The self-titled debut album from this Finnish quartet came out in 2017, and that is now followed up by this one, starting up with one of the three single releases, ”Shadowman”. And that really is the perfect intro song for this album. It picks up the vibe from the debut album, but twists and turns and drags it through a heavy, dirty darkness, without the postive tone getting lost.

In other words: ”Midnight Empire” breathes more maturity and is heavier – but still with that joyful glimpse in the eye. It’s like ”la la la poprockmetal”, it sticks like chewing gum – without being shallow, because there actually is depth and context all the way.

It’s also one of those albums that grow pretty much each time you listen to it. Starting off with ”nah, this is really not my bag”, leading to ”hey, I can listen to this without getting an allergic rash”, and then ”well, I quite enjoy this” ending at ”I actually like this, it makes me smile, it’s filled with joy – and joy is so very much needed right now”.

Speaking of smiles – it’s incredibly charming how you can hear singer André Linman’s smile throughout the songs, in the words he sings. He is a really amazing singer, I just wish he would get to show that off even more. There is a great raw power that is hinted beyond the polished surface, and hopefully we will get to hear more of that in the future.

The same goes for the music and the production, by the way – it’s just a little bit too sleek and smooth and adjusted. There is room for a bit more roughness, a sharper edge, which would have made it reach deeper inside. I am also curious about what singer André could have done with the fifth track, ”Through the fire”, that here is sung by guitarrist Jimmy Westerlund. It’s a really nice track, and Jimmy is not at all a bad singer – but still. It just feels a bit weird to have someone else singing it, since they have such an amazing vocalist.

This album has a few fillers that don’t really awaken anything inside of me, but I can forget pretty much everything because of the ending song – ”Only when I breathe”. And even though it’s truly beautiful as it is, I would absolutely LOVE an acoustic, really naked and intimate version of this song.

And all in all, this is a graceful, dynamic piece of work – and I will for sure keep listening to it.

Band: One Desire
Title: Midnight Empire
Label: Frontiers Music s.r.l.
Date of release: May 22, 2020
Rate: 8/10
Stand out tracks: Shadowman, Heroes, Only when I breathe