Review by Teresa Hopkins
Label: CS Records
Release Date: February 2014
Never Too Late
Like A Whisper
Fighting For A Cause
Don’t Just Dream About It
Best of Me
When I’m Gone
Until last week, I didn’t know about COLORSTONE —and no amount of logic seems to explain why. I was sorely missing out!
Many of you will be think so too as Steam, their second official release, gains momentum on the airwaves. In reviewing an album from a band of which I’m not as familiar, I like to widen my scope and impression by learning their backstory, listening to previous albums and/or band incarnations. I appreciate getting to hear their beginnings and a feel of where they’ve gone from there musically. From what I’ve been able to gather, the guys got their respective starts in Swedish bands in the Malmö area, such as Time Gallery, Silver Mountain, Tricky Track, and Wasteland. I spent some time on YouTube to get an idea of what they sounded like way back when. Much of it is really very good. I believe, however, that they have only strengthened and improved with age. They seem to have each brought something different and pertinent from their individual backgrounds in terms of influences and experience to the table. For the results I’m hearing on 2011’s Into the Garden and now, Steam, these gentlemen have struck gold in this team-up. While I always encourage youth to get into an appreciation and expression of music, I’m happy to see bands of my generation either having a successful resurgence or enjoying their first taste of real success. In this case, COLORSTONE has such a contagious energy coupled with maturity that gives so many young pups a healthy, competitive run for their money. This is how it’s done, kiddos.
The first thing that comes to mind, quite simply, is Fun. It sounds to me that Steam must have been great fun to make, because it’s a blast to listen to! The explanation of the band name clearly shines through in their music.
I like the whole gig they have going on, too. At first glance, they don’t appear to be rock & rollers—they look a bit more like they might launch into some classical music performance. But that adds to the cool factor and gives them more distinction among their peers. Dapper fellows these guys are!
In regard to their influences (Foo Fighters, Led Zeppelin, U2, Jimi Hendrix, and Black Sabbath were mentioned), there’s a subtle, respectful nod to those without sounding like they’re trying to copy them. I’m finding that the very same qualities I’ve always loved about bands like Mr. Big are in plentiful supply here, with a modern edginess. The musicianship is stellar. The playing is very tight and precise, with a laid-back feel to it. Does that make sense? It will when you hear it. The members of Colorstone sound very familial and inspired by each other. Although the talent is evident and they’d be easily forgiven if any of them chose to cut loose anywhere in a song, they are clearly a team, working for the greater good: the song itself. A quote on their Facebook page reads, “We don’t think in “Hit Single” terms. The most important thing is the totality of an album—so here you are…” When it’s all said and done, that’s what appeals and stays with the listener.
The rhythm section of Olle Nilsson (drums) and Samir Dounas (bass, replacing Jonas Sandquist) is the perfect foundation from which to build. Fredrik Bergengren‘s guitar playing is always just right: it’s obvious that he’s very skilled at his craft, but part of that skill is in knowing when to go wild and when to hold back, just enough. I don’t hear anything overdone or out of place; conversely, nothing is missing, either. It’s spot-on every time, in every context, and he’s got quite an enviable tone, whether he’s playing a Strat or a Les Paul. He clearly knows what each song calls for. Tommy Falk‘s keyboards enhance the overall sound of the band and lend a fluidity and richness to the songs. All of their voices blend and harmonize nicely with Johan Dahlström at the helm. His voice is spirited, smooth, and rough-edged when the occasion calls for it, inviting the listener to sing along. After hearing the album a few times, I can’t imagine anyone else in any other style fitting in as well as he does.
What appeals most to me about Colorstone is their songs. They don’t adhere to any certain formula or feel the need to make every tune sound like it came from the same jam session. Each song stands strong beside the others, and the diversity as well as the order in which they play makes for a great track list that you’ll enjoy over and over again.
The album quickly grabs the listener’s attention, opening with “Never Too Late”. It feels a little Foo Fighters and that works out well. But they switch gears right away with the next track, “Gotto Groove”, a funky, rocking number with some Led Zep in the spirit of it.
“Like A Whisper” is then off in a slightly different direction again, and it’s a given that you aren’t gonna get bored with this album. “Fighting for a Cause” and “Best of Me” are also some of my favorites—but I can’t in all fairness leave any out, because the pleasant surprises continue track to track and within the songs themselves. The melodies are catchy but they never sound contrived or cliché; rather, they are refreshingly fun, imprinting instantly in the brain while simultaneously evoking some kind of sweet musical memory from much-younger and more carefree years. And the hook—oh, these guys have a gift for it and man, do they reel me in!
Steam is an album that belongs on the radio and in every melodic rocker’s collection.
Rating: A conservative 8.5/10
(iTunes link: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/steam/id806824530)
Fredrik Bergengren: Guitar, keyboards & Backing Vocals
Johan Dahlström: Lead & Backing Vocals
Olle Nilsson: Drums, Percussion & Backing Vocals
Samir Dounas: Bass & Backing Vocals
Tommy Falk: Keyboards & Backing Vocals