My first time listening to Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects I thought, “These guys just need to play a show with Mr. Big.” Then there it is, right in there biography, they’ve played gigs with multiple members of the band famous for “To Be With You.” As a guy who will fight someone to the brink of death about the merits of the mighty Lean Into It album, these Croatian rockers can even give Mr. Big a run for their hairspray money. On their third album, Counterclockwise, Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects channel the monster ballad abilities of Extreme and ‘80s Kansas and combine them with the heavy progressive rock of Dream Theater and clean-singing Opeth with great success.
Let’s address this right away: Ivan Mihaljevic has a voice that can part the clouds and summon sunlight. He has serious pipes and belts these songs out with searing passion and soul. He over-sings a little on “Gilded Cage” but the rest of these songs bow to the majesty of his vocal cords. He nails some notes that just floored me, plus provides sizzling six-string solos. The rest of the band is similarly skilled and can flat out play with impressive cohesion and chemistry. Marko Karacic’s slap bass really steals the show when they play heavy funk, like on “Build Your Destiny.” Then there’s resourceful drummer Alen Frljak, who provides solid, intricate support that is so essential for music this technical. This is a supremely talented trio of musicians, but it would matter very little if they couldn’t write songs.
Luckily for us all, they can. With enormous radio-friendly choruses and guitar hooks that lure you in with deceptive grace before kicking into hard-edged rock, these are songs that demand to be heard and will have you singing along after one listen. “Driving Force” and “Gift of Life” both feature some of the darker moments on the album but Mihaljevic guides the songs to the light with his dependable croon, keeping each song focused and melodic even when the double-bass pummels and the guitars crunch. But for me the real highlight is “Eclipse,” an epic that absolutely earns its length and has endless sonic ideas. From the sweeping, orchestral intro there’s a true sense of tragedy. The song shifts with great confidence and range, morphing fluidly from progressive metal with momentum and teeth to heartfelt solos to a haunting march that ends the song. This track alone could convert non-believers to the power of Ivan Mihaljevic & Side Effects’ eternally-burning triumphant rock.
Counterclockwise may turn the clock back to pay homage to some past guitar heroes, but it still feels fresh and modern. While the length of some of their best songs don’t easily translate to radio success this band is the whole package and their polished, eclectic rock is waiting to conquer you. Set your clock: Now is the time to be conquered.
Check out their music over at their official website: http://www.ivanmihaljevic.com/