Review: Grand Design – Rawk
GMR Music (April 21st 2023)
Reviewer: Jason Hopper
When listing bands that have incorporated that late 80s Def Leppard production sound and style, one would be remiss to not mention Grand Design. The band studied their playbook hard when it came to their first two albums. At around the time that former guitarist Janne Stark joined the band with third release ‘Thrill of the Night’, their sound started to evolve and the band found own style while still incorporating Def Leppard elements like harmonized multi-tracked vocals. That band style they created continues on new album ‘Rawk’. It features the same line-up as their last release, 2020’s ‘V’. I greatly enjoyed that album and this one continues their upward trajectory.
So many great tracks are on display here, it’s a shame that the album had to open with one of its weaker ones. ‘Tuff It Out’ has a song structure reminiscent of ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ in the verses but a lazily written chorus: “Come on, come on, come on, come on…Tuff It Out”. Not very compelling at all and does little to amp up the excitement levels for the album.
Luckily, the great songs found on this release far outweigh the average ones. I’ll start with my favorites first. ‘Dangerous Attraction’ is everything I want in a mid-tempo power chord earworm. A slow build verse that builds into a harmonized blazer of a chorus. By the second go around of the chorus, you are compelled to sing along. If Grand Design were to ever release a compilation Best of…, this track would certainly make the cut. The other track I loved was closer ‘In the H.E.A.T of the Nite’. Guitarists Dennis Vestman and Dan Svanbom play different melodies that complement each other very well. The band were wise to let this song go past the five-minute mark and let the melody breathe with selective use of the whammy bar, arpeggios, and power chords all aided by powerful drumming from Joakim Jonsson. I can’t for the life of me figure out why the title references the band H.E.A.T.. I do not believe any of that band’s members play on this song and it certainly does not sound like a track you would hear from that band. Nonetheless, it’s still a powerful, bombastic finisher.
Other fabulous tracks include the high-energy juggernaut ‘We Were Born to Rawk ‘n’ Roll’ (the heaviest hitting track on the album), the mid-tempo rocker ‘Love or a Fantasy’ and ballad ‘Give It All Up for Luv’. Grand Design does not do a lot of ballads and I was always hoping for something from them that was as good as 2011 track ‘Your Love’s A Runaway’. I’m happy to report that this new ballad is as sonically satisfying as that prior release.
There are other great tracks but as stated earlier, there are some tracks that are just average for me. The press release makes a big deal of two guest vocalists (Erik Grawsiö and Veith Offenbächer) on ‘Carry On My Wind’. While I believe this is the first time Grand Design has ever had guest vocalists on their album, I’ve never heard of either singer before or their respective bands. Their appearances do little to catapult the track forward, with its swinging sing-songy style of a chorus. The album’s initial single ‘Get Out’ was released a year and a half ago. Perhaps because it failed to gather any interest or momentum for the band, the track was relegated to the second to last spot on the album. Not a terrible song but just weaker in comparison to everything else.
While the album is well produced, I did notice that the volume levels are slightly lower than most other releases you would find on the market. Also of note, their last album was quite sonically louder. That could simply be a pre-release transfer issue but thought it should be noted. It just means the volume will have to be adjusted if you play this album in a shuffle with their other ones.
The singles don’t do this album justice, while the most recent one ‘God Bless Rawk ‘n’ Roll is a solid track, ‘Get Out’ and especially ‘Tuff It Out’ don’t have nearly the punch of some of the other tracks on this album. If you liked the last few releases but like me were not crazy about the singles, you have nothing to fear. This album is as impressive as their last few releases. Long time fans will need to add this to their collection. As for newer fans, this is certainly a good starting place for the band.
- Tuff It Out
- God Bless Rawk ‘n’ Roll
- Love or a Fantasy
- Your Luv is Drivin’ Me Crazy
- Desperate Hearts
- Dangerous Attraction
- We Were Born to Rawk ‘n’ Roll
- Carry On My Wind (feat Erik Grawsiö, Veith Offenbächer)
- Give It All Up for Luv
- Get Out
- In the H.E.A.T of the Nite