There is something about October! It has, for sure, kept the review section of the magazine really busy. After a fairly sleepy summer, we suddenly have some great releases that we are bringing to you. Next up is Atlas with their third album, a rock band making waves with an 80’s-style sound brushed up for the new era.
ATLAS is comprised of five musicians: Craig Wells (lead vocals), James Thorley (keyboards), Howie Little (lead guitars), Chris Redfearn (bass guitar), and Ryan Briggs (drums).
Keyboard player James Thorley founded the band in 2017 with the intention of creating signature music that focused its roots around the 80s AOR, prog, and melodic rock genres while delving into other areas of modern hard rock and metal.
To date, ATLAS has released two studio albums through the European label AOR Heaven. Their second album, Parallel Love, charted in Japan at #36 and debuted in the Top 10 Amazon Classic Rock Albums Chart on week of release. They have toured the UK, sharing the stage with The Quireboys, Eric Martin (Mr. Big), FM, Vega, Big Country, and Praying Mantis.
Distributed by SPV, Built To Last is a continued evolution of the band’s unique progressive AOR sound that builds on themes of survival, hope, and overcoming hardships. It is the result of several years of refined songcraft, featuring polished arrangements, shredding guitar hooks, massive choruses, and soaring vocals.
Release Date October 20th.
On to the review, mixing my comments (first bit on each track) with some thoughts on the tracks from the band (second bit on each track in inverted commas).
“All or Nothing”
This hits the speakers like a rocket! I was relaxing at the end of the day for the review, and the speakers shook with the blast lol. Neighbours might not speak to me for a week, but who needs them to? The song is propelled by a heavy riff, a big chorus, and rocking guitars with a heavy drum sound. This is a signature sound for the band, and its a whole lot of fun. I’m fully alert now!
‘All or Nothing was written with an “album opener” in mind. We wanted to write a track that had a lot of energy, was heavy but still had melodic elements, and had a huge hooky chorus. We wanted to represent elements of the whole album in one song, which was a challenge, but we always love to rise to a challenge!’
“You’re Not Alone”
I reviewed this track when it was released as a single. At the time, I wrote, “With instantly recognizable riffs and a relentless rhythm, it has a commercially anthemic sound for 2023. This is the sort of song you hit the open highway with; it would connect with fans of Bon Jovi or Cinderella, but celebrates hard-rocking vibes.” Listening to it again, I stand by my comments! It certainly lets rip and would go so well on Anthem radio.
‘This was one of the first songs written for the album. It’s about coming out of lockdown and overcoming difficulties, depression, and the general unknown that most of us felt during that time. It’s got a radio-friendly approach, but we didn’t hold back with the big anthemic chorus.’
Atlas, photo by Sam Fenton
“One More Night”
This one continues with an upbeat sound and lyrics about bringing us back to life. It builds up around the big chorus and is an enjoyable driving song for the open road.
‘This song is built around a real proggy syncopated guitar riff with a classic AOR theme for the lyrics and chorus.’
The vocal harmony that opens this track introduces some fast guitar licks tumbling down from the speaker and chasing away the cobwebs. This would be great for rock anthem radio; it showcases a great drum sound too. I loved the drumming on this one, as it really drives the song rather than being only tucked in behind. It’s catchy rock n’roll, and I really liked it a lot. It brought me back to my high school days.
‘High energy was a feeling we wanted to tap into with this album, and this track certainly has that! It’s about not being able to shake the memory of a previous love, no matter how hard you might try, backed up with stacks of harmonies!’
A change of direction toward a rock ballad, with an incessant guitar sound that creates a great feeling for the vocals to connect to. I would say it takes me into late Bon Jovi territory again, and again, I am going to compliment the drumming when it kicks in mid-song. Fluid production throughout the album has also created a crisp listening experience.
‘Tears is dynamic, bombastic, melodic, and powerful. It’s about always being there for someone no matter what, even when you know they don’t feel the same way anymore.’
A jazz piano intro takes us back into a big rocker. It’s a decent album track, and the vocals certainly nail the sound.
‘A very Def Leppard-inspired riff and chorus helped build the foundation for this song. Who says you can’t have a drum, keyboard, and guitar solo trade-off?’
“Just Like That”
The keyboards star a bit on this one! It certainly rides the pop side of rock and takes me into Kiss “Crazy Nights” territory (nothing wrong with that!). It’s rock-n-roll entertainment.
‘We wore our love for 80s AOR on our sleeves for this song. A huge catchy guitar/synth hook interplayed with a staccato chorus stacked full of harmonies, with an air guitar instrumental to top it all off!’
“Chasing Portraits I: Lonely Hearts”
A song with a great chorus, and you can easily sing along to it. The touches of piano are interesting, and the musical layers develop an intricate sound.
‘We have flirted with progressive rock on our previous two albums, but for this album we set out from the beginning to write a longer progressive piece, which could be split into three sections. Lonely Hearts starts with the devastation of loss and confrontation of loneliness, finishing off with a Kansas-inspired guitar/Hammond trade-off.’
Chasing Portraits II: Closer to the Picture
I’m not sure about this one. I note it is part II of this run of tracks. It does fit the feel of this section of the album, and the synth sound does drive the car.
‘Closer to the Picture deals with recovery and reflection and is one of the rarer synth-driven tracks on the album.’
“Chasing Portraits III: Painted Memories”
Vocal harmony, piano, and some interesting lyrics It is kind of a reflective number. It ends this song trilogy, and the band is creating some soaring AOR music.
‘An epic finale to that suite The song itself is about the memories of past relationships being somewhat clouded by the negatives that caused that bond to end. We create our own narrative of our past and move on with our lives, sometimes forgetting the good that may have come from our experiences.’
“Bury A Lie”
We certainly change direction here and move into a heavier number, bringing back a bigger drum sound again.I liked the key power riff and the strong rhythm section.
‘The heaviest track we’ve written to date The song was built around a 7-string guitar riff and features an awesome proggy instrumental section.’
“Best is Yet to come.”
This finishes off the album in a great way: tumbling guitar chords, plenty of anthem-like chorus and some vocals that take me back to the fun of the best of 80s pop metal.
‘We wanted to end the album with a banger rather than an epic or a ballad! So, we saved the best until last—a Journey-inspired melodic rock anthem with a huge sing-along ending.’
Standout tracks: “All or Nothing,” “Another Heartbreak,” and “One More Night.”
Summing it up, listen to this and have yourself one great rock n’roll party.
By Stevie Ritson
All music recorded by ATLAS
Recorded at InMotion Studios
James Thorley: Producer, Engineer, Mixer
Thomas Johansson – Mastering1.
I hope you enjoyed the review. Feel free to buy me a coffee on the little link if you like the work I do! Also do look around the magazine, we have so much here from top features and interviews to merchandise and even poetry!