degreed (purposely spelled with a lowercase d) is a Swedish melodic hard rock group that formed back in 2005 with Swedish Idol finalist Robin Ericsson. Following their 2013 album We Don't Belong (their debut being 2010's Life Love Loss), the band supposedly wrote at least sixteen songs, fourteen of which makes up their third full-length, Dead But Not Forgotten. The apparent reason for this is because "they're all so freakin' good!" according to Robin, going on to describe the effort as being the "degreed sound" they are known for. But has the short amount of time between releases left the band scraping quality with this new effort, or does the latest album stand as one of their strongest recordings yet?

For the most part, Dead But Not Forgotten is a mixture of eighties and modern day hard rock with an electronic touch and superbly crisp production quality. "Kill Your Darlings" is a prime example thanks to the gritty back alley riffs and atmospheres felt through much of the performance, even in certain bridges that have a little bit of southern attitude behind them. The chorus, however, wastes little time in pushing that bleaker sensation aside with a few more upbeat moments on par with the Iron Maiden classic "Wasted Years". Other than a few segments like that, this is a pristinely digital recording that doesn't lack any bite due to how rich everything sounds. There is some questionable washout from time to time on the cymbals buried in the background, but due to everything going on it could be misinterpreted fading after being hit. It's hard to tell with how loud the keyboards end up being in the mix next to the rest of the instruments.

Other than the chorus, "Better Safe Than Sorry" has some main verses that do end up on the whiny side thanks to the thinner music and vocals. The chorus and some of the bridges, however, do pack more of an amphitheatre rock approach, as does the keyboard solo about two-and-a-half minutes, all boasting more of an upbeat "feel good hit of the summer" vibe that is actually pretty empowering to an extent. "Touch of Paradise" asserts itself like a teenage punk rock anthem, the kind you would expect to hear on any modern rock radio station here in North America. It's catchy for the most part, setting up a warm night surrounded by friends with a loved one close in hand, making the memories that you will one day reflect on as the best years of your life (if you're lucky enough to have that sort of experience, of course).

"Love Me, Love Me Not" ends up a fairly decent love song overall. There's nothing really substantial about it lyrically, and the guitars and drums are pretty standard outside the chorus. Sadly, the keyboards in the main verses are just incredibly overpowering, taking away any impact that the stringed instruments are putting in. The vocals are also pretty stagnant, really sticking to the somewhat nasal mid-level pitch with little enthusiasm or range other than the brief push of energy around two-and-a-half minutes in. Some extra falsettos would have been a nice touch at the end of certain lines of lyrics, just to add some extra variety to such basic track that's just too busy in the electronics department. Even in "Start Again", one can't help but feel that there could be more of a push in the chorus than what is present. In no way is this saying it's bad, but, by the end, you really wish there would be some higher or heated vocals for the sake of accentuating the climax to an otherwise powerful performance.

"The Scam", however, sounds more like a power metal influenced cut than anything, reminiscent immediately of Masterplan, but with more of a hard rock touch you could argue has traces similar to Sentenced at times. It's a high energy explosion of one infectious hook after another with a subtle Southern touch that is unmistakeable in the chorus, even if the keyboards do keep it in a sleeker world. The same goes for "Face the Fact" and it's sombre sounding crystalline notes from the aforementioned instrument from time to time, channelling the general atmosphere of the aforementioned group,, but also a bit of goth rock in the vein of Lullacry. Even "Final Ride" has some metallic tinges at play, jumping between NWOBHM to progressive influences.

While not every song on Dead But Not Forgotten is "freakin' awesome!", there's no denying that most of the release is actually pretty remarkable. There's a number of tracks that take full advantage of not just the melody, but the atmospheres that the keyboards are able to stir up with the greatest of ease. Whether it's a warm memory from your past, a bleak dose of depression and lose, or blood boiling encouragement, degreed manage to nicely top themselves on this release, though not when falling prey to typical mainstream punk rock ideals. All of this makes for an album accessible to all those of the metal and rock worlds, young and old alike. If you haven't had the opportunity to check out these melodic maestros, Dead But Not Forgotten is a fantastic place to start, and one you won't soon regret.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.