It seems rather obvious that the 1980s revival shows no signs of having run its entire course yet. Yes, regardless of the fact that it started some twenty years ago. The early noughties kicked off with a peculiar 1980s synth-pop, post-punk, and new wave renaissance, what with bands such as LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, BLOC PARTY, INTERPOL, and whatnot. For some time now, it also seems that a good number of the up-and-coming metal outfits have found the immersive cornucopia of the 1980s hard-rock and heavy metal, blending these vintage shades of neon with modern twists – often to something much more than just a nostalgic effect. NEON ANGEL is one of those bands, hailing from the mean streets of Tampere, Finland. Even the name of the band oozes a thick fragrance reminiscent of the golden past of hard-rock. It could also be a deliberate reference to the candid autobiography of Cherie Currie, the original lead singer of the famed 1970s all-girl rock outfit, THE RUNAWAYS, or even a nod toward the 2016 film, Neon Angel, directed by Jean-Louis Daniel. The band itself claims to have been founded due to an epiphany of such a light-being – the mythological guardian spirit of rockers, rebels, and outcasts. Under the tutelage of such a 1980s-tinted figure, the band is now ready to extend its wings. The fabrication of such lore of carrying out a mission for the gods of rock’n’roll is probably as old as rock music itself. Although, it needs to be stated that it has a ring of some truth to it. NEON ANGEL truly reinvigorates the best aspects of the 1980s hard-rock on their debut album ”Neon Light District,” which was released on September 8th, 2020, via Sliptrick Records. It is a selection of eight songs that certainly do not fail to get your pulse going, especially if your heart beats to the rhythms of bands such as HEART, DIO, and WHITESNAKE.
The album opens with ”Another Kind of Love,” which introduces a riff that takes a holy dive toward one of the most defining moments of 1980s heavy metal – the title track on the 1983 album, ”Holy Diver,” by DIO. The cover of that classic metal album looked like a picture postcard from hell, whereas the NEON ANGEL debut is adorned with cover art that hits closer to home with the pop-art aesthetics of the American sci-fi and fantasy comics magazine, Heavy Metal, which is world-famous for its blend of dark fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and steampunk imagery. This is to say these Tampere-rockers carry the legacy of the feel-good hard-rock bands rather than the occult metal hierophants.
After the first couple of spins, I was particularly delighted to notice how the synth textures paid beautiful homage to the timbres of the classic analog synthesizers and keyboards of the 1980s. This added a nice touch of authenticity to the vintage metal aesthetics of the album. The synth lead in ”Love Addiction,” in particular, was a special sonic treat, along with the fleeting flashbacks of the mid-1980s hit, ”Addicted to Love,” by Robert Palmer. Such sonic reveries probably occurred due to my own musical guilty pleasures and were not intended by the band.
Although the album can be rightly summed up as a magnificent setting of feel-good hard-rock, it comes packed with two ballads, ”Are You There,” and ”Simon.” The latter brings the album to a close with a piano-driven love song – and as much as I dislike the format, the song actually builds up drama rather nicely, with staccato synth-strings and all. The first-mentioned ballad does it even better, incorporating all the best practices of 1980s hard-rock ballads – the chimy synth-bells, languid guitar-arpeggios, and with each vowel in the lyrics resonating with the air of pure longing. The outro of the song has genuine shivers-inducing potential.
The English language has an idiom, ”to reinvent the wheel,” which refers to the act of developing something that has already been done, maybe million times over. I would rather resort to using the Finnish version here, which translates as, ”to reinvent the gunpowder.” You see, there is nothing wrong with reinventing the explosive nature of the 1980s hard-rock. NEON ANGEL does not really bring anything new to the table, but who’s to mind when their debut album ”Neon Light District” will blow your mind nonetheless. Maybe these hard-rock revivalists are under the tutelage of some greater, mythological power, after all…
Written by Jani Lehtinen
- Another Kind of Love
- Neon Angel
- Love Addiction
- Are You There
- The City Is Sleeping
- World On Fire
- Night Tripper
Johanna Eteläkari – Vocals
Tuomas Saari – Guitar
Juho Savikurki – Synth
Tuomas Kurki – Bass
Johannes Lahti – Drums
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