Eleven is a sacred number within the rock/metal fraternity; cemented as such, albeit in a spoof context, by the quintessential mockumentary, ‘This is Spinal Tap’. Nonetheless, parodic or not, its significance has reigned long after its 1984 origins, and has perhaps become the most referenced number within the scene; as much as 42 is significant within the realm of comedy science fiction. Hell, I even remember Marshall releasing a series of heads in the 90s that had dials eschewing their usual 1-10 range, in favour of 1-20, as a cheeky Spinal Tap reference. I used to have one. A whole 10 louder, it was… not! Anyway, why am I rambling about Spinal Tap, etc? Well, Finnish musician Erja Lyytinen has reached studio album number eleven with ‘Another World’, and she’s cranked it all up a notch from its predecessor, ‘Stolen Hearts’. Is it “another world”, though? In some ways, yes. More of the same, but with some further diversification. And a better production/mix.
Reinvention seems to be the buzz word in any blurb about Lyytinen, but I’m guessing that’s only true of her personal journey as a musician, rather than reinventing any kind of genre parameters. A significant improvement on 'Stolen Hearts' in all kinds of different ways, her creativity on ‘Another World’, once again, has been exercised within a seemingly purposeful excursion into blues diversification rather than reinvention. As with its predecessor, she brings all kinds of other stylistic twists and turns into the compositional pot on 'Another World', while retaining a retro dynamic to the whole outing. However, this time, it feels fresher and more naturally progressive, rather than settling into a retro regressive dynamic that characterised so much of the material on ‘Stolen Hearts’.
During many passages of the eight tracks on offer here, it can feel quite adventurous in how Lyytinen’s playing around with genre idioms (be they derived from blues, rock, pop, funk… even a bit of rockabilly in ‘Wedding Day’), although relatively safe at times, particularly when she retreats into tried-and-tested songwriting paradigms. Adventurous or not, though, what 'Stolen Hearts' does offer in its entirety is “comfort” listening (I refrain from using the dreaded "easy listening" tag). There's something very warm and lovely about the whole album, rather than edgy and dangerous.
One of the shortfalls of 'Stolen Hearts', for me, was that the distortion on Lyytinen's lead guitar was crying out for a little more oomph in its gain levels. Well, her guitar now has more oomph. There's discernibly more gain and crunch in the distortion. It allows the heavier side of her playing to be delivered with far more conviction... and makes the light and shade contrasts more emphatic, where the shifts from mellow to the heavy have more impact. She even delves into early 80s metal territory during ‘Snake in the Grass’, which has almost Maiden-esque twin guitar parts, featuring the virtuosic legend that is Jennifer Batten at work here, alongside Lyytinen. Echoes of Smith/Murray fretboard duelling from the early 80s, for sure.
Reading the blurb, it seems ‘Another World’ was a peripatetic recording venture, as songs were tracked in various locations around the world. However, with Lyytinen herself having the sole “produced by” credit, it seems she’s opted to take overall production reigns on this one. And it sounds significantly better than Chris Kimsey’s efforts with ‘Stolen Hearts’. To my ears, anyway. And the album has a way better mix than its predecessor, too, where instrumentations and vocals now sound more naturally synthesised, so that her voice doesn't sound detached from the music anymore (one of my other gripes with ‘Stolen Hearts’). In fact, it's synthesised compositionally, too, as, at times, Lyytinen’s vocals harmoniously follow guitar leads, where vocal lines and licks become one , such as on 'Snake in the Grass' and 'Cherry Overdrive'.
An album chock-full of shifts in both rhythm and pace; so many expressive solos, licks and leads (whether it be sustained single notes, or arpeggios played at super speed); great vocals; and unpredictable stylistic shifts, Lyytinen’s new one comes highly recommended from me. Nice one, Erja! This is more like it!
Review by Mark Holmes
26th April 2019
1) Snake in the Grass
2) Cherry Overdrive
3) Another World
4) Hard as Stone
5) Wedding Day
8) Break My Heart Gently
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"An album chock-full of shifts in both rhythm and pace; so many expressive solos, licks and leads (whether it be sustained single notes, or arpeggios played at super speed); great vocals; and unpredictable stylistic shifts, Lyytinen’s new one comes highly recommended..."