CD REVIEW House Of Shakira

Band : House Of Shakira
Album title : HoS
Label : Lion Music
Distributor : Bertus
Release date : 27/01/2012
Release : CD

Our editor-in-chief told me that our Melodic Rock specialist had apparently never heard about this Swedish Hard Rock band, and therefore declined the honors of reviewing the band's latest album. Well, the better for me then! Me, I hàve read about this Stockholm based quintet, and for the simple reason that they've been around since 1991, and have already released several albums.

Well...actually guitarists Mats Hallstensson and Anders Lundström first called their band The Station, but changed their monicker during the mid-nineties when they heard about a London bordello by that name (the special thing being that they had a clothes shop as a front). It is also the time when they found a stable line-up with the addition of singer Andreas Eklund, bassist Per Schelander, and drummer Tony Andersson. After signing to Blue Stone Music, HOS released its 1997 debut album Lint, which was met with enough positive response (nominated by several magazines and e-zines for best debut album that year – others went further and even listed the album in their Top 10 favourite albums of all times) to warrant sending out the band as support act for Royal Hunt on a European tour. The band also played England's Gods festival. A promise for big things was lurking, and so big plans were made for the promotion of sophomore album On The Verge. However, with the album barely out, the label went in default, and therefore hardly any promotion was given to the album. It also put the band back for some time, as they had to look for a new label.

That label was found in the (also ill-fated) MTM, who started their collaboration with the band by re-releasing material from HOS's first two albums on the 2000 compilation Best Of Two. The band's actual return with new material would come later that same year with III, an album which again got the band rave reviews and, more importantly, the support of some radio station in Sweden. This eventually took the band to play at the Sweden Rock festival (a gig recorded and released in 2003 as the Live + album) in 2001, and that same year the band also went on a tour of Spain, which culminated with a headline performance at Nemelrock(which also had Harem Scarem and Dare on its bill). During 2002, the band took time off, but the fans didn't feel that too badly, because of the Live + release in 2003.

The band's 4th studio album First Class, released in 2004, would not only prove to be their first through Lion Music, but also Mats Hallstensson's debut as a recording engineer. It would also enlarge the band's already sizable fanbase even more. The following year, Lion Music re-issued the band's debut album Lint (the band exchanging original bonus track “Stone In Love” (a Journey cover) with two new songs of their own), and in April 2006 they released HOS's first DVD Live At Firefest 2005 (including the band's videos thus far as a bonus). It was followed swiftly by the October 2007 released Retoxed, which again met with positive response from media and fans alike, and by a re-issue of the band's III album (with two bonus tracks and a bonus DVD sporting the band's appearance at 2006's Sweden Rock) in July 2008.

After that...the guitarists got to reflecting, feeling that they could be very satisfied with what they'd accomplished with the band thus far, and that they had one of two choices to make : either quit while they were still at the top of their game, or reorganize and start again with a new purpose. They eventually chose for the latter option and, especially since they felt the new material Lundström and Schelander had brought to the fore needed another type of singer whom could also write his own lyrics, parted ways on amicable terms with their singer in early 2010. His replacement, Andreas Novak (formerly of Mind's Eye, and also known as a solo artist), did his live debut with the band on April 24, and was asked to write lyrics and create vocal melodies to a couple of instrumental tracks that were already developed. The result was so encouraging (eventually turned up on the album in the form of the songs “Zodiac Maniac” and “Fractions Of Love”) that Novak was enlisted into the band full-time. Meanwhile, Martin Larsson had been recruited to man the drums, and after Schelander's departure (I'm not sure when that actually happened), the line-up was completed again with the joining of bassist Basse Blyberg. The rest of the album was apparently written the same way, starting with instrumentals that were then turned into songs by Novak.

According to the info at (www.) houseofshakira.com, the new album at times has an heavy edgs, but for the most part HoS is a back-to-basics affair for the band. In other words, a return to “...accessible songs with a commercial punch, built around infectious vocal melodies...”! Of course, that also means the inclusion of a sweet ballad (in the form of the semi-acoustic “Lost In Transition”). The band's website is also where you can find a 6 ½ minute sampler (from SoundCloud) of the album (and of older recordings). That same sampler is also to be found on the band's MySpace and facebook pages, without any full-length tracks added. But would you need any more? If you're into that commercial type of melodic Hard Rock with nice catchy tunes, enchanting solos, and singalong vocals with a lot of harmonic backings, then HOS and their new album HoS may be just what you needed right now. Having developed an aversion to commercial music, I can still appreciate HoS for its entertainment value, but it is not an album I can listen to all day for pure pleasure. Perhaps I'm too pampered nowadays. During the '80s I would've been but too happy to be able to lay hands on this kind of music...but that was because for the most part, in those days it was sheer impossible to get your hands on anything but the commercial music, unless it was something by a local band! On that note, let's give HoS the rating it deserves!

85/100

Tony.