It had taken me a while to open up to the bands on the softer side on the prog-spectrum… But when I did, I found myself in a vast ocean full of gems – a turning point in my musical taste!
I recommend this to everyone; we all tend to get stuck with our favourite bands in our favourite genres and don’t readily leave our comfort zone. Basically, we don’t know how much we’re missing out on…
So, Beardfish, one of these bands I discovered a little late – but still, better late than never – have been quick to make up for those lost years and grown on me quickly. And if I’m honest, Rikard’s personality played a huge role on this – to kick-start things for me at least. He’s one interesting bloke – reading through his 2010 tour notes was quite fun…
Anyway, band is a treat for 70’s prog-rock fans – especially those who set their heart on bands like Yes and Genesis as the influences are quite apparent. Vocalist/keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom goes ahead and explains that he is quite fine with this, saying “We don’t have a problem with people comparing us to those bands because, for sure, we grew up listening to [them].”
However, even though no explanation required for the die-hard fans, it would be beneficial to note here that both from Rikard’s statements and from their music itself, it is clear that they are gradually going to the heavier side. In Void, you can see that they have been doing exactly what I recommended every music lover should do and force the boundaries of their comfort zone. With each album, I reckon, they are going a bit heavier while keeping their solid roots and expanding on them.
I really appreciate that they are not holding onto their own specific status quo and increasing the dose slowly – great way to both cater to their fans and expand!
Oh, of course, I’d say “come to the dark side” – the more the merrier!
Personally, I love the very yummy growls in the album but fear not, it is in perfect doses so if you are a “hater of growls” you won’t be put off by them. Actually, you know, I have been working against some people’s distaste of growls for a long time now and it seems Beardfish will be one of my go-to bands just to do that and convert people!
One of the first things that will hit you about the album is that the production is crystalline – I love the fact that you can hear each and every member, glorious in their mastery as much as you can just step back and appreciate how beautifully each and every piece at work complement each other in building a perfect whole.
Overall, the album is full of brilliance – I kid you not, all tracks guarantee satisfaction. I do have favourites, as I reveal below, but let’s not forget I have very specific taste.
But, onto the tracks now!
The album begins with a narrative introduction delivered by Andy Tillison (much love!) and after half a minute the awesome Voluntary Slavery kicks in! Oh Man! Heavy, aggressive, dark, psychedelic, melodic! A tornado of good musicianship as David Zackrinsson’s excellent riffs, the sick guitar tone; very competent drum work by Magnus Östgren; Robert Hansen’s dynamic, aggressive and thankfully very clearly audible bass performance; and Rikard’s impressive performance both on vocals and and keys come together and in a way let you know that this band have mad skills! The instrumentation is nothing short of complex, where they still stay true to their melodies and fit the technical expertise with melody together seamlessly. This song basically kicked me in the face repeatedly all through its play time – a very solid opener!
Another treat, They Whisper follow and it is a solid example of how good these guys are at song-writing. Rikard’s voice jumps a lot of different textures in a very impressive way.
This Matter of Mine, starting off with a beautiful melody, owned me instantly… and it didn’t disappoint until the end. Just got better and better…
It is refreshingly different – it is like this young bunch took the 70’s signature music, modernised it like there’s no tomorrow, added in their own medicine and served it hot as hell. Yes, it is hot and very masterful. At the risk of repeating myself, just pay attention to the menacing growl Rikard utters around the 2:40 minute mark