[Album Review] Paradise Again, the first full-length album by Swedish House Mafia, is a 17-track foray into a new and refreshing sound from the EDM legends.
Swedish House Mafia are pioneers of electronic dance music. Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso first rose to fame as some of the most respected electronic music producers in the mid 2000s. They teamed up and became pop superstars during the EDM bubble of the 2010s, but they just released their first-ever full length LP in 2022: Paradise Again.
While their 2012 album Until Now features some of their greatest hits, that album is really a compilation of popular electro songs from the era, some of which don’t even include SHM. Paradise Again is the first time these three legends have ever collaborated on a real album. The result is creative, a bit dark, somewhat “out there”, and 100% worth listening to on repeat.
Swedish House Mafia – ‘Paradise Again‘ is available now on all platforms.
While it’s mostly obvious now, it’s still worth noting that this album is a serious departure from their previous sound.
Swedish House Mafia are known for their singalong festival anthems, but they’re pursuing a new style on Paradise Again. It’s a sound that no one has ever really tried before, and at the very least, the trio demands respect for going against expectations and doing what they want. In their Billboard cover story last year, Axwell is actually quoted as saying “I think we scrapped like 12 ‘Don’t You Worry Childs’ while making the new album.”
With that that in mind, I came in with no expectations. My taste in electronic dance music is unapologetically nostalgic. There’s something unique about EDM created from 2014 and earlier that just hits differently. I think most fans would agree that they’d love a return to that era and sound, but at this point, it’s obvious that simply none of those artists want to relive the past. They prefer to shape the future and push their own boundaries of electronic music production in the process.
Swedish House Mafia’s singles from the album have earned mixed reviews, but the entire Paradise Again album more accurately showcases their creativity.
Hip-hop leaning singles “Moth To A Flame” with The Weeknd and “Lifetime” with Ty Dolla $ign prove their ability to make mainstream music. On the other hand, “It Gets Better” and “Redlight” featuring Sting introduce a darker and electronically inclined sound.
The album finds a happy medium between those experimental vibes and a modern pop style that will satisfy crowds at arenas across the world. Nothing on the album is particularly game-changing; it’s an interesting mix of tracks that meet expectations and get better with multiple listens.
Paradise Again eases in listeners with two of the more predictable tracks on the album, but “Time” and “Heaven Takes You Home” immediately stand out.
The production on these tracks just sounds full and satisfying. Both are vocal-driven songs created by three of the best in the game. After a quick piano interlude before “Moth To a Flame”, things start to get weird on the fifth song: “Mafia“. SHM brings in big, heavy synths to create an eerie and uncomfortable atmosphere for one of the album’s best EDM tracks. “Don’t Go Mad” with Seinabo Sey brings the energy, giving off a nu disco feel that would work on a Duck Sauce album.
On the other hand, I expected more from the A$AP Rocky collaboration “Frankenstein“. The title track “Paradise Again” is more of a synthesizer circlejerk than a real song, and the repeated vocal sample on “Home” just doesn’t work for me. I honestly started losing interest during my first listen, but things picked up considerably towards the end.
In the context of the whole album, “It Gets Better” and “Redlight” are easily two of the best songs.
“Calling On“, “19:30″ and “Can U Feel It” are all ready for the mainstage at EDC or Ultra Music Festival. These are mostly instrumental tracks that touch on a classic Swedish House Mafia vibe. I just wish some of these songs were longer. Personally, I’d rather see a few extended, interesting productions instead of a collection of seventeen 4-minute ideas. But maybe that isn’t really realistic given the genre of the album…whatever that is.
“Another Minute” recruits rapper 070 Shake and Avicii songwriters Vargas & Lagola for an impressive track that features complicated synth layers and almost no drums. I was hoping the last song “For You” would just be a massive big room banger for the fans, but the actual result is a bit more tame. However, it stands out with a positive vibe and emotional chords to send off the album properly.
Paradise Again will likely go down as the best electronic music album of the year, and I can’t wait to experience the next phase of Swedish House Mafia’s career.
While we may never relive the magic of the early EDM years, there’s plenty to be excited about in the future of the electronic music scene. Artists like Swedish House Mafia and Hardwell are setting the tone for this new decade of music. Maybe the days of generic and oversaturated garbage are coming to an end, and pure creativity and artistry are coming back to the forefront.
It makes me happy knowing Axwell, Ingrosso, and Angello put out an album they’re truly proud of. They rejected a high paying record deal and lucrative contracts to create something that they felt in their heart. At a time when EDM producers usually follow trends and chase Spotify streams, SHM really honed in on a specific vibe that resonated with them and went all in. Paradise Again deserves attention for that reason alone.
The release of Paradise Again feels like a turning point in the post-pandemic EDM scene. Things are still warming up; festivals are just trying to break even on their finances, most of the headlining artists are the same for every event, and a lot of new music has left me wanting more. But maybe this is the step in the right direction that we need. And maybe Swedish House Mafia is here to Save The World.