June 23, 2024

I don’t know about you, but it never seemed to rain when I was a teenager. I can’t really claim to be a carefree and optimistic kind of bloke all of the time, but still, when I think of the 1980s, it always seemed to be full summer, with the ice cream van chiming in the background, and the heat radiating off the pavement in waves. For all the horrible electronic pinging and dinging noises dominating the charts in those days, my musical memories are mostly rock-tinged pop – Dave Lee Roth, Heart, Def Leppard et al. If you ever feel a desire to return to those balmy days of glam makeup and peroxide perms, you could do a lot worse than get under a decent pair of headphones and stick this here Issa album on repeat.

Photo by James Martin

Incredibly, this is the blonde Norwegian bombshell’s eighth album, having been signed to Frontiers for 15 years, she has an undeniably great voice, and I can’t believe she has never registered on my radar before. Her style is deliberately and unashamedly ‘80s-inspired, and could best be characterised as hair metal, melodic metal, soft metal, or however you used to describe this end of the pop market. Most of the bands peddling this genre back then were male – think Whitesnake, Bon Jovi, Poison, Aerosmith, Bryan Adams, or <insert act here>. But the girls were at it too; Heart, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, and even The Bangles in their heavier moments.

The songs are written by Issa’s English husband James Martin and his brother Tom, who also both play in their own ‘80s-inspired band Nitrate. There is inevitably a lot of cross-pollination between the two camps, but it means they get to sort out which song is best for which act, and there’s no denying that Issa’s powerful pipes do these songs justice. James and Tom play keys and bass respectively on this album, with Tom also on guitar. The main band is completed by Leon Robert Winteringham, also on guitars and backing vocals, but a raft of other musicians contribute too.

The set opens innocuously enough, with a faded-in solo vocal, quiet and lo-fi – then Armed & Dangerous suddenly bursts in on a chugging, hard rock backing, with plenty going on – whammy guitar, synth sounds, and Issa’s high, powerful vocals. This is commercial, chart-friendly 1980s metal to a tee. It is followed by All These Wild Nights, which is less metal and more melodic pop-rock, recalling both The Bangles and Bryan Adams. It features a great guitar solo by Phil O’Dea of Big Guns, although a bit low in the mix for some reason, but nevertheless, it’s a prime pick for a single, and is the featured video at the foot of this page.

Only In The Dark is a slower piece, reminiscent of the more balladic Heart numbers, specifically to my ears, These Dreams, and includes an acoustic guitar solo. In contrast, the faster Never Sleep Alone gets up to the rockier end of Within Temptation’s symphonic repertoire. There are also a couple of nice bits of evil laughing thrown in for good measure.

The Road To Victory is another pop-rocker that could have been from the Bangles songbook, with jangly synths and overdriven rhythm guitars; there is an imaginative key change into the guitar solo too. In fact, many of the numbers tend towards Susanna Hoffs vocal styling, although Got A Hold On Me brings Julianne Regan of All About Eve to mind. The gated snare drum leaves no doubt as to the song’s 1980s heritage, although more impressive shredding guitar updates the sound somewhat.

The album totals 11 songs and 50 minutes in all, and the vocals never fail to impress. If melodic metal is your thing, it’s nice to know someone is still doing it, and doing it right.

Another World by Issa is out now on Frontiers