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C.K.O. - Are You With Me

Are You With Me
by Chris Hicklin at 04 April 2022, 7:05 PM

C.K.O. are a Swedish Hard Rock and Metal outfit born from the ashes of a project called BLACKSMITH LEGACY, they are new to me, and this is their debut album. Judging by the photo they are all grizzled veterans of the hard rock scene, and naturally being Swedish they are doing the Hard Rock thing properly, with excellent musicianship and anthemic vocal performances throughout, you’re going to hear some Bon Scott and Udo Dirkschneider in the vocals, and some Angus Young riffing with a dollop of fluidity in the guitar solos. But what does C.K.O. stand for, I hear you cry? Well, I can answer that, it stands for Claes Karlsson Official which denotes this as a project headed up by lead guitarist Claes Karlsson.

First track “Rock It” is a very 80s good-times Rock & Roller, it’s got a big cheesy riff, and raspy but very melodic vocals. The way it kicks off with a big rock wail tells you everything you need to know about what is coming up, as does the slick guitar solo. These are simple pleasures in the AC/DC vein, but pleasures they are. “Sicario” gets a little more serious with more thumping drums and a darker riff, while “Hold On” opens with a monster of a feel-good dual-guitar riff, but this gives way to a nice undulating meeting of keyboards and guitar and a pounding snare in the verses, while the choruses have a big sing-along tune with a mega-tight, hooky guitar that occasionally gallop into NWOBHM territory.

Goin Crazy” ups the tempo a bit, it’s a freight train of a track, barrelling along with powerful guitars and bass before they ironically slow things back down for the inappropriately titled “Fast Lane” which while not really being very fast at all, is a satisfying mid-tempo stomper with another memorable melodic chorus. Elsewhere there’s another rather formulaic party track in “Go Down” and they have a crack at a slower quasi-ballad on “Save Me,” it’s predictable but is buoyed by several quality guitar solos. This is immediately followed and much improved on by “Tomorrowland” which sees the band returning to the moodier sound we heard earlier on. Lyrically it is a fantasy-based track, with a brooding guitar riff utilising pull-offs and hammer-ons, it tells the story of a race of future people that come back in time to enslave us in our time, it’s a cracker. The same is also true of “Locked Inside” which sees the band bringing an altogether more aggressive sound as singer Johan Widerberg treats us to an angry, bewildered performance. The whole thing is supposed to evoke the terror and frustration of a man trapped inside his own body, unable to move or communicate with the outside world. The riffing is precise yet frantic, and the sterling rhythm section work of Rikki “the bastard” Dahl and Gustav Bromelius shines. It is a highly effective piece and undoubtedly the high point of the album.

There’s just time for another feelgood fist pumper to wrap things up in “Take A Chance,” a perfectly fine track, but perhaps a bit of an anti-climax after the giddy highs of the previous two pieces. While the band is certainly very accomplished, and their Hard Rocking approach can put a big smile on your face, I feel that they would benefit in future from steering towards the more serious material here. It’s not that they can’t knock out a classic party Rocker, they can, but when they turn their attention towards the more complex arrangements and more engaging lyrical content, they really hit it out of the park.

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 7
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1. Rock It
2. Sicario
3. Hold On
4. Goin’ Crazy
5. Fast Line
6. Borderline
7. Go Down
8. Save Me
9. Tomorrowland
10. Locked Inside
11. Take A Chance
Claes Karlsson - Guitars
Johan Widerberg - Vocals
Rikki “the bastard” Dahl - Drums
Gustav Bromelius - Bass
Anders Pålsson - Guitars
Record Label: Sliptrick Records


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Edited 07 July 2022

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