If you go with the theory that, in terms of a music library, what you actually buy and pay for is, by default, your favourite then surely Pretty Maids must be one of my favourite bands of all time. I think I own virtually everything the band has ever done; live albums, singles, EP’s, rare compilations with Japanese bonus tracks, all that stuff…and I’m not usually a collector. They are one of the few bands I follow religiously, we are talking desert island albums territory. So yeah, my bias is fully admitted to, I love these guys and the latest album, UNDRESS YOUR MADNESS is no exception.
Arriving late in 2019 this made my Top list for the year claiming the #2 spot with ease. I’m not alone in my praise as the staff collectively via our ranking system placed this album at #8 in out Top 20 for 2019. Many fans, myself included are saying it is certainly the strongest Pretty Maids album since PANDEMONIUM back in 2010 and even in the bands Top 5 albums of all time. If you analyze the scenario, the band has been on a decade-long ‘comeback’. They never really went away but the years from 2000-to 2010 was a bit weaker with three, softer, less well-received albums culminating in the rare-ish album WAKE UP TO THE REAL WORLD in 2006. Incidentally this was the bands first record for Frontiers Records. The record company must have said, “Guys, you need to rethink and get back to the old stuff” because after a four year hiatus the band returned (hence the comeback) with the absolutely crushing PANDEMONIUM album, widely regarded as one of their best. So now, four albums deep into their comeback, (even five if you include the remake album LOUDER THAN EVER) the band has unleashed UNDRESS YOUR MADNESS. The quality of the last four studio albums is so high, it is getting hard to choose a favourite.
We are graced with another eye-catching cover by Kai Brockschimdt, who has been working with the band during their comeback years and if you look the design and layout is very similar to the last album, KINGMAKER when combined make kind of a devil vs. angel scenario. The cover art of course has the classic Pretty Maids logo and font. Jacob Hansen, the man I give partial credit to reinvigorating the band since PANDEMONIUM, produces the album once again. This has been a bit of a line-up change since the last album, now a quartet again with new drummer ex-Royal Hunt skinpounder, Allen Sorensen and Swedish keyboardist, Chris Laney. There has been no significant change in tone, tempo, style execution or delivery of the new batch of songs, but the songs are just a bit better. There are some subtle differences, this album is a hint heavier than the last couple with tracks like ‘Black Thunder’, ‘Slave Driver’ and ‘If You Want Peace Prepare for War’ The albums is bolstered by the heavy lead-off track and first video/single ‘Serpentine’. Another highlight is the track ‘Firesoul Fly’ with a very infectious hook and catchy chorus. As always the band excel at soaring melodic ballads in this case we are treated to two such songs ‘Will You Still Kiss Me (If I See You In Heaven)’ which is a heart breaking song about watching a lover die, and the album closer, ‘Strength of A Rose’ a superb and elegant quiet closer to a blustering album. To me this record is flawless.
It was a dark day in late 2019 when I read that Ronnie Atkins had been diagnosed with cancer. His public announcement was just before the album came out and I worried about the future of the band I enjoy so much. If this is the last thing the band ever does they went out on an incredible high note with UNDRESS YOUR MADNESS.