a-ha’s unexpected but very much welcome comeback album allowed for the potential to take on new ground in terms of musical direction or even lyrical content if they so wished. Many fans were just hopeful of new material again one day in whatever shape or form it arrived. On Cast In Steel, there is a clear identity of a band creatively using both musical and subject matter of the past to navigate their way forward. The luxury of being able to lean on such a rich and detailed history effectively allows the songwriting to be true, to be right and to be real – to quote the nostalgic mindset of the excellent title track – which opens the album in wistful brilliance.
The musical nods to the past serve as a theme throughout with, for example, the outro on “Objects In The Mirror” borrowing the riff from “Take On Me” in slightly varied, piano form.
Interestingly, for three of Paul’s songs, Alan Tarney has his first input on a-ha album for 27 years, and those songs are intricately detailed with many vocal and instrumental layers included from the original a-ha producer. One of them, “Shadow Endeavors”, has a very interesting, almost dub-step feel to the production, before using the cut and paste method, often evident on songs throughout the band’s career.
On a-ha’s last studio album, Foot Of The Mountain, Paul’s original idea for the title track was merged with Magne’s solo track “The Longest Night” to form what is already considered an a-ha classic and staple. This time an early “Scoundrel Days” demo idea surfaces to great effect as the end of the “Shadow Endeavors” takes an unexpected but gripping turn at the finale using the very same method.
“She’s Humming A Tune” is an early a-ha piece that Paul has revamped because of rediscovering and listening to old demo tapes. Thankfully he did listen as with the modern production, this song deserves its place on an official release and to be heard by a mass audience. Sweeping synths and great bass work from new session player, Even Ormestad make it one of the highlights of the album, and it’s easy to see why fans voted it the song they wanted to hear most on the current tour and also why the band has duly obliged.
If this does turn out to be the final a-ha album then it is potentially written with that possibility in mind as it almost serves as a retrospective of a-ha and a summing up of the band’s career.
The classic a-ha elements are there in the production, chord structures, Morten’s soaring vocals and also songwriting contributions from all three corners.
One thing is certain, though, and that is Cast In Steel stands alongside all of a-ha’s previous work and shows why this is a band that should keep on recording. It is well-known that there is a feeling internally that the ultimate a-ha album hasn’t been recorded yet, and their drive for this should hopefully give them the legs for album 11, where they might just be able to say: Bingo!