If you had asked me back in 1987, when Future World, the second album from Danish band Pretty Maids was released, I definitely wouldn’t have thought they’d be around 20+ years later. It’s not that they weren’t any good – in fact they were very good – but they didn’t have a unique sound. Loud, in-your-face rock n’ roll peppered with keys and super melodic moments was always their thing. They’ve always been a quality listen, but what makes it even more amazing that they’re still around is that they’ve never really had a hit. They were the typical “big in Japan” band, hitting for the Asian crowd but failing to catch on pretty much anywhere else in the world.
So to be sitting here and listening to their new album, Pandemonium, is pretty amazing to me. And it’s not like they broke up for 15 years and this is the reunion album. Although their output has slowed down over time (about four years between releases), Pandemonium marks a dozen full albums for these bashers.
The first nice part is that the key players have been the same since the start. Singer Ronnie Atkins and guitarist Ken Hammer have been with the band since the beginning, giving each Pretty Maids record a recognizable sound. Hammer even worked his way back from a heart attack in 2003 to continue with the band. The second thing is that 26 years after their first album, these guys still rock.
I’m always afraid that Pretty Maids are going to fall into Scorpions territory. The Scorpions just released their final album, but maybe two or three too late, as their music got cheesy in recent years. Pretty Maids might certainly be on that path, but Pandemonium still feels like the old guys have a bit of life left in them. I haven’t been able to bang my head to a Scorpions song in a decade and yet I was getting into the hard rockin’ “It Comes at Night” as much as the Obituary discs I had just finished listening to. “Beautiful Madness” might have the best riff they’ve created in years and the melodic ballads don’t really come across lame at all. “Old Enough to Know” could very well be a Lifehouse song which would usually be the brunt of many of my jokes, but it works well in this context. They’ve even signed to the right label – Frontiers Records – which is the home for aging melodic rockers. I mean fuck, they released Triumph’s greatest hits and a new John Waite disc the same day as this album and a new Y&T album is coming. If you’re going to be 50 and rocking, you could do worse than Frontiers.
Overall, this is really just a fun fist-pumping arena rock record. Only fans of the band are probably going to pick this one up, but you could do much, much worse if you stumbled across this in your local music store trek.