to give an epic feel despite only being under 5 minutes long.  Mother Forgive sees Mattsson break out the wah pedal before the acoustic nature of As The Sun Meets The Sky is one of the albums more lo-key numbers yet deceptively strong with a delightful solo from Lars which exudes an almost Jen Johansson keyboard style fluidity to it.

Eyes Of A Child is one of the more serviceable numbers on the album before Lay It On The Line throws everything including the kitchen sink into its arrangement and is in some ways a precursor of later Mattsson works.  Album closer  And The Road Goes On sees more good guitar work yet is perhaps a little too long to really hit the spot.

Overall Obsession is still a very likeable album some 16 years on from original release.  Whilst its origins stylistically lay a decade or two before even its original release its nice to hear an album which is essentially about good songs from a good guitarist and a good vocalist.  Yes it’s a little twee in places, and yes some parts might sound a little dated in 2012, but the bottom line is its got character and is still an enjoyable listen in 2012.  Don’t let that original album cover art put you off.

Rating – 84%

 

AN INTERVIEW WITH BJORN LODIN OF HARD

Known for the best of part of 2 decades as the vocalist and leader of Baltimoore, Bjorn Lodin is currently a Swedish ex-pat earning his keep in Hungary with the hard rock outfit HARD. In what is becoming an annual event, Virtuosity One caught up with Bjorn to discuss the new HARD release “Even Keel”.  Promising in advance to be freshly shaven we hope that Bjorn’s conversation is as sharp as his razor.

Bjorn, once again we are discussing another album.  Do you really have nothing better to do?

Hello! Na, not really much else out there to feed my needs… I’ve been at it for so long that this has become my comfort zone – gotta have the pain and frustration as well as the recognition and pleasure. Where else can you start with nothing, make shit up, start believing its true, loving it and hating it..? Making a record the way I do, is for me a total “hanging out with myself” experience. It’s addictive and I’m an addict! A slow but yet sure fix.

Your second album with HARD entitled “Even Keel” was released a few weeks ago, how has the initial reaction been from fans and press?

It’s been mainly positive so far! We’ve picked up some new fans and it seems that people in general like the rougher approach we have on ‘Even Keel’. Media feedback is still coming in and we get picked up on radio playlists all over the world.

It seems you caused quite a stir when you joined the band early last year for “Time Is Waiting For No One” with a lot of exposure on MTV and the like, along with a support slot for Kiss.  Did you anticipate this sort of reaction?

Well, I didn’t know what to expect… To me it was a funky thing joining these guys… I suppose it had some news value and we worked it the best way we knew how. It’s not that common that a Swede joins a Hungarian band, after all. And it got me to shake hands with Gene Simmons – I didn’t see that one coming J Then again, you hardly see anything coming anymore… just gotta go for it.

Since your first album with the band you’ve moved from Sweden to Hungary, how has the change been and how are you adapting in your new country?

It was a major decision but a necessary one. Going back and forth wasn’t an option in the long run. I’m also working with some other artists here doing song writing and production work. I’ve built a studio here so I have all I need to get things done. I’m not planning on staying forever but right now I’m enjoying the former Eastern European way of living… slowly getting the hang of it.

Hungary isn’t a country that would be on many peoples lists of hard rock havens so was their any reticence on your part about joining the band and ultimately moving?

Not at all. This is a natural stop for me. I can’t think of a better opportunity to explore and get inspired. I have no idea of where I’m heading and I make my list as I go.

Bjorn boasts to the audience.

It must be gratifying to be picking up the accolades and praise the band is over there?

It’s nice to get positive feedback anywhere, sort of makes taking all the crap easier. I suppose we stand out a little bit here, due to the English lyrics and the somewhat ‘traditional’ approach in rock music, since most Hungarian ‘traditional’ rock bands sing in Hungarian. This is not an easy barrier to break through but I feel we’re sharing the same fans as they have.

Our review of “Even Keel” was praiseworthy (thanks for the cheque) stating the new album is “more streamlined and straight-ahead hard rock than its predecessor, being all about accessible rock with a healthy dose of deft touches to move it nicely out of derivative”. Is this a fair assessment in your, one of the key songwriters eyes?

Hehe, sure is. (Don’t spend it all at once) Just crank it and your feet will start tapping!

Was this direction intentional or was this a comfortable and natural shift in attention compared to “Time…”?

Yes and yes. These songs pretty much wrote themselves. ‘Time…’ was our first effort together and I was taking on the role as the producer rather than the song writer. The guys had a lot of ideas that we made into songs. Before I joined the band, HARD was a more AOR influenced act. I never could stand too much of that style – predictable major pussy harmonies with ‘angry’ guitars, or whatever… so I tried to get some, as I see it ‘real musical danger’ in there and get a nice mix of them both J. I also produced ‘Even Keel’ and I wanted to let the hair down a bit. I co-wrote all the songs with our guitar player Zsolt Vámos, and we sort of found a common ‘backyard spot’ were we ended up writing and arranging the songs. I can’t wait to get started with the 3rd one!

