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Pretty Maids - "Motherland" (CD)

Pretty Maids - "Motherland" CD cover image

"Motherland" track listing:

1. Mother Of All Lies
2. To Fool A Nation
3. Confession
4. The Iceman
5. Sad to See You Suffer
6. Hooligan
7. Infinity
8. Why So Serious?
9. Motherland
10. I See Ghosts
11. Bullet For You
12. Who What Where When Why
13. Wasted

Reviewed by on April 10, 2013

"...what the album lacks in overall 'crunch,' it makes up for in downright gorgeous songwriting."

It’s been a while since I tried this experiment, but I wanted to be sure, as there aren't many albums that this actually works with. About half way through “Mother of All Lies” from the new Pretty Maids album “Motherland,” I decided to forgo my tradition of “initially skipping around” tracks of a new album in favor of an immediate full saturating listen. Normally, on first receipt, I like to skip around tracks just to see which songs jump out at me before I give it many long repetitive nonstop listens. One thing I loved about the 2010 release “Pandemonium” is just how great the Pretty Maids members have become as songwriters with each passing release, culminating in one of their greatest.

The melodies were captivating – even more than catchy. So, I wanted to test a theory: if I listen to “Motherland” nonstop start to finish and put it away for two weeks, how much would I retain? Much to my surprise, not only did I remember the songs, but the names, placement on the album and the lyrics to the chorus. Honestly, this hasn't happened in years and it speaks to the enormous memorability that this Danish act is capable of. Does “Motherland” rise to the level of “Pandemonium?” On a purely “heaviness” scale, no. From a songwriting perspective…oh yes.

For me, Pretty Maids is a fickle bitch. My introduction to the band was hearing “Night Danger” on the soundtrack to the movie “Demons” in 1985. If I recall, it was the scene where there was a motorcycle riding through a mall. I was hooked. I immediately bought the Japanese edition of “Red, Hot & Heavy” (back then I could only get good albums on import) and then found the self-titled EP on vinyl in a used record store in Milford, Connecticut. “Future World” was such a landmark release; there no doubt that it’s the band’s most famous album even today. I wore out at least two copies of the cassette. Seeing the group play in the U.S. for the first time last year at ProgPower USA was an honor.

“Jump the Gun” (or “Lethal Heroes,” whichever version you bought) leaned in a slightly new direction, where Ronny Atkins started employing a more “cleanly” style vocal as the band went deeper into hard rock. The style, initially relegated to about one to two tracks per release, was completely reversed by “Sin-Decade.” Now that gritty style that I identified Ronny with was a rarity. At first, I thought it was a new singer. I fell out of favor with the band in the mid-nineties, opting to move to that “elitist” mentality of “it better be heavy” or “power metal or its shit.” It took growing up and appreciating a wider berth of metal/hard rock to add to my love for…Wow….where are my manners! Back to the review!

With “Motherland” you won’t find trail blazers like “Cielo Drive,” “Pandemonium,” or “It Comes At Night.” However, what the album lacks in overall “crunch,” it makes up for in downright gorgeous songwriting. That isn’t to say that all is lost for the lead seeker. “I See Ghosts” starts eerily similar to “It Comes At Night,” “Who What Where Why” has a riff wrapped in an amazingly haunting Morten Sandager key line, the title track has hidden heaviness, and personal best “Hooligan” is the album crusher. The songs have such incredible staying power as potential hits keep beating the ear drums with the likes of “The Iceman,” the emotional “Infinity,” and “Why So Serious?,” a song that is right on par with some of the band’s greatest moments.

With my incoming expectations focused at a full blown return to complete heaviness for Pretty Maids, I was surprised to find that where “Pandemonium” fed the demon, ”Motherland” has a slightly altered way to find heaviness within intense emotion and brilliant songwriting. There is no denying the immense respect I have for Ken Hammer and his longevity in writing some of the beautifully written melodies. “Motherland” is pure and simple a hard rock masterpiece.

Highs: Fantastic songwriting. Where it lacks in "heaviness" it makes up for in melodious power.

Lows: Fans who dislike hard rock with a commercial edge will find little to be had.

Bottom line: With stellar songwriting on "Motherland," one is capable of melting into an emotional "pretty maid."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)