One Desire – One Night Only: Live in Helsinki (Album Review)

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Andre’ Linman is sorry.

Sorry for the lack of rehearsal. Sorry that the crowd size is limited by the pandemic quarantine.  Sorry they played two ballads in a row. Sorry that he has to give his patter in both English and Finnish. Sorry that he’s talking too much.

Stop apologizing!

For Andre’ and his band One Desire are in top form in their newly released album “One Night Only-Live in Helsinki”. Top. Form.

Let’s go back.  The boys were starting a tour in March 2020 when COVID hit. That ended the tour.  The break wasn’t fun since all four guys caught the illness. And their second album “Midnight Empire” came out in May ’20 – meaning they couldn’t take it out on the road to showcase and sell.  Frustrating. Nothing to apologize for. But frustrating.

But when things eased up a bit – in early October 2020 – One Desire took the opportunity to get in front of hometown fans in Helsinki. It was an enthusiastic crowd, since most of them had missed live gigs for more than a year. The description says the audience numbers were limited to maintain some safety, but you can’t tell that from the videos. It looks like the place is full, and everybody is cramming up to the stage. No masks. No social distancing. But when you’ve got local heroes showing their stuff, that’s worth taking a chance on health.

One Desire played selections from both of their albums. And if you’re familiar with this band – and  if you’re not, you should apologize to yourself – you know what they’re about.  Melodic rock.  Arena rock. Hair metal (without all the intricate and long coifs of the past). Anthemic.

One Desire makes you desire an air guitar (or drums) in front of a mirror, screaming the lyrics at the top of your lungs (if you can reach the vocal heights scaled by Andre’ Linman). Hook after hook after hook. And another hook. This is beyond guilty pleasure; it’s a musical badge to wear proudly. No apologies. 

The album gets underway with “Shadowman,” the second single from the sophomore album “Midnight Empire”.  It’s a bit creepy, with spoken word and lyrics pulled from the 1951 horror flick Bride of the Gorilla (yeah, I missed that one, too). It starts with a bit of heavy metal fanfare, goes into the keening guitar of Jimmy Westerlund. And then Andre’ Linman jumps in with his powerful and facile vocals. That’s a pretty common theme for One Desire, and it’s a winner. In fact, this version has a bit more power and aural depth to it than the studio version.

Let me revise that. All of these live versions stand out more than the originals. There’s just a bit more energy, a bit more excitement. I’m guessing that One Desire was chomping at the bit to play before people again, a bit nervous and anxious. And that audience, which greeted the group as if they were resurrected messiahs, just upped the ante a bit. This is a great album. But you already got that, didn’t you?

“Apologize” – yeah, I know, I know – is the second cut. And it follows the same sort of formula.  In fact, most of the songs do. Not in a dull way, no way. The rhythms are different for each song, and the hooks are unique to each song. Things never lose steam, nor their appeal. 

I could go through every song and offer pages of praises. But brevity is getting the better of me.  For me, some of the standout cuts are “Heroes,” a song about the pain of love (that’s a common theme, too) that is really pounding, sweeping, enriching. I play this one a lot.

“One Night Only: Live in Helsinki” Album Artwork

Along with “After You’re Gone,” which I suppose is the closest thing to the big hit single from Midnight Empire.  It’s got two great videos (one of the live performance, the other with the girl who is the subject of the lyrics).  Powerful.  As is “Hurt,” the big hit single from the first, self-titled album of 2017. It, too, is about heartbreak and pain (I worry about these guys and their relationships with the opposite sex).

Hurt
Does it matter where the pain is coming from
When it still burns?
And the fire here inside me wasn’t enough
Will we still love?
Can’t you see that there was only you and me?
Until we burn
Until we burn
So what’s the lesson learned?

I’m not sure about the lesson learned, but it’s got a great beat and hooks and encourages you to sing along. That’s a good enough education.

The album wraps up with crowd pleaser “Buried Alive.” Well, not really. Because that segues into a hidden track, one not listed on the jacket, a new song cut in the studio. Not sure what it is, but it’s damn good. And, hey, it’s always nice to get a present after a bit of time away in quarantine.

I know, in many respects, One Desire comes across as Linman’s and Westerlund’s band.  And they really are out front, physically and musically. It’s not that bassist Jonas Kuhlberg and drummer Ossi Sivula aren’t important – they’re the engines that keep this operation moving.  They’re not flashy but they are a strong presence on every beat, every measure, every chorus and main theme. 

But much of the emphasis is (and probably always will be) on Linman. The good-looking guy is the front-man, often sweeping his long, straight hair back off his face, playing some fierce rhythm guitar, and providing much of the emotion during the proceedings. His vocal range is huge and he knows how to use it to great emotional effect.

Which leads us to guitarist Westerlund. He understands his role in this band (well, all of them do). He’s not going to do a lot of flashy runs; he’s not a speed shredder (although I suspect he could be, in a different setting). But when his time comes, for the fills and solos, he makes that axe scream and cry – a perfect response and counterpoint to Linman. In that sense, it’s as if the band has two lead singers, and it’s perfect for what they’re trying to do. 

One other impression. To my ears (which are, admittedly, old and deteriorating), the vocal mix is a bit different here than in the studio recordings. Andre’s voice is a bit less out front and in your face in this concert.  And the background vocals of Jimmy and Antti Roslander are just a bit higher in the mix. It creates a bit more of a choir effect when the three voices join together, more of a wall of sound that I personally find pleasing.

But that’s where I’ve got one quibble (that’s a fun word, isn’t it?). A keyboard plays a prominent place in the performance. It adds a whole lot of depth to the overall mix, with a few swirls and flourishes to fill the breaks. I can hear it. You can hear it. And there’s a third voice chiming in on harmonies. And I know it’s not a tape; the DVD proves it. There’s the occasional shot from far stage left, showing Antti Roslander on keys and background vocals – but he’s out of the audience sightlines. He can’t be that ugly, can he? Please give this man some credit, because he does a great job. And One Desire’s sound would not be the same without his contributions.

Okay, that’s out of my system.

But “One Night Only – Live in Helsinki” is definitely not. I’m playing the hell out of this one, and that’s pretty rare for me and my discriminating (or just plain strange) tastes. This is not one to listen to sitting down (be careful when you’re in the car). It will bring you to your feet, over and over again, just as it did the audience in Helsinki last October. It will make you yearn for a One Desire concert in your area (Indiana, anyone?). And you’ll be feeling the pain of lost love…even if you’re in a happy relationship.

No need for any apologies on your part. And One Desire doesn’t need to apologize, either. This is one to boast about.

Released By: Frontiers Music SRL
Released On: June 11, 2011
Genre: Melodic Rock

Musicians:

  • André Linman / Lead vocals, guitars
  • Jimmy Westerlund / Guitars, background vocals, lead vocals (5)
  • Ossi Sivula / Drums
  • Jonas Kuhlberg / Bass
  • Antti Roslander / Keyboards, background vocals

“One Night Only – Live in Helsinki” Track-listing:

  1. Shadowman
  2. Apologize
  3. Down And Dirty
  4. Heroes
  5. Godsent Extasy
  6. This Is Where The Heartbreak Begins
  7. Only When I Breathe
  8. Falling Apart
  9. After You’re Gone
  10. Whenever I’m Dreaming
  11. Hurt
  12. Buried Alive

8.8 Excellent

The Finnish band comes out of a pandemic vacation with a verve and energy that is captivating and downright fun. The music is fresh, melodic and anthemic and makes one want to pump a fist (or two) in the air

  • Performance 9.2
  • Musicianship 9.2
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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