RIAN – Wings (2023) *HQ*

RIAN - Wings (2023) - full

The history of Swedish melodic rock band RIAN begins in 2017 with their independently released debut album “Out To The Darkness”, which received favorable reviews especially in Europe. The band matured and was strengthend by their live appearances beginning in 2018, but also with the addition of lead guitarist Tobias Jakobsson. New songs were written during 2018-2020 and based on melodies and lyrics written by vocalist/guitarist Richard Andermyr.
The band definitely stepped up crafting musical material which may be described as a modern version of classic melodic rock music, the way it was produced in the second half of the 80’s. Rian definitely sports influences from Bon Jovi to Winger, Dokken to Europe, Queensryche and Survivor but they manage to have a personal and contemporary touch that sets them apart from the others.

This is what lead the Frontiers label to sign them for their sophomore album “Twenty-Three” which is now followed by the band’s upcoming third release: “Wings.”
The songs on the new record are once again marked by plenty of groove, strong guitar riffs, catchy refrains, superb vocal arrangements and smashing guitar lines, courtesy of the amazing lead guitars of Tobias Jakobsson. Sound is crispier than ever thanks to the superb mix & mastering by Dennis Ward (Magnum, Pink Cream 69, Khymera).

An instant standout, ‘On The Wind’ kicks off with a meaty riff that has a gentle Euro lilt, often sounding like a heavier version of German legends Frontline. After a little settling in time, a bigger melody rises, introducing a little more AOR. Aided by soaring guitar sounds and some big keys, there’s a feeling the band are building up to something great. Then – as expected – the chorus takes a massive leap into a piece of melodic rock where harmony drenched vocals are countered by tinkling keys, really selling a great hook. It never really rises beyond melodic rock by numbers, albeit with a slightly harder edge, arrangement-wise, but much like the Kent Hilli album from ’23, it really doesn’t need to be much more than that; this is a showcase for a band who can really play, and obviously understand the recipe for great 80s inspired rock.

Combining a big, dirty chug with a swathe of AOR keyboards, ‘We Ride’ sets up a massive melodic rocker that allows guitarist Tobias Jakobsson time enough to drop in various howling lead notes, before the verse gives way to a huge and melodic chorus. Despite the bulk of this track being dominated by guitars, the band obviously recognise a strong, lighter melody when it comes their way and during that chorus, frontman Richard Andermyr is given a little more room to move. He fills several bars with a soaring melody that draws from some great melodic rock of yesteryear, helping to drive another fine melodic rocker. As great as the song is, Rian deserved better production values than they ultimately get, though: the guitars are so loud in the mix that, important as they are, most of the keys are all but drowned out, and the bass is a little muddy.

‘Don’t Wait For The Fire’, a more AOR-centric workout, comes with a lighter verse where vocals and clean guitars sound nice and crisp and, as before, Jakobsson’s lead work creates many of the stand out moments. Based on a harmony drenched chorus with a simple hook, the band’s songwriting shows once more how they understand the rudiments of what makes for timeless melodic rock, but by throwing in a brief moment where the bass seems keen to launch into a Steve Harris inspired gallop, a few keys akin to the Bon Jovi debut and another powerful vocal, and Rian really hit the mark here.

In a change of mood, ‘The Silence of Our Dreams’ opens with a Toto-ish piano line and clean vocal that is a bit more State Cows than usual, but even once that vocal stretches into a more familiar rock sound, it’s still great to hear Rian playing in more of a stripped back way. By dialling back most of the guitars and focusing on Eric Ragno’s keys and a pleasingly muscular bassline, it shows how Rian aren’t reliant on a fretboard king to wow their listeners. This is a perfectly written rock ballad that really clings onto a fine melody, and with Richard’s voice presenting itself effortlessly, it becomes another track to file with a lot of other classic Swedish AOR.
Even when Tobias makes a late entry with a blues tinged lead, there’s more restraint in the playing than usual, and in a lot of ways, it’s actually more impressive than his usual full on style.

Taking another opportunity to work some very 80s chops, ‘Look At The Stars’ marries a clean, ringing guitar part to a pumping bassline, over which Richard applies a very AOR-centric vocal. Seemingly channeling fellow Scandinavians Alien, this track is one of those times where Rian’s desire to rock hits upon another near perfect homage to the past. Of note here, a brilliant pre-chorus settles for another melody not far removed from early Frontline, and a few musical bridges between the vocal actually showcase a very cool guitar tone.

Another ballad, ‘One of A Million’ sees the band pulling out the acoustic guitar for a workout that’s all overwrought vocal and blanket keys in its early stages, and it isn’t really until Tobias drops in a couple of electric leads that it really finds its feet. It’s one of those numbers that feels instantly familiar,
The title cut latches on to a few hard rock riffs that feel quite similar to ‘On The Wind’, but a more spacious verse with a bigger bassline ensures it’s a little different. In the main, of course, its familiar hard rock fare, but with a harmony driven hook and a constant push and pull between a great vocal and impeccable guitar work, it shows why Rian have the potential to become another of Sweden’s great exports.

‘When You’re Gone’ promises something different when it opens with busy melodic metal guitar work, but quickly wusses out, retreating into a world of Swedish AOR that’s interchangeable with the bulk of Rian’s previous work. Tobias bravely drops the heavier riff between the verses, but by that time, it feels a little shoehorned in, playing second fiddle to a very confident vocal. Even stranger is his chosen backdrop for the instrumental break: a flurry of staccato notes derived from Jan Cyrka’s ‘England’s Eyes’ wasn’t to be expected, but it really works. Overall, ‘When Your Gone’ sounds like three half finished rockers welded together, but it’s to Rian’s credit that it works. Although they’ve written better songs – and you’ll certainly find three or four on this album – this is proof of their strong musical chops, if one were needed.

Quibbles about some of the production values aside, there’s a lot to like about this album. At its best, it shares the kind of chorus hooks that really stick, and in Tobias Jakobsson, they obviously have a guitarist who’s rather busy, but often understands the value of keeping a melodic core within his massive sounding solos.
These ingredients go a long way to helping Rian sound a top melodic rock act, but the consistency with which they can deliver those great elements is what really counts, making ”Wings” a cut above a lot of other similar fare at the time of release.
If you’re a fan of European melodic hard rock – Frontline, Kent Hilli, Grand Design and others – then this is definitely a mandatory listen.

“Wings” offers an exciting modern version of classic melodic rock music, driven by by strong songwriting which feature exceptional guitar work and fine vocal harmony. Catch the band live if you can and you will be able to experience another reason why Sweden is front and center with its new Hard and Melodic Rock bands in the international market.
Highly Recommended


1. Carry My Wings
2. We Ride
3. Don’t Wait For The Fire
4. Dance The Night Away
5. War Is Over
6. Look At The Stars
7. One In A Million
8. On The Wind
9. When You’re Gone
10. The Silence Of Our Dreams
11. Eternity

Richard Andermyr – Vocals / Guitar
Jan Johansson – Drums
Jonas Melin – Bass
Tobias Jakobsson – Lead Guitar

All keyboards by Eric Ragno
Mixed & Mastered by Dennis Ward


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