One Desire – Midnight Empire (Frontiers)

It’s three years since One Desire burst onto the melodic rock scene with their sumptuous self-titled debut.

On a par with Eclipse’s Monumentum and H.E.A.T’s Into The Great Unknown, it took 2017 by storm.

And that’s when reality bit.

Rarely has a band’s first record sounded quite so assured.

The bar was set impossibly high from day one.

And doing it all over again was never going to be easy.

Given the level of expectation, it’s little wonder Midnight Empire has been more than two years in the making.

But has One Desire’s sophomore set been worth the wait?

In truth, it’s a mixed bag.

Down And Dirty is like listening to A-ha given a melodic rock makeover (it’s cool).

When I Breathe is a beautiful ballad replete with subtle keys and Spanish guitar.

And After You’re Gone leans on the AOR greats with its Asia-esque sheen.

But opener Shadowman is an oddly dispassionate choice to kick things off.

Its six-and-a-half minutes of prog-tinged self-indulgence does One Desire no favours.

In fact, it’s a poor reflection of a band that can do so much better.

Thankfully, an overlong exercise in rock star posturing is the exception, rather than the rule.

And Midnight Empire’s many strengths successfully obscure the odd weakness (avoid the Eurovision-esque Rio).

André Linman’s vocals are on point throughout.

Jimmy Westerlund wields his axe like a man determined to cut down lazy preconceptions.

And rhythm section Ossi Sivula and Jonas Kuhlberg benefit from a pin sharp mix.

Skip to Heroes and it’s clear just how far One Desire have come…and how far they could go.

It’s a melodic rock masterpiece on a par with anything Brother Firetribe, Eclipse and pre-blues Europe could muster. Enough said.