Swedish vocalist Kent Hilli releases his second solo album, ‘Nothing Left To Lose’, on Friday 4th August Produced by Jimmy Westerlund (One Desire) with co-production by Hilli and Ulrick Lönnqvist, the album is another melodic rock gem from Hilli, who has established himself as a premiere vocalist in the genre. It’s a superb mix of classic hard rock and AOR that channels all the greats like Survivor, Foreigner and even brings back memories of deep-genre gems like Icon, Prophet and FM too.
Hilli’s first solo effort, ‘The Rumble’ (2021), had been written and produced with compatriot and labelmate Michael Palace and was a continuation of the path that he had started out on since joining the group Perfect Plan in 2014. Prior to that, he had been a professional footballer until being forced to quit in 2001, whereupon he began singing with a covers band until deciding that he wanted to take his career more seriously and write his own material.
Signing to Frontiers to release their 2017 debut album, ‘All Rise’, the astounding ability of Perfect Plan’s lead singer was heard and acclaimed by an international audience via the record’s lead single, ‘In And Out Of Love’. Hilli has subsequently released two further studio albums with the band – ’Time For A Miracle’ (2020) and ‘Brace For Impact’ (2022) – as well as a live album and covers EP. Hilli has also participated on two albums by Restless Spirits (a project masterminded by Tony Hernando of Lords of Black), while successfully taking on the seemingly impossible task of stepping into the lead vocal role for ‘Shifting Time’, the 2022 album by the reactivated genre favourites Giant.
‘Nothing Left to Lose’ is a melodic masterpiece that deserves both fan and critical acclaim alike. It opens in an explosion of keyboards and guitars on lead track ‘Too Young’ and doesn’t let up in terms of quality and intensity until the fading notes of the very Queen-meets-Def Leppard like ‘Only Dreaming’. ‘Too Young’ barrels along in a kind of Journey meets Giant way with classic AOR melodies and Survivor style drama. Hilli has a voice designed perfectly for hard rock and an elongated guitar solo caps off what is a superb opening to this special album.
The title track keeps the quality high with Hilli serving up some impassioned vocals on a track that puts me in mind of something like Tyketto’s ‘Forever Young’. Muscle and melody combine perfectly on this six minute epic. Elsewhere, similar heaviness and drama can be found on tracks like ‘A Fool to Believe’, which has a kind of more modern European undertone often found on albums from the likes of bands like W.E.T. before it settles into something more akin to Whitesnake during their ‘Slip of the Tongue’ era. It builds nicely to a great chorus that will surprise you with its melody given the heavier nature of the verses. ‘Saving Us’, meanwhile, has a touch of the Scorpions ‘Savage Amusement’ era guitars in its opening and a chorus lifted straight from MSG’s ‘Save Yourself’ album on a big, bombastic rocker that will have your hands itching to bust out the air guitars!
Lou Gramm and Foreigner are a big influence on Hilli and you can here that coming through on tracks like ‘Stronger’ and ‘Does He Love Like Me’. The former has a huge synth opening reminiscent of a band like FM but then the guitars take over and the Foreigner vibes begin, particularly on the very dramatic chorus. ‘You won’t see me crying because I got stronger,’ Hilli sings, defiantly with all the might and muscles of the 80s hard rock scene behind him. This track, in particular, evokes comparisons with genre favourites like Prohpet and Icon too. ‘Does He Love Like Me’, meanwhile, contains some glorious 80s-leaning saxophone right from the ‘Santa Monica Pier’ night time scene from iconic movie, ‘The Lost Boys’. Hilli gives us his best Lou Gramm impression on the a chorus that just oozes class and timeless AOR glory.
Alongside Foreigner there are some obvious Survivor touchstones too. ‘Could This Be Love’ is a big, infectious slice of AOR joy that echoes something like Survivor’s classic ‘Didn’t Know it Was Love’. This would have been the lead single if we were releasing this album in 1987 with its ‘made for MTV’ harmonies an simple yet very effective melodies whilst ‘Start it All Over’ is very ‘Too Hot Too Sleep’ in it’s imagery and style, evoking Survivor’s iconic song ‘Desperate Dreams’. I can see the video for this track too! Moody lighting, hair, shapes and guitars flying everywhere as a Cindy Crawford-esque model gyrates in clean, white underwear against Hilli’s crisp, clear, melodic vocals.
No hard rock album is complete without its ballads. ‘Every Time We Say Goodbye’ has a kind of ‘Hysteria’ style chugging guitar feel to it and another gorgeous chorus whilst album closer, ‘Only Dreaming’ channels Aerosmtih’s ‘Dream On’ before Hilli’s deep vocals take over and we find him singing about things being not what they appear to be. The song builds through a terrific bridge before exploding in a huge, sing-along chorus which is part Queen and part Def Leppard. It’s a perfect way to close down an album that is time-stamped from an era of excess, bombast and pomp in the best possible way.
With ‘Nothing Left to Lose’, Kent Hilli has produced the best melodic rock album of 2023. There’s no filler, no padding here – every song grabs hold of the listener from the outset and demands to be heard. There’s so many references to other iconic bands but Hilli is not a tribute act either. He’s managed to combine influences and sounds from the 70s and 80s without ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ being an extended act of plagiarism. It’s a melodic classic in its own right with Hilli’s vocals front and centre throughout. Lou Gramm & Jimi Jamison are obvious touchstone but this is an album that has those classic American influences with a hint of a European undertone too. The best of both worlds and the best hard rock album of 2023 so far.
Tracklist: 1. Too Young 2. Nothing Left To Lose (feat. Jimmy Westerlund & Kai Hahto) 3. Could This Be Love 4. A Fool To Believe 5. Every Time We Say Goodbye 6. Stronger 7. Does He Love Like Me 8. Start It All Over 9. Heard It All Before 10. Saving Us 11. Only Dreaming Record Label: Frontiers Release Date: August 4th Buy ‘Nothing Left to Lose’ now