First I want to say that the album, as always a-ha, resembles a patchwork quilt. All the songs are very different. But I have noticed it is possible to assume that the main idea of the album is the past and memories. I don’t think it was especially, most likely it was relevant at the time.
The title track of the album “Cast in Steel” is very bright and clear. This song starts the theme of the past and memories. This is especially noticeable in the second verse. The vocals increasing at the beginning of the chorus together with string makes your heart stop. The strings sound so crystal that my chest fills with longing for something good to come. This is very reminiscent of “Foot of the Mountain” for me. The song seems to me, it is very difficult to perform constant transitions from medium to high tones. Amazing.
“Under the Makeup” reminds us that what makes a-ha stand out from all others. This is classic a-ha. In this regard, the song is the best choice for the first single. The clarity of Morten’s vocals, the beautiful music and lyrics. Paul’s authorship is immediately apparent. It sounds like a-ha of Lifelines-era. Orchestral parties emphasize the dramatic quality of the lyrics. The song is very cinematic. IMHO, the perfect song should inspire the “picture”, the story in my head with its history. In this sense, “Under the Makeup” – this is the perfect song. It brings tears to my eyes, but because of the lyrics, it sounds just as touching as an acoustic version.
I still confuse “The Wake” with Morten’s solo songs. In my opinion, it doesn’t sound like an a-ha song. The text is obviously written by Morten – philosophy and “baby” in the chorus – and in the music – Peter Kvint. The song sounds as if it didn’t climb in Brother. But his voice sounds great, and who can resist “Baby, your head on my shoulder”?
“Forest Fire” in a certain sense is classic a-ha too, but 80-s. It sounds very synth-pop. Sometimes so much that I’m bleeding from the ears. For me it is “Take On Me” 30 years later. To be honest, I was somewhat confused by the similarity with the “ТОМ” and “FOТМ” at the same time. But I must say that this musical introduction really sounds like dancing flames – playful but dangerous. The song sounds very like…Furuholmen with his love of synth sounds. One would expect that this song will be the second single, but it somehow did not happen. “We take you far and wide, and like always leave a silver lining scar” – it is written about the relationship of a-ha and fans.
“Objects In The Mirror” is the most vivid example of nostalgia in the songs. The feeling that the song is an overview Magne sees from the music of the past and the fact of the reunion. This is one of the features of Magne’s songwriting – very good glimpse inside the human experience. It reminds me of the atmosphere of the first albums. But only the atmosphere, not the meaning. “In your comfortable car” sounds very tasty with Morten’s pronunciation.
In “Door Ajar” I see again the echoes of “personal issues”. Door ajar, there is always the opportunity to come back to the past…But at the same time for me it is absolutely not an a-ha-song. This song does not develop in the course of their actions. It does not have any vocal or musical features.
“Living at the End of the World” is great. In this song everything is perfect: text, music and vocal. The climbing vocals sound so inspiring that I want to save the planet from pollution, do not use electricity and go barefoot in the sunset. Harket usually is very minimalistic in music, but here he made a good composition. Music and voice complement each other, filling the chest trembling.
“Mythomania” is my favorite on the album. As I said above, Magne is the master of socio-psychological texts. I think that the lyrics will resonate with everyone who ever became entangled in self-deception. Although I think that the second verse a little crumpled in meaning. This song is on a par with a “Cozy Prisons” for the lyrics and with “Scoundrel Days” for the atmosphere. And maybe something from Depeche Mode. Very simple in music, it is perfectly complemented with the right vocal intonations and actually lyrics.
“She’s Humming a Tune”. I know that this song was written in 1985, and I think it should stay there. I mean that it is completely inappropriate to this album by fifty-years men, because it sounds like more lyrical version of the song “You are the one”. Experiences of “How could it matter to me” sounds totally not realistic. Overall this is typical early Paul.
“Shadow Endeavors” sounds very unusual for a-ha. In fact a voice makes the melody but what happens at 2:45?! Too much was obvious that this includes pieces of other songs! This was evident at the first hearing and confirmed later. Oh, I like them both, but they would sound better individually. Especially one that after 2:45. In fact it is the transition makes interesting and though a little lively this sticky heavy-synthetic ballad.
“Giving Up the Ghost” – yes, yes, yes, it again Herr Furuholmen and its socio-psychological theme! Once again, a theme of rejection of the past, its ghosts and illusions. String arrangements softens Morten’s grim vocals a bit. Lines going “second plane” at the end of the song and interwoven with the first plane, sound like intrusive memories in my head. In Russian it is called “zvukopis” – reception to amplify the sound expression of artistic text. It sounds wonderful, the most interesting moment in the song, in my opinion.
“Goodbye Thompson” closes the album with a sense of bitter melancholy. It’s goodbye to the fact that it was expensive for a long time. And, of course, it also carries the theme of the past. I liked that Paul gave an explanation about the song, so the song has a story, it adds a mysterious aura. Though on the other hand, a farewell is a cause for an association with one more farewell to the fans. It can compete with “Barely Hanging On” or “To Let You Win” in dismalness. I think that if it had not completed the album, and was in the middle, it would have been completely invisible.
Concluding the review, I can say that if I didn’t know that this is album of 2015, I would have thought it was the beginning of the song of the 2000s. I think that a-ha quoted themselves a little. But this is not such a bad sense during the reunion, because it makes the band a recognizable even for non-fans.