In 2009, Norwegian group a-ha announced to the world that they intended to split up after the tour of their outstanding ninth album “Foot of the Mountain”. We fast forward to 2015 and see the very welcome return of the legendary band with new album “Cast In Steel“, one of their strongest albums to date.
One of the strengths of “Cast in Steel” is creative input by the entire band. All three members of a-ha contributed to the writing and production of various songs. The album doesn’t feel fragmented by the various collaborations and from start to finish it has that unmistakable a-ha feel of quality.
The new album see a-ha reunited on three songs with their early producer Alan Tarney. However this album is not an attempt to recapture the past and I would argue that songs produced by Tarney are some of the lesser remarkable moments on the album. I’m not for a moment suggesting that they are bad songs but I did have a slight disappointment that the material did not have the same impact as those on the classic “Scoundrel Days” album.
a-ha have had at many times expressed their admiration for ‘Dépêche Mode’ including covering “A Question of Lust” on Radio 2 and I have always felt that both bands shared the same musical DNA. Two of the highlights on the new album, “Giving up the Ghost” and “Mythomania” are further evidence of these shared musical influences. These two songs written by Magne Furuholmen and co-produced by Erik Ljunggren find a-ha gifting the listener with their most vibrant and interesting material since “Minor Earth, Major Sky” in 2000.
“Cast in Steel” is also a showcase for the vocal talents of Morten Harket. He is easily one of the most criminally underrated vocalists in the history of modern music. The emotional depth and quality of his vocal on “Cast in Steel” is sheer perfection. The first single “Under the Make Up” is a fine example of the conviction and passion that he brings to every single song that he does.
So 30 years since their big break through with “Take on Me” and their debut “Hunting High and Low”, a-ha have returned strongly. I personally think it would be very sad if this were to be their last work together because they continue to consistently deliver outstanding and coherent albums with every new release.
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