Rockin’ the Anthropocene: Unleashing Tommy Denander’s AOR Masterpiece, a Time Capsule for 80s Rock Fans with Toto-Inspired Vibes
As spring settles in, and fearing that this 2023 would be devoid of great albums in our genre, suddenly a few releases storm in, vying for the top spot of the year. Among them are Winger, Michael Thompson, and of course, this “Anthropocene” by the outstanding musician and composer Tommy Denander.
“Anthropocene” or the era when human activity destroyed the planet. With a critical eye and this unsettling title that shows Mr. Denander’s concern about the planet’s changes, we delve into the second album by this band led by the multi-talented Tommy Denander, a renowned songwriter, producer, composer, and guitarist.
“Anthropocene” brings back the legendary Swedish vocalist Goran Edman for the second consecutive time, who has been at the forefront of the rock scene for over three decades, collaborating with bands like John Norum, Yngwie Malmsteen, Brazen Abbot, Glory, and Karmakanic, among others. Here, he showcases his AOR side, delivering a meticulously crafted work that displays great versatility throughout the entire album.
The connection between Denander and Edman was already evident in their self-titled debut, and in this second album, they once again showcase their high musical abilities. “Anthropocene” leans more towards classic AOR compared to the previous one, with a strong influence from 80s Toto present throughout the entire record, probably because Denander grew up musically under the auspices of the legendary American band.
This album consists of eleven tracks that, if not putting us in a tight spot, will definitely make it into the top of the year for many traditional AOR fans.
We kick off with the first single from the album, “Devils Highway,” a great introduction with an impressive and immediately catchy chorus. It strongly recalls the AOR sound of Michael Bolton’s early albums or Rick Springfield.
“Memory Lane” takes us on an imaginary journey to the past, showcasing an obvious Toto influence throughout the song, especially in the keyboards and rhythm.
“Before You Grown Old” leans more towards hard rock with influences from the veteran band Styx, another display of pure compositional mastery.
“Swan song of Our love” strongly reminds us of the unique alliance that was Frederiksen and Denander, combining Denander’s musical mastery with the harmonious arrangements typical of the AOR genre.
“Edge of a Broken Heart” is the ballad where the guitar shines, exuding a John Cougar vibe.
“Sign of the times” is more unhinged and features a great vocal melody, also reminiscent of Frederiksen. Those heavenly vocal climbs and exquisite synthesizer work.
“Last of the innocent” once again shows undeniable references to Toto’s album “Isolation.”
“A Million Years Of Freedom” kicks off with a harder rock sound, with guitars that recall Neil Giraldo, Pat Benatar’s husband, and a progression in the style of Toto.
“End of the world” is a high-quality track. Goran Edman’s work with the vocals and melodies is tremendous; he’s a singer who should be at the top of the Olympus of great vocalists.
“Long time Coming Home” feels like it was made for Michael Bolton’s early albums.
“High and Low” strongly recalls John Cougar Mellencamp or Pat Benatar, and fortunately, it doesn’t indulge in those hyper-saturated and pounding guitars that we’ve gotten used to hearing in some hard rock records lately.
Tommy Denander’s overall rhythms on the album are quite versatile, with tasteful arrangements. The solos are melodic with the characteristic modulation typical of this guitarist.
The general perception of this work is that it resides in the realm of classic AOR, although with a revitalized sound and production. It’s filled with guitar, keyboard, and vocal arrangements, where the tracks breathe thanks to some silences and impressive crescendos and melodies, as the genre demands.
Review by A. Albertos