Swedish band Metalite have found their niche in the metal world with their blend of Swedish pop and power metal in the follow up to Biomechanicals.
Having reviewed previous albums from Metalite, I had a feeling for what I was about to hear. Going all the way back to Heroes in Time (2017) and original vocalist Emma Bensing, Metalite has had an unmistakeable Swedish pop influence in their songwriting and overall sound.
For a bit of history, the band dates back to 2015 when Emma Bensing met guitarist Edwin Prmber and the two began a collaboration with producer Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Evergrey, Amaranthe). In the next year, the rest of the band was added and the band signed to Inner Wound Records, leading to Heroes in Time with Emma Bensing on vocals and then Biomechanicals, which saw the band has pick up Erica Ohlsson to handle the vocal duties while keeping everything else the same including producer Jacob Hansen (Volbeat, Amaranthe) and recording at Hansen Studios. This time around, things remain the same and the band seems to have settled into their sound.
The album opens up with the title track “A Virtual World” and wastes no time unabashedly throwing pop sensibilities into your face. A good fast power metal guitar riff is largely overshadowed by the dominant keyboard line and very quickly Erica Ohlsson’s strong, but smooth vocals come into the mix as the song gallops along at a good pace. Instruments other than the keyboards, really do tend to move to a supporting role not only for the lead vocals but also the soaring choruses. Given the subject matter, this all fits well and one can’t deny how catchy the song is. There is some nice guitar solo work, and it manages to fit well within the song which has very strong pop roots. Once again, I stand by my previous review comments that Erica’s voice would be perfectly suited on a straight pop album.
“Cloud Connected” is a bit darker in tone but still doesn’t approach the general dark feeling that the songs on Biomechanicals have. Guitars are a bit more pronounced but the lighter, brighter overall tone of the songs on A Virtual World really play to the strengths of the band in terms of musicianship and to Erica’s vocals, which are often showcased in different parts of the song where they stand on their own.
By the time, I got to the third song, “Talisman”, I was sold. As much as I want to dislike the album as it is way to poppy for me, I just can’t. This time around, the band has managed to craft songs that play better to their strengths than those of Biomechanicals, which may have been better with a more stripped down production and previous vocalist Emma Bensing on vocals.
I will admit the opening to “Beyond the Horizon” with its happy, bouncy keyboard did almost send me over the edge, but I did manage to keep listening. Definitely not my favorite track and placing it toward the middle of the album was certainly a smart move. Again though, those vocals and the chorus really make this song…and another somewhat unexpected guitar solo certainly keeps the listeners attention.
By now you get the idea of how the songs are on the album… very poppy, strong female vocals and choruses, with often driving metal guitars and drums carrying the songs along, if in the background. The band chose “Peacekeepers” as the first video and I support that choice. This song does highlight the strengths of the band and for some reason, seeing the guitars, bass, and drums in action does tend to make them at least seem stronger in the mix. Every time I hear this song, I can’t help but sing along with the chorus… it just works. The mix of the different vocal tracks after the guitar solo section of the song is amazing and that carries through into the beginning of “The Vampire Song”.
While “Alone” slows the tempo down a bit, Erica’s deep breaths in the beginning of the aptly titled “Running” tip off the listener that this song may pick the pace and it definitely does. Here there is some more presence from the guitar while the keyboards still play the starring role. Erica’s vocals here are delivered much faster than in some of the previous songs and again showcase her abilities as a vocalist to work under various song constructs. I really would like the guitars to come through louder, especially in a song that has the drive of this one, but that’s just me.
For those who remember and I’m sure everyone does, I didn’t like Biomechanicals very much but did encourage readers to check it out as I could hear the band was on to something. Now after hearing A Virtual World, I understand why. To me, Biomechanicals was the band trying to stay to close to their earlier sound and not fully embracing the pop aspect and the brightness and lighter tone required for their blend of pop and power metal to work. This album has the same emphasis on keyboards as Biomechanicals, but the songwriting and arrangements are perfectly suited to their style this time around. If you told me, I would like a blend of Swedish pop with power metal, I never would have believed you…but it’s true.
Written by John Jackson
1. A Virtual World.
2. Cloud Connected.
4. Beyond the Horizon.
6. The Vampire Song.
7. We’re Like the Fire.
8. Artificial Intelligence
Erica Ohlsson – Vocals
Edwin Premberg – Guitar
Robert Örnesved – Guitar
Robert Majd – Bass
Lea Larsson – Drums
Release Date: 26th March 2021
Record Label: AFM Records
Lyric video for ‘A Virtual World’