NESTOR – Teenage Rebel (Album Review)

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The 80s rebel returns.

Bands attempting to recapture the magic of the 1980s seem a dime a dozen of late, with a wide spectrum of stylistic expressions under the rock and metal umbrella either taking inspiration from or outright copying the formula of 40 years past. Swedish AOR trustees Nestor stand among the few who were there when said decade had yet behind the horizon of time, having formed in the twilight of 1989, then proceeding to go into a state of hibernation for about 30 years.

By all standards, this quintet greeted the 2020s as a freshly minted band with their breakout 2021 debut “Kids In A Ghost Town;” garnering comparison to the likes of Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Journey, and Foreigner, and also attracting the attention of Napalm Records in the process. Following a massive stadium tour in 2022 that saw sharing the stage with the likes of Def Leppard, Europe, and even KISS, the proverbial lightning has struck twice for these 5 with the unleashing of their mighty sophomore follow-up “Teenage Rebel.”

True to their past affinity for progressive rock at the turn of the decade that birthed them, Nestor boasts a lineup of highly skilled musicians that weave an intricate web of sound throughout this 10-song extravaganza. Leading the pack is vocalist and co-founder Tobias Gustavsson, boasting a massive and soaring tenor that bears an uncanny resemblance to ex-Survivor vocalist Jimi Jamison, with a nice side order of Joe Lynn Turner-like grittiness. Not far behind is the mighty wail of co-founder Jonny Wemmenstedt’s guitar, laying down hard-hitting riffs and wildly technical solos that blur the lines between the shred-happy metallic flair of Randy Rhoads and the equally extravagant but more rocking Bruce Kulick.

Keyboardist Martin Johansson lays a thick and smooth assortment of piano, organ, and synthesizer elements into the equation that truly underscores this band’s arena rock tendencies, while the rhythm section put together by bassist Marcus Ablad and drummer Matthias Carlsson is an exemplary blend of solid precision and occasional flair.

Perhaps the only thing that can rival the competency of all the parts of this highly impressive sum is the gamut of 80s tropes that they successfully run to forge this array of ultra-catchy odes. Kicking things off with a nostalgic hodgepodge of sampled sounds that ooze 80s culture at every turn, not the least being a bit from one of former U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s speeches, and an inspirational narration of rebellion by Danish voice actress Freya Miller, “The Law of Jante” sets the stage for a rocking journey with the best of them. The segue into up tempo cruiser “We Come Alive” is nothing short of seamless, as the preceding prelude seems to function as part of the song in question, and finds itself in a riveting anthem that splits the difference stylistically between Rainbow’s “Bent Out Of Shape” and Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark At The Moon.” Other brilliantly conceived anthems that often blur the lines between ultra-smooth AOR and biting 80s metal thunder include the punchy title number “Teenage Rebel”, the speed-infused and shred happy “21” and the Dokken-like down tempo rocker with a heavy order of keyboards “Unchain My Heart”.

“Teenage Rebel” Album Artwork

Though there is a heavy degree of impact and largess going on here that might lead one to conflate this album with a metal affair, the lion’s share of what is heard on here errs more on the side of Journey, 80s Kiss, and late 80s Def Leppard than anything else. One need look no further than the 1987 radio fodder that is “Last To Know”, which comes dangerously close to sounding like an answer to Def Leppard’s “Hysteria” and Saxon’s “I Can’t Wait Anymore”. Even riff-happy and solo-rich guitar entries like “Caroline” and “Victorious” sound far closer to something that might have been on KISS“Crazy Nights,” and at times Gustavsson’s more measured performance seems to resemble Paul Stanley’s voice during the said era.

Throw in the ultra-sugary power balladry of “The One That Got Away” that could almost be mistaken for something from The Karate Kid soundtrack, and the even softer and sweeter refrain of “Daughter”, and what emerges is a band that veers pretty heavily towards the sound that made the likes of Starship and Survivor arena draws circa 1985, despite Jonny’s ultra-flamboyant guitar soloing being more bombastic than what normally came along with said icons.

This is the sort of album that has been heard before, yet it has not if that makes any sense. It presents a group of songs that by virtually all standards could have been released during the late 80s, by a band that formed during that very same period. One might almost go so far as to say that this album carries with it a world, where grunge never dominated the charts, and the early 90s saw a more gradual evolution where the AOR hit machines of the mid-80s cross-pollinated to a greater degree with the more tech-oriented side of the glam rock scene.

It’s made to order for 80s nostalgia hounds, yet it also packs a bit more of a punch than what comes with a revival act like The Night Flight Orchestra and has a greater level of organic drive than power metal acts like Beast In Black and much of the Frontiers Records lineup that dabble in the same era’s style. When played loud and proud, it’s the album that transports one to where hope and optimism abound.

Released By: Napalm Records
Release Date: May 31st, 2024
Genre: Melodic Hard Rock

Musicians:

  • Tobias Gustavsson / Vocals
  • Jonny Wemmenstedt / Guitar
  • Mattias Carlsson / Drums
  • Marcus Åblad / Bass
  • Martin Frejinger / Keyboards

Teenage Rebel” Track List:

  1. The Law Of Jante (featuring Freya Miller)
  2. We Come Alive
  3. Teenage Rebel
  4. Last To Know
  5. Victorious
  6. Caroline
  7. The One That Got Away
  8. Addicted To Your Love
  9. 21
  10. Unchain My Heart
  11. Daughter

Order Teenage RebelHERE

9.0 Excellent

Returning to deliver a second round of unapologetic, AOR-infused 80s nostalgia; recent retro-rock sensation and Sweden’s own Nestor pull no punches in laying down the most infectious hooks imaginable with a guitar-driven edge.

  • Songwriting 9
  • Musicianship 9.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 9
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