Swedish House Mafia make the reunion a complete reality: enter ‘Paradise Again’
Swedish House Mafia‘s debut album is finally here.
A year ago, would any of us have realistically believed that sentence? Even with Paradise Again currently sitting right in front of us and considering everything that’s led to this moment since July, it still doesn’t seem real.
But how did we even get here? And by that, we’re talking about the time between Ultra 2018 and today. We’re not going to sit here and retell the entire story of how Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello crossed paths in Stockholm in the 2000’s, decided to merge into a formal trio—sans Eric Prydz—and went on to rule the era that was dance music’s golden age. Paradise Again wasn’t even a thought in the back of anyone’s minds when Swedish House Mafia reconnected in the very same spot that they’d disbanded in a half-decade prior. On their trip from Sweden over to Miami, they’d only packed two unreleased tracks in their bags—which were created for the sole purpose of deploying through their Bayfront Park reformation and now “live in the internet“—pointing directly to the fact that “it’s Swedish House Mafia for life this time” was anything but an empty promise. And after the COVID-19 pandemic slammed the brakes on whatever blueprint they’d drawn up following their short-lived live run in 2019, Steve Angello put the idea of constructing a full-length album into play, the one mountain they’d yet to conquer considering Until One and Until Now were both compilations. Beyond the trio themselves, no one actually knew that was happening; the public perception had been that they’d simply shut the blinds to the outside world in the time following their final 2019 show in Saudi Arabia. But it felt like the answers that we’d searching for were suddenly inbound a year and a half later when news broke that the Swedes had swapped out Ron Laffitte for Sal Slaiby as manager, subsequently leading to Columbia Records being replaced with Republic Records. And after billboards with their emblematic three dots started popping up just three months later—with both the bombshell announce of Paradise Again and its first two singles trailing closely behind—everything seemed to come together.
We’d already become well accustomed to the fact that Swedish House Mafia were understandably moving on from the sound that epitomized dance music exactly a decade ago. Just like with Hardwell‘s recent reinvention, the reunion was never going to be an echo of the same formula they had used before the split, and we got a taste of that through the IDs they scattered across their 2019 sets. And while the quartet of pre-album deliveries—”It Gets Better,” “Lifetime” with Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, “Moth To A Flame” with their new Coachella partner The Weeknd, and “Redlight” with Sting—didn’t necessarily give anyone a singular roadmap as to where Paradise Again was headed creatively, they all make complete sense in the context of the project as a whole. That’s exactly how Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello earned their stripes as three of dance music’s most gifted minds for the better half of the previous 20 years, with Swedish House Mafia’s first-ever album taking a collective leap forward into that forenamed, inevitable progression that brings their pre-reunion identity up to speed with more modern times.
After one walkthrough of Paradise Again—which has a helping hand from Desembra, who takes home production credits on 16 of 17 tracks—it couldn’t be more apparent as to why the 2019 version of “It Gets Better”—which we ended up receiving anyway—was overhauled into the form that made the final tracklist. That same notion goes for why—if not for “songwriter disagreements”—”Underneath It All” may not have ended up in our hands after all considering it may have felt a little out of place in between the adjacent Paradise Again parts. Also joining “It Gets Better” as a tour ID that reached the Paradise Again finish line is “Frankenstein,” the album’s lone dance-rap hybrid that brings in A$AP Rocky, which receives both a production and lyrical facelift from its Ultra Europe unveiling nearly three years ago.
And as we move past the reunion tour IDs, there were a pair of tracks leading up to Paradise Again that we’d learned about earlier this year. Both “Can U Feel It” and “Don’t Go Mad” with Seinabo Sey were welcomed through Axwell and Steve Angello’s last-minute back-to-back in Israel, with the former cut standing next to “Redlight” as debatably the album’s most booming, in-your-face house number and the latter doubling as the uptempo ID that made most Ultra attendees believe for a split-second that Swedish House Mafia were replacing Hardwell as the festival closer. And if you’re immediately scanning the album for a cut that somewhat closely resembles Swedish House Mafia’s early-2010s flavor, look no further than “Heaven Takes You Home,” an absolutely blissful, chord-drenched number alongside Connie Constance. Paradise Again‘s genre adventure also takes a stab at a melodic-meets-old-school-house blend through tracks like its opener “Time” with Mapei, “Calling On”—which unexpectedly has co-production from Dancing Astronaut Artist to Watch in 2022 Fred again..—”Home,” and “For You,” the album’s nearly five-and-a-half-minute closer that’s a figurative ode to fans. But “Mafia” might’ve been the one that drew the most eyes as soon as the tracklist was uncovered, arriving as an unforgivingly dark, snare-filled production that walks right into the trio’s mosh-pit-ready cross with A$AP Rocky. On top of its cinematic title track seated at its halfway point, Paradise Again also comes rigged with an interlude in the form of a reunion alongside Jacob Mühlrad—who was behind “One Symphony“—on the aptly titled, piano-driven cut “Jacob’s Note” that seamlessly guides the album into “Moth To A Flame.” And this couldn’t come to a close without mention of “19.30” and “Another Minute,” the two tracks that help wind down Swedish House Mafia’s first full-length journey, with the latter sparking some Discord speculation that it may very well become the tour set closer when the time comes in July.
Paradise Again wholeheartedly feels like it’s a mixed bag that offers something for any and all types of Swedish House Mafia fans—as long as it’s experienced with open mind—leaving behind a cache hope for whatever the future holds for Axwell, Sebastian Ingrosso, and Steve Angello. With or without this album, the three had already put together a dance music hall-of-fame-ready resume—both together and individually—and Paradise Again is one expertly constructed track—that’s been mixed and mastered by none other than Mike Dean—after the next that irreproachably paints of picture of what they’d envisioned Swedish House Mafia of being in the year 2022. And it was—for lack of a more creative description—worth every waking second of the decade-plus wait. As the focus now turns to the trio’s Sunday co-headlining Coachella slot with The Weeknd that starts at 10:20PM PT on April 17, take the time until then to properly soak in what may just be dance music’s album of the year
For those that can’t be in the desert or simply want to witness Paradise Again in all its 17-track glory in person, tickets for Swedish House Mafia’s album tour are available here.
Featured image: Swedish House Mafia/Twitter