I woke up expecting a grand adventure toward Paradise, but all I left with was tinnitus.
Recently rekindled EDM supergroup Swedish House Mafia—composed of club-giants Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso—released their long-touted studio album Paradise Again.
EDM ran rampant and was undeniably infectious from the late aughts through the early teens, and Swedish House Mafia proved a decisive factor in that success. Nestling themselves alongside other EDM greats like Steve Aoki, Zedd, and Calvin Harris, SHM experienced plentiful successes through the likes of “Save the World” and “Don’t You Worry Child.” These tracks were repeat offenders on every popular radio station—and were seemingly unavoidable. Even the less popular “Miami 2 Ibiza”—a club masterpiece—left me bobbing my head involuntarily.
Working their way back into the mainstream earlier this year, Swedish House Mafia co-produced “How Do I Make You Love Me?” and “Sacrifice” alongside pop-juggernaut The Weeknd. Focused and tightly packed, this pair of tracks easily mesh with and define Dawn FM’s synth-disco tribute. This album was met with overwhelming praise in January 2022. I still blast “Sacrifice” as loud as humanly possible when I need a jolt of adrenaline.
The Weeknd repaid the favor by featuring on “Moth To A Flame”—Swedish House Mafia’s first teaser to Paradise Again—where he absolutely stole the show. Now, with Paradise Again in our hands, it appears this is the only track with real firepower. That’s a problem.
From an objective standpoint, Paradise Again probably would’ve met greater success during the peak of EDM, but the effort feels ten years too late. Most tracks on this album lack particularly distinguishable qualities and, for the most part, feel one in the same. Every track after “Mafia” experiences the same insatiable droning. It almost sounds like SHM is preparing the audience for their next memorable beat drop, but the drop never shows.
While A$AP Rocky delivers one of his laziest efforts on “Frankenstein,” this track proves that Swedish House Mafia excels in sharing and breathing life into other artists’ visions. They absolutely crushed their production efforts on The Weeknd’s album, and to their credit, “Frankenstein”—while lyrically void—does have decent production. The trouble with this, however, emerges whenever features aren’t present. That’s fairly often on this album as their own efforts fall flat and feel dry.
Aside from the two feature-proofed tracks, the only other I’d consider revisiting is “Don’t Go Mad,” which, ironically, is how I began to feel listening to this project as a whole. This four-minute play could have probably ended at the two minute mark and would have had the same effect.
Oh, “Home” is decent enough, too.
Glancing at the remaining track titles, the album almost pleads for listeners to wade their way through nearly twenty more minutes of boring synth loops and lackluster vocal production. The project promises “It Gets Better” (it doesn’t), asks “Can U Feel It” (no, I can’t), begs for “Another Minute” (there are actually eight more minutes at this point), and concludes with one last track “For You.” I can’t shake the feeling that this is the Swedish House Mafia’s way of rewarding those who muscled their way through Paradise Again, but the reward is nothing astonishing, either. At least Logic rewarded fans with one cohesive bout of bars at the end of the messy Bobby Tarantino III.
Ten years too late may be the best description for an album that lacks pulse and spark. I’m sure Swedish House Mafia will find a way to spin these records at the megafestavals they have been nurtured by, but there is nothing for the non-raver. I cannot shake the feeling that other EDM giants like Porter Robinson grew up and explored a refreshing sound, while SHM found and delivered the status quo.
Paradise Again is out now.