Silent Memorial – Retrospective (Limb/Riot)

Swedish outfit that tote the line ‘prog rock’ but don’t let that or the balding heads fool you – this is basically good 80s hair metal/AOR but with a lot more maturity.

Think Steve Vai era Whitesnake or Malmsteem era Alcatrazz, hell even those good moments that Journey pulled out, or any of those good AOR bands that had a knack for great melodies, knew how to put a song together and had a mean axe man leading the way and you’ve got an idea of where Silent Memorial is coming from.

From the opening crunch of Human Mind with guitar and drums crashing in, before the keyboards run over the top and Mike Andersson’s crisp, clean 80’s vocals kick in you know what you’re going to get. Guitarist Christoph Baatchi originally formed Silent Memorial back in 1992, and after numerous line-up changes and a complete break, started working on this opus way back in 2000. But it wasn’t until 2005 that the work got serious.  Keyboardist Chris Hanggi has been there for the long haul too, and while at first I found his work irritating and a little twee, he was soon pulling out the Greg Giuffra riffs and had me thinking of very early Angel circa The Tower. I keep drifting back to Alcatrazz though (my second review in a month to name-drop them) – What can I say? Andersson’s vocals really remind me at times of Graham Bonnet, particularly on the tracks Differences and Fear.

The big moment on this seven track album is the twenty plus minutes title track Retrospective.  Yes, that’s what I said twenty plus minutes.  Ambition may have over-ridden ability on this song, but with the bludgeoning guitar riff-o-rama, drummer Diego Rappachietti’s steady driving rhythm, snippets of the James Bond theme and the Addams Family tune thrown in, plus the themes of childhood memories, it’s actually quite catchy - if a tad overdone. 

But that I think is the point with this band.  They aren’t content just being another rock band from Sweden, another European band with a good line in melodies, they want to stretch themselves and see what happens. Of course the next track The Darkest Hour was going to suffer in comparison, but ripping off the opening riff to Eye Of The Tiger didn’t help either.  Luckily, TV World has them back on track with a booming AOR 80s slab of rock and roll that really pulls out the stops.

Back in the late 80s, I used to randomly buy cassettes to throw in the car for long trips based solely on them being metal in one form or another.  You never knew what you were going to get – bands like Icon, Avion, Charlie, Helix, Paul Shortino’s stint in Quiet Riot, various Rainbow line ups- it was hit and miss but the excitement was finding that song or band that had you hooked, banging the steering wheel to the beat and singing through the sunroof as you tried to get to where you were going as quickly as possible.  If this album had come out then it would have got a high rotation on the old Pioneer cassette deck. I can’t give it a higher recommendation than that, now can I?

Silent Memorial's Retrospective is out now on Limb/Riot.