Published on October 1st, 2019 | by Justin G.
Alien: Alien 25 Year Anniversary (AOR Heaven, 2019)
Swedish melodic rockers Alien got off to an interesting start when they made their debut in 1988. The band, which featured guitar hotshot Tony Borg and vocalist Jim Jidhead, recorded and released their self-titled debut for the Scandinavian market, but Jidhead left the band before the album’s international release. The label apparently had high hopes for the album overseas, so as soon as Alien found a replacement for Jidhead (the excellent Pete Sandberg), they remixed the original album, swapped out a pair of songs for two new recordings with Sandberg, and gave it new cover artwork. So by 1989 there were two different Alien albums on the market for different regions. Alien didn’t help matters by releasing another totally different self-titled album in 1993, but that’s another matter.
On the debut Alien album, we’re introduced to a band that played a very polished and melodic brand of hard rock. You can tell they paid attention when Europe broke big with The Final Countdown. House Of Lords, King Kobra and Bonfire are other comparison points. The melodies are first-rate and the vocals are very smooth, and the whole thing (either version) seems tailor-made for late ‘80s movie soundtracks. “Tears Don’t Put Out The Fire” is the obvious single, but the surprisingly effective cover of the Gibb brothers’ penned “Only One Woman” was a hit in Sweden. On the US version, “Now Love” and The Hollies cover “The Air That I Breathe” showed what Sandberg could bring to the band.
The US version of Alien, good as it was, didn’t make Alien the next Europe or Def Leppard here in the states. Big obnoxious hair metal was still very much the dominant style on radio and MTV, and Alien may have been too polished for that scene. They may not have been huge successes here, but Alien (and its follow-up album Shiftin’ Gear) remain classic examples of what was so great about the Scandinavian melodic rock sound in the ‘80s. Fans of Europe, Treat, Skagarack and the like should definitely check out Alien, especially now that it has been re-reissued.
Edition Notes: EMI finally brought both versions of Alien together in 2013 as a 2-disc 25 Year Anniversary release. It featured the original Scandinavian album plus a pair of early demos on one disc and the US version on disc 2. Both albums were remastered, and the liner notes provided some valuable insights into what was going on with the band at the time. It was a really well-done reissue set, but it came and went fairly quickly.
AOR Heaven issued a new version this year, and it’s essentially just a repressing of the 2013 version. They even kept the 25 Year Anniversary title despite the fact that the album is 31 now. The only noticeable change is that they slapped their logo on it. It was a great reissue to start with though, and it gives fans another chance to own these classic albums, so you can’t really fault them for their approach. If you missed this set the first time around, don’t let this one pass you by. AOR Heaven reissues tend to be small runs and disappear quickly.
Summary: Swedish AOR royalty, re-reissued