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aha castinsteel
Artist: A-ha
Title: Cast In Steel
Genre: Pop
Release Date: 11th September 2015
Label: We Love Music (Universal)


Album Review

Back five years ago, everything was set in stone. One last album, a huge success, ending both commercial and artistic aspects on a very high note with a live DVD album and a greatest hits compilation. End of the story and back to solo business for everyone. It comes a big surprise when early 2015, the band announced this come back… but just for one album and tour. Or maybe more. We don’t know. This is more than risky and the level of quality expected is certainly higher than other 80’s folks such as DURAN DURAN or NEW ORDER, to name the last two I reviewed. Because if we have to re write the story, it must be for a good reason. This album is the perfect example of why I’m totally against 30 or 60 seconds snippets used as trailer. When I listened to the player a couple of weeks ago, I was honestly not thrilled at all. I fought it was mellow, way to slow and no big melody stroke me. And if it needed demos and remixes from the 2009’s ‘Foot Of The Mountains’ as a Bonus Disc to help sales, it was not a good way to start with. I was not that excited when I get the full album and it took me a few days to start the listening.

The end result is very good indeed. But it’s “only” good while the predecessor was GREAT. Having said that, I have to admit that the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate the melodies and arrangements. This is the hard thing with having to review albums just a day or two after the first listening. How many albums are “growers” as we say? Maybe if I have to write the review in three or six weeks from now, I will score it a 10 and consider it as “awesome”. It starts with a typical mid tempo A-HA’s ballad. The voice is superb, beautiful string arrangements and a typical “growing” melody. First it seems a bit “too much” A-HA… and then you just adore. ‘Under The Makeup’ and ‘The Wake’ follow the same road. ‘Forest Fire’ is already considered as ‘Take On Me’ ’s little cousin, a kind of DEPECHE MODE’s ‘Precious’ vs. ‘Enjoy The Silence’. Almost the same lead synth was used. And it works fine to be fair. Probably also because it’s, at last!, an up-tempo song.

‘Objects In The Mirror’ is back to big orchestral strings with all elements of classical A-HA’s ballad: the soft part, the uplifting chorus, the bridge allowing some nice variations in the melodic structure and the lyrical touch. ‘Living At The End Of The World’ takes us back to the days of early 90’s, the underrated ‘East Of The Sun, West Of The Moon’. ‘Mythomania’ is a bit darker and more synth oriented. Could be an outtake from ‘Foot Of The Mountain’. ‘She’s Humming A Tune’ raise a bit the tempo and remind of the 80’s albums as well as ‘Shadow Endeavours’. It’s more than appreciable to have a series of up-tempo songs at this stage as the moody/ nostalgia atmosphere since the beginning of the album was a bit repeating. ‘Giving Up The Ghost’ is yet a danceable mid-tempo song drivin’ by a synth bass and darker strings arrangements.

‘Goodbye Thompson’ is, as per today at least, the weakest track of the album. Seems to have heard it a thousand times already in A-HA’s repertoire… may it be as a group or solo. In the end? As I said, only a couple of days after discovering it, I won’t say at this stage that this is the most incredible come back we’ve ever seen. Most of all, I almost regret that they decided to change the perfect story for an album that is not THAT worth it. Especially after the incredible series of albums they released over the last years. But it’s just a fan opinion and what matter the most is  that they enjoyed doing it and that most of the fans are happy they are back. Maybe it’s a question of running order also. Bringing some up-tempo songs earlier in the album would help keeping the attention all through the album.

As for the bonus disc, I must say it’s a must have for any fan. As the band always managed to be quite ironic, not to say sarcastic, they choose to start the bonus disc by a song entitled ‘The End Of The Affair’. Ok… how could they expect us to believe it as it’s the 2nd time they say it’s the end and they come back straight after? But to be fair… who cares after all if the guys want to end it a day and change their mind later? As long as they keep enjoying doing it and provide us with good albums. As for the song in itself… It’s a soft, mellow, delicate and atmospheric ballad. Not the most remarkable one they did, but good enough to close this new chapter. Then there’s a series of demo/ alternate versions of key songs from ‘The Foot Of The Mountain’ that gives a total different listening of those hits. Some are more guitar oriented, others in a more minimal electronic approach, but the greatness of those songs is already here on the first working phases. The most surprising one being the eponymous ‘Foot Of The Mountain’ remix by Mark Saunders.

The downside effect of it if you listen to it after the Disc 1… you realize the gap between the two albums just in term of song writing and arrangements.


Tracklist

Disc1
01. Cast In Steel
02. Under The Makeup
03. The Wake
04. Forest Fire
05. Objects In The Mirror
06. Door Ajar
07. Living At The End Of The World
08. Mythomania
09. She’s Humming A Tune
10. Shadow Endeavors
11. Giving Up The Ghost
12. Goodbye Thompson
Disc2 (Deluxe Edition)
01. The End Of The Affair
02. Mother Nature Goes To Heaven
(Original Version)
03. Nothing Is Keeping You Here
(Original Version)
04. Shadowside (Demo Version)
05. Start The Simulator (Stereophonic Mix)
06. Foot Of The Mountain
(Mark Saunders Remix)





Line-up

Morten Harket – Vocals
Magne Furuholmen– Keyboards
Pål Waaktaar-Savoy – Guitars


Website

http://a-ha.com / https://www.facebook.com/officialaha


Cover Picture

aha castinsteel


Rating

Music: 6
Sound: 9
Bonus : 9
Total: 8 / 10





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