A-ha: Cast In Steel

review aha x1 cong

Famous for Morten Harket (“gorgeous” and “like a model” according to a former fan) and that video where a cartoon character comes to life, A-ha had a string of hits before saying they were retiring in 2009, after the release of their ninth studio album Foot of the Mountain.
Now they’re back (but for two years only) with a new album which, like Ordinary Boys, is much better than you might expect. There are a couple of ballady tunes that veer towards Boyzone but they could be on to appease their original fan base, who are probably now mothers of teenage children. Or perhaps they always include some ballads; we can’t say, having never heard an A-ha album before.
The album opens with the title track, a gentle tune that won’t scare the children and animals, the same being true of Under The Makeup, though it is a little edgier. Track three, The Wake, is a classic A-ha pop / dance tune, with gorgeous Morten making the most of his voice, though the chorus is slightly soppy. There are a couple of Hooky-style bass moments that give it some street cool, though overall this could be a Pet Shop Boys tune; only Harket’s voice makes it A-ha.
Forest Fire is pacier, opening with a stereotypical A-ha synth riff, while Objects In The Mirror is a bit of a gay dance anthem, Depeche Mode with strings. And so it goes.
A-ha are still looking good; based on the album sleeve they’ve spent their retirement years marching manfully through forests, uprooting trees and fighting bears, their model looks replaced by a slightly more grizzled and outdoorsy vibe.
Musically it’s more of the same but it’s good; their former audience might buy it for the band’s looks and for nostalgia but their former audience’s husbands can still secretly enjoy the tunes. Old fans should buy this without hesitation, and if you like synth pop, it’s a strong album in its own right. Expect to see A-ha bothering the charts once again.

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