Album: Welcome Home
Blurb: Fredrik Croona offers a more musically mature, refined album that suffers from missed opportunities and never delivers on the fusion promise.
Sweden’s Fredrik Croona attempts to strike a balance between genres and fuse them into something new and interesting, but on his latest solo venture, Welcome Home, he gets in his own way of making that happen. There are hidden gems on the album, which show great promise and come close to the elusive fusion that Croona is looking for, ensuring that he is an artist to watch out for. Croona had stated that this album “is a bit more mature compared to the debut album, The Grey Line, and is more refined in both the songs and the vocals.” Musically, the album offers interesting elements and demonstrates that it is more technically proficient and refined compared to his earlier work, but the vocals on many tracks leave much to be desired. The energy and passion on display in the latest Cynical Existence album (of which Croona is the front man) doesn’t seem to transition into his solo work.
“Dislocated” kicks off the album and demonstrates the futurepop influence. A melancholy vocal track drones monotone and dramatic over layered synths and drowns the merits of the music. A little more passion in this opening track would go a long way for preparing listeners for the remainder of the album or at least kick off the experience with a splash into a cold lake instead of slowly submerging into lukewarm waters. “Without My Defences” is, again, well programmed and arranged but feels smothered by a lack of emotion in the vocals. A catchy chorus lacks impact due to the ho-hum delivery and ends up falling flat, making it another track that should have come later in the album. The same can be said for other tracks like “Suffer in Silence” and “Walk Away,” as the vocals hinder their potential with choruses that diminished what would otherwise be a terrific piece of work. “The Naked Truth” is closer to what the album should have started with – danceable and demonstrating the blend of futurepop and trance that Croona bills himself as. The vocals are stronger on this track, and while still lacking in punch, they help to make it one of the best tracks on the record. “Follow the Blind” features Controlled Collapse and is the most annoying track on the record. The synth loop is far too pronounced compared to the rest of the music, sometimes even seeming louder than the vocals at times; it isn’t complex enough to warrant having center stage on this track.
The record’s first instrumental track, “Dreams Never Die,” feels like filler as it starts off strong and seems poised to be a showcase for the trance influence, but it never takes off; it just plays out until it ends. However, “World Beneath My Skin” and “A Strange Mind” are the best songs on the record – rhythmic and danceable, they are strong club tracks that feel a lot more energetic, although they end abruptly. The energy of the songs is cut short just as they approach a fever pitch. An extended remix that doubled or even tripled the songs’ length and adds additional musical layers and complexities would go a long way in turning a good track into a great one. “Minds I” sounds very reminiscent of Negative Format with its more pronounced trance influence making it one of the better tracks on the record by doing something a bit different “The Downward Spiral” heads in a different direction with razor wire vocals mixed in with Croona’s smoother vocal work and a well constructed musical background. The record crawls to a close with “Welcome Home (Outro),” an instrumental that is endearing and pleasant to the ear, but feels almost out of place.
Overall, Welcome Home suffers from not capitalizing on what it does best. When it shines is in the blending and mixing of genres, and when the fine line Croona is attempting to walk is balanced, there are hints of brilliance and fresh air. But when he strays from that line, the results come across as sloppy and boring. It’s easy to hear the influence of VNV Nation, Covenant, and Negative Format at work in Croona’s work, and while his musical skills are in good form, a lack of punch in the vocals turn a song that could be exceptional into more-of-the-same in a genre that nearly overflows with mediocrity. Reversing the album’s track list and listening to it backwards would go a long way towards creating a musical experience instead of an assemblage of disparate songs and styles. By starting off the record with weaker tracks, there is little incentive to keep going. What is a full-length album would probably have been better off as an EP – “Naked Truth,” “World Beneath My Skin,” “Minds I,” “Welcome Home,” “A Strange Mind,” and “Downward Spiral” would have made for a far more interesting and impactful offering than the album in its current iteration. Croona’s work shows great potential, but this record is a dull blade that needs to be sharpened.
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Brian McLelland (BMcLelland)