February 10, 2016 Aunt Mary – New Dawn (Album Review)
Norwegian Progressive Rockers Aunt Mary may not be as much of a household name such as Deep Purple, Ten Years After, King Crimson, or Jethro Tull, but are just as much pioneers of the scene, as well as many others in the music world. Debuting with 1970’s self-titled album after signing with Polydor Records, the band put out Loaded in 1972 and Janus in 1973, but sadly disbanded shortly after. Of course, one can not keep a good band down, so over the decades to follow, the band did have several reunions and even released a Blues cover record in 1992, entitled Bluesprints. Then in 2013, Aunt Mary fan and well-respected Guitarist/Producer Ronni Le Tekrø gathered the original lineup of the band to record a new album, but Bassist Sven Gundersen exited from the band. Thankfully, the vision was not fading and Progressive Rock band Host’s bassist, Bernt Bodal, joined Aunt Mary.
Unfortunately, more bad new hit Aunt Mary when Lead Vocalist Jan Groth resignated as well due to a battle with cancer, sadly he was succumbed by the disease in 2014. Carrying on, Aunt Mary set forth with new vocalist Glenn Lyse, founding Guitarist Bjørn Kristiansen, Bassist Bodal, new keyboardist Ola Aanje, and original drummer Ketil Stensvik to record New Dawn. Seeming as if their bumpy road had finally smoothed over, Aunt Mary’s hardships did not stop and tragically Stensvik passed due to cancer after the band laid down tracks for New Dawn. Drummer Ole Tom Torjussen stepped up to the plate. Testing the waters, Aunt Mary, along with new Drummer Ole Tom Torjussen, is now touring with Le Tekrø ’s TNT prior to the February 12th release of the anticipated New Dawn. The album, many years in the making, was produced by Kjartan Hesthagen (Anita Hegerland, 1349) and Henning Ramseth (Sanctuary, The Dominant), who also plays the album’s keyboards.
Eleven tracks in total, New Dawn is unadulterated Hard Rock, strong Power Ballads, and hip retro Swing beginning with the searing “Slave Parade.” This opening track has a hard Swing beat that showcases the guitars with a tasty solo midway. Lyse has a bite to his voice as he riffs on the slave trade that still pervades society, just with a different face. Next, “Unconditional Love” has a mid-tempo Funk beat with Lyse getting answered by Kristiansen’s guitar. This song is a straightforward anthem for that love everybody longs to find. Moving on, “Hopelessly Lost” picks up the pace a bit with a more Rock feel. There is a gritty darkness to this track as Lyse sings the virtues of bachelorhood.
The dark “Happily Ever After” follows with a simple riff as Kristiansen goes as far down the fret as he possible can to get the brooding melody in this track, seeming to be talking about chemical warfare that backfires. “G Flat Road” takes an Electronica-like vibe as the guitars vibrate with bits of Techno sampling thrown in while the drums keep measure. The song seems to be a metaphor for making your own, and not deviating from said path. Then, “I was Born to Ride on the Wrong S” is a hyper upbeat piece of defiance as the guitars riff simple chords with the drums accompanying until Kristiansen breaks off on a shredding solo while Lyse sings an ode to the bad boy image.
Slowing the pace of the album, “Open Your Eyes” comes in as a Power Ballad with acoustic guitars and bongos before opening up with tempered, but still shredding guitars. Lyse sings of making the choice of making a relationship worse or work. “Blind Date” returns the album to the harder edge with a grinding riff that settles into a sexy Power Ballad melody as the piece goes into how a blind date can turn into something, and be life-changing. “Soldadera” is a driving, anthemic ode to the women of military who participated in the Mexican Revolution. The melody has a hard beat with a Latin riff that weaves in and out of the track. The finale to New Dawn is the fun, swinging “Don’t Keep Me Waiting.” This track hearkens back to the ’60s with its Big Band style complete with the female backup singers accompanying Lyse. Listening to it, one can picture the band swinging side to side as they play while Lyse sings about making “the magic” happen.
Through all the hardships and tragedy, Aunt Mary endured it all to bring New Dawn to fruition. It certainly has paid off in spades as the album is a hell of a fun ride from the hard-edged tracks to the slower, more contemplative songs, and finally down to the fun finish. From social commentary to expressing feelings, New Dawn has something for everyone. With deep gratitude to the fans for waiting for the new album, Aunt Mary have plans to tour the world to support the album, so keep a look out. CrypticRock gives New Dawn 5 out of 5 stars.