Considering just how many good bands Sweden has fostered only the last 20 years or so and their impact on the international public it´s interesting to take a look back to the eighties when things were quite different. This little country way up north was not considered to be a force to be reckoned with when it came to hardrock and heavy metal, at least not sales wise. Sure, a certain Yngwie J. Malmsteen had made quite a splash over in the states and Japan but Sweden was still regarded as that country that had ABBA, surströmming, a decent hockeyteam, Volvo and SAAB. That was pretty much it.
But things started moving considerably when Europe conquered the world with “The Final Countdown”. Brilliant bands like Treat (a personal favorite of mine), John Norum (ex-Europe), Electric Boys and the band in focus right here; Jämtlands pride and joy 220 Volt had already made superb albums with great (for the time) production values and sold a decent amount of records already.
And on the other half of the playingfield, Bathory, led by the enigmatic mainman Quorthon already led a new wave of extreme death/black metal so the spectrum was wide and the musicians very competent. And that is almost always a constant, swedish bands often consist of very skilled musicians and singers thanks to the schoolsystem were music at the time was mandatory and made fun and accessible for most kids.
Now, let´s take a closer look at today´s Forgotten Jewel. 220 Volt formed in Östersund back in 1979 and released their self titled debut album in 1983 which did decent business and sold about 10 000 copies. This was followed up by “Powergames” in 1984 and soon “Mind over Muscle” started flying over the counters in 1985 which almost takes us to the piece de resistance of the day; “Eye to Eye”.
Seeing the light of day in 1988 and comprising a bit lighter touch than the more heavy metal focused predecessors. This was during the Hair Metal era though so this slight adjustment were only for the better and the band was still heavy enough for the leather and studs-part of their fanbase. “Dog Eat Dog” with it´s uptempo beat and ripping guitarsolos is a nice throwback to their roots.
The song material is incredibly good the whole record through. Phenomenal singer Jocke Lundholm is just a star. Unique voice, so powerful and dynamic with an impressive range he leads the band through one great song to the other. His delivery on the should-be-classic “Love is All You Need” is simply sublime.
In a fair and balanced universe this album should be up there with the aforementioned “The Final Countdown”, Def Leppard´s “Hysteria” and Bon Jovi´s “Slippery When Wet”. It is quite a bit heavier than these classics but so rewarding when it comes to melodies, harmonies and the solos. Good heavens, the guitar solos are bleeping fantastic! Superb playing by Mats Karlsson and Peter Olander, kudos!
If you´ve never heard it, do yourself a solid and give this a spin when you have the chance.
Marty Methuselah Nygren
Band: 220 Volt
Title: Eye to Eye
Release year: 1988
Duration: 50 minutes including bonus tracks
Place of origin: Sweden
Standout tracks: Eye To Eye, Love is All You Need