Back in the 90s, Canadian hard rockers Sven Gali released two very enjoyable albums. 1992’s ‘Sven Gali’ cast the band in a similar mould to ‘Slave To The Grind’ era Skid Row on a set of songs with big riffs and bigger choruses, while 1995’s ‘In Wire’ took a heavier direction and – like so many hard rock acts during that era – found the band swimming against the musical tide, despite their best efforts to stay vital. Much like Vince Neil’s ‘Carved In Stone’ released at a similar time, ‘In Wire’ mightn’t have been exactly what fans wanted upon release, but as the years have passed, it has sounded better and better.

The band split soon after, but reformed in 2018. The passing years have been very kind, it seems, and on their comeback release ‘3’ – released in the summer of 2020 – frontman Dave Wanless shows off a voice that often has a massive presence and, clearly, guitarist Andy Frank still knows how to crank out a great riff or three. On the EP’s lead track, ‘Kill The Lies’, the riffs have a dirtiness about them as opposed to a genuine melodic rock sheen, but this provides a superb counterpoint to a vocal that shows off equal parts old style hard rock melody and a tougher edge. A few filters applied here and there give everything a slightly alternative feel too. The main riff calls to mind bits of early Disturbed and by adding a complex counter-melody to its crunch, it feels a little more interesting than most things of the style. Meanwhile, a really old fashioned melodic chorus delivers a shamelessly massive hook. For the first few listens, it seems a little buried under the heaviness but, rest assured, it’s there… The contrast between heaviness and commercial rock melodies is great throughout, and it certainly sets up this comeback in a position of strength. Aside from having a very heavy intro, ‘You Won’t Break Me’ is rather more melodic, bringing melodic rock influences to a great verse that sounds like someone has spent the previous decade listening to the first couple of tracks from Def Leppard‘s ‘Slang’ album on repeat. The semi-melodic, semi-mechanical mood suits Dave and the band very well indeed, and moving back into the heavy riff for the chorus, this shows off the current Sven Gali brilliantly. With a shamelessly old-school widdly guitar solo thrown over the top of a hugely chunky backdrop, it feels as if the band are constantly battling between a vaguely more contemporary edge and their roots, but the end results are really enjoyable…especially when played loudly.

‘Now’ takes the feel of the previous tracks and applies a little light industrial sound on the verse, giving a cold but spacious quality that occasionally hints at a couple of old Marilyn Manson tracks. It sounds a little dated at the time of release, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. This is guaranteed to upset most of the people who really hoped ‘3’ would be a direct throwback to 1992’s ‘Sven Gali’, but some more open-minded rock fans might still get some consolation from a huge chorus that, again, sounds like something pulled straight off Def Leppard’s ‘Slang’. Those uptight people who hated that record upon release (and even as late as 2020, you can still encounter ignorant fans calling it “Def Leppard’s grunge album”), will hate this too, as good as it may be. It’ll be their loss, as there’s much to like about this tune, and that chorus eventually proves to be very catchy indeed. Moving into the track’s big finish, the speed intensifies, the vocal shifts into a harsh barking anger and the band barely let up for a whole minute as they crank out a great, punchy hard rock riff at speed…and with absolute ease.

By far the EP’s hookiest number, ‘Hurt’ opens with more of an AOR feel and a cleaner vocal sound. As if to acknowledge their past, the band tease with these melodic rock traits in such a way you might even think they’re going to revert to a huge AOR chorus. The hook itself definitely does show more of their past glories, but the bulk of this track clings on to the kind of crunch that ‘Kill The Lies’ delivered so effectively, but with a little more of a “Skid Row in the 90s” feel throughout. It has an old heart but an admirably crunchy sound, and by kicking off with with a real swing and then descending into more of a mechanical intensity, it feels anything but one-paced. By the time the chorus presents itself one final time, it even feels like something you’ve owned on an old Sven Gali album for decades. In short, this is a great hard rock tune – if you’ve never heard Sven Gali before, it’s more than worth three minutes of your time.

In terms of trying to please everyone – something you should never actually set out to do – Sven Gali actually make a reasonable stab at succeeding on these four tracks. There are a couple of hooks that are definitely recognisable from their earlier and more melodic years, plenty of huge riffs that connect this with ‘Inwire’ and even a couple of other moods included, which genuinely helps this comeback seem like the band more to give, rather than trading on past glories for a quick buck. If you were hoping for Sven Gali 1992 mk. II, this possibly isn’t for you, but for everyone else – especially fans of a massive riff – it comes highly recommended.

June 2020