A few years ago I discovered the Finnish band Shiraz Lane. These young guys are heavily inspired by old school sleaze and hard rock with a touch of glam, but still with a fresh and modern touch to it. Their debut full-length For Crying Out Loud was a really strong release (for the review go here) and when seeing them live you always get a heavy shot of rock ‘n’ roll energy thrown in your face. Now it’s finally time for their sophomore album which they referred to as “Shiraz 2nd” for quite some time: Carnival Days. Whenever I had a chat with vocalist Hannes Kett or the others, they promised to make an even better album and last year they worked relentlessly in Sweden with producer Per Aldeheim (Def Leppard, Soilwork, Lambretta) to accomplish that goal.
And what an album it is… opening with title track Carnival Days, they introduce you immediately to a more diverse and grown-up Shiraz Lane than you’ve heard before. The song has a very jazzy cabaret feeling and the addition of saxophone is just genius in my humble opinion. It swings, it rocks, it’s catchy and upbeat. With moments it even makes me think on some of the more experimental moments of The Doors. Choosing this song as the one to kick off the album was daring, but a good choice. It shows that they’re ready to reach greatness and stardom without giving up their personality or artistic freedom.
For those who are getting worried that Shiraz Lane turned completely soft or their backs on the hard/sleaze rock influences, don’t worry. With The Crown and absolute highlight Harder to Breathe they will quench any such thoughts. Harder to Breathe is definitely going into the books as one of their best songs to date. Just everything in that track feels and sounds right and I’ve been walking around with that damn track stuck in my head for days now! Hannes‘ vocals sound grittier and dirtier than before and together with the groovy dual guitar work by Jani and Miki and the driving bass by Joel and drums by Ana, brings the best of 80’s hard rock without sounding cheesy at any time.
With Tidal Wave the earlier used horn section is back and their most poppy sound ever probably. The track is a real earworm that still rocks and sounds like Shiraz, it’s one of those songs I can easily see getting a lot of playtime even on non-rock radio channels. Somehow parts of the song make me think of Bon Jovi, which is a cool thing to accomplish looking at what a hit machine those dudes were… Gotta Be Real brings about halfway the record a much appreciated rest point with a very 80’s sounding rock ballad and again that added saxophone. This time the sax reminds me too much of Kenny G and other cheesy sounding music like that. In my opinion it didn’t work as well as earlier, but hey, they can’t all be knock-outs. People Like Us on the other hand adds piano into the mix, which actually works perfectly for the song and overall composition to create a chill and soaring rocker.
War of Mine shows yet again how far the whole band and especially Hannes‘ vocals have gotten. He shows off some of his more gritty and almost vile sounding lines and the whole song has a touch of metal to it that I very much appreciate. Another set of 3 strong songs conclude the album with groovy rocker Shot of Life, the way better rock ballad than before Hope and closer Reincarnation that gives you a glimpse of further greatness these guys might show in the future. That last track is versatile with all of the members showing several aspects of their talents changing rhythms and overall sound several times throughout the song. Intimate music, soaring heavy metal/hard rock with high-pitched vocal bits, spoken word samples in the background, even a reggae sounding moment… all to bring their main message in a glorious way: The beauty of life.
With Carnival Days you get a much more matured Shiraz Lane. A much bigger production, Hannes looking up that lower and grittier register of his voice that actually works even better for him than the constant high-pitched singing and the band overall stepping up their game big time on music composition and lyrics. A few of the songs show that they’re not necessarily so easily put in the limiting box of “sleaze rock” or “glam”, but that they dare to experiment. And when they do, brilliance and pure talent shines through, promising a very bright future of setting many girls’ hearts and stages ablaze!
Release date: February 23rd, 2018
Label: Frontiers Records
1. Carnival Days
2. The Crown
3. Harder To Breathe
4. Tidal Wave
5. Gotta Be Real
6. People Like Us
8. War of Mine
9. Shot of Life