The album sounds like you are having a ball with this material.  Your voice is oozing attitude and seems very at home in this setting. Vocally, is this the most fun you’ve had in a while?

First of all it’s a new key for me. The whole guitar is tuned down a whole step. This got me to make vocal lines having a much wider range than I’ve sung before. I suppose that combined with the straight forward guitar oriented songs gave it a bit of a new touch. It’s all about being inspired and this was a new thing for me so… I’ll admit it wasn’t easier to sing with lower tuning… took quite some time getting used to.

The reason I ask the last question is in a few interviews for the last couple of Baltimoore albums you stated you’d consider having another vocalist take over, and on the last Baltimoore record (Quick Fix) included all the tracks in instrumental form asking for those brave enough to offer up their own vocal takes.  I wonder if this was a period of your career where you perhaps weren’t over joyed with your voice, whereas on this new album it sounds strident and full of a cock-sure attitude that works really well with the material.

Hmm, well… I love and hate my voice. The voice is the ultimate instrument and a great vocal performance overshadows everything. However, being impotent doesn’t mean you can’t give directions for multiples… 😉

LMAO, How has the writing for the new album gone? Was this material written mostly since your move to Hungary?

We started right after ‘Time…’ was released last spring and recorded in Sweden in July and August. We had plans for an autumn release but things kept pushing the release until March this year. I mixed and mastered here in Budapest.

Who are the principle writers in the band and how did the tracks generally get created?

Zsolt and I wrote all songs this time. Zsolt came on board right after we finished ‘Time…’ and had a lot of material pretty much ready to go. We’ve very different taste and influences, which creates a healthy tension when we sit down to work.

I know you are a very strong rhythm guitarist so how much influence did you have with main guitarist Zsolt Vámos on this new material?

He adjusted to the spanking rather quickly!

The guitar work is excellent with some superb tones once again.  What was the main guitar setup this time around?

Main rhythm guitars were tracked using Les Paul Standard/2002 and Fractal Audio Axe-Fx Ultra. I don’t remember what was used for lead guitar…

What was the lyrical influence stemming from this time round?

I don’t remember that either… I’m sure it was something that made perfectly good sense at the time J. The lyrics are in the booklet – you tell me!

The lyrics are a little saucier in places than I’ve heard previously from you. Are the spicy national dishes of Hungary heating up your blood pressure?

Aha, well I suppose I’m getting to that infamous ‘dirty old man’ stage… There sure is some good spicy food here! I’d be surprised if it didn’t influence me one way or the other.

How do you personally view the new material from an insiders perspective and what is it about being in Hard that excites you?

Well, the new album has added another colour to my pallet, if you like. I haven’t made a record sounding like this before. Now when it’s done it only feels natural to open more doors in this genre. HARD is where I do my thing right now and I’m surrounded by people who every day wants to keep the fire going. That is all one can ask for. HARD is a good band to be in!

The production is powerful yet stripped down sounding rather live, this kind of production is rapidly becoming your trademark, are you getting closer to perfecting it to your ear?

This is a constant battle but I think I’m getting the hang of it. Making a record is about planning ahead and making decisions about all kinds of stuff. Sometimes you make the right decision… Anyway, it’s a learning curve that seems never ending and is very song dependant. It’s great fun though and a big reason to why I do music in the first place. Without the production and creativity part I’d never do the singing and dancing.

What was your personal aim with “Even Keel”?

To finish it J You never know what you’re gonna end up with. I think it turned out very well and it will find its listeners.

Click cover to read V1's review of "Even Keel".

I see you have some festival appearances lined up over the Summer, and have a live video available for “Scream out to be heard”, I know one of the main frustrations you had with Baltimoore was the lack of live activity. Was the chance to play live a lot more with Hard a fundamental reason for you hopping onboard a plane to Hungary?

Certainly! Playing the songs live is the icing on the cake. Yes, we have some concert dates this summer and we’ll continue in the autumn and winter.

Does the challenge of getting in the leather trousers, working and winning over a live audience hold a challenge to you, scare you or excite you?

Right now we are very well rehearsed and can hardly wait for the next gig. We’re all very excited – and I have new tailor made leather pants!

How does that challenge compare to creating an album – which in theory is something will be around forever?

That’s a whole different ball game. Making an album is easy compared to getting the act on the stage, which incorporates other people and other problems. They do need each other, though… in order to be complete. This is why I’m a fan of arranging and producing a record so it will make a smooth transition into the live scene.

Do the band have any other promo events coming up?

We’ll probably make another video…

Bjorn, many thanks for your time. Any parting messages?

Thanks for the questions and be sure to check us out at:

http://www.hardhungary.com

http://www.facebook.com/hardhungary

http://www.myspace.com/hardhungary