Moonland - Moonland
Frontiers Records
Melodic AOR
12 songs (52' 41")
Release year: 2014
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Andy
Crap of the month

I'd never heard of Estonian pop group Vanilla Ninja, but apparently it was big in Central Europe. From that band, now on hiatus, comes a new solo project by way of guitarist/vocalist Lenna Kuurmaa, more rock-oriented: Moonland, with a self-titled debut album. The statements on the label's website are telling; basically the record company approached Kuurmaa, now a pop star in both the television and music industries, and asked her if she'd like to make a big gob of money, on the strength of her previous band's success, from singing a bunch of excruciatingly generic 80s pop/rock ballads the company had had somebody write...wait, did I say that out loud?

Oh no.

So what I was really going to say, before I put my foot in my mouth and told you all the truth, was "a bunch of beautiful Melodic Rock songs", which is not in the slightest bit true, but is what the label has the audacity to claim.

With Heaven Is to Be Close to You, the listener hears pretty much every other song that's on here, which is to say that it sounds like just about any Heart or Roxette album produced after 1985. The guitar is slick and heavily produced with distortion that is just strong enough to add a bit of punch without making it dangerous for anyone who liked the Top 40 end of 80s rock, and the gated drums would be perfectly at home on a Bryan Adams album. There's a keyboard tinkling in the background of just about all the choruses and a thumping, throbbing bass in Open Your Heart, as well as inoffensive solos using a squeaky-clean overdrive that makes Boston's guitar effects sound brutal and evil by comparison. By the time the third song, Crime of Love, opens up with the same mid-tempo beat that the last two did, it starts to become rather painful. Poison Angel gets a little faster, though the "bzoooom" of the guitar sliding to a power chord (I'd presume this is to add excitement) is pretty annoying, but When Love Is Gone at least sounds at first like it's going to have a little more oomph to it, at least on the order of some of Heart's 1990 hits. It doesn't, though -- the listener is doomed to disappointment by a generic chorus without a strong tune --, and this gets me to the most damning features of Moonland: The limp songwriting and Kuurmaa's apparent lack of any passion.

Incredibly, nobody in the label's songwriting department looked at songs like this and realized that unlike the pop ballads they pastiche, their verse and chorus are completely aimless; at least the originals usually had a rousing melody. Kuurmaa appears to know that, because her voice, which is quite pretty, is no more emotional than that of an anonymous diva on an anime soundtrack -- and why not? After all, the songs are all album filler and don't make any demand on her. Half the time, when her voice ought to end in a soaring chorus, it trots along with the boring melodies and uninspiring rhythms to leave the listener unfulfilled -- and futilely hoping the next song will be better. Slight exceptions to this low standard are Cold as Ice and Look at Us Now, which at least have a more melodic chorus -- not by much -- and the listener is then returned to the norm quickly.

It takes a special kind of record to get this bad a rating from me (in two years of being on the site, I think this is my first Crap of the Month), but then, this has to be one of the laziest and most soulless pieces of crap I've heard in years, and after listening to it I'm surprised to find that I'm slightly offended on behalf of an audience that probably doesn't even listen to much metal. It appears that a record company deliberately set out to make the most generic turd of an AOR production they could manufacture to wring a bit more money out of a pop star's fans, and unfortunately, I was foolish enough to try it out. Don't be like me, and give Moonland a pass if it comes your way.

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