Freakshow represents very satisfying progress from the debut collaboration between John Payne and Erik Norlander -- a mere two or so years later, the blink of an eye compared to the lengthy process that finally pried the first Dukes of the Orient album out of Payne's Asia-obsessed hands in 2018. That's likely down to Norlander, an efficient composer and producer on his own. Both musicians embrace the soundscapes of the 70s and 80s, and their time travels here incorporate rarified concepts that may not be brand new but are certainly uncommon 40+ years after this kind of material was in vogue. It's entirely well intended, mostly well wrought, and definitely welcome.
An intriguing aspect of the songwriting credits is that each partner solely authored half of the songs, a departure from the shared-credit approach used on the debut album. It's an equitable arrangement that reveals the strengths and idiosyncrasies of the artists, as well as the support each lends to the other's work. An excellent example is Payne's standout song "Man of Machine," an absolute gem of the rock form thanks to Norlander's first-rate keyboard work coupled with Payne's smoother-than-usual vocals...and saxophone!
Thank goodness for Frontiers Records as they continue to let the old guard of rock offer fresh wrinkles on vintage material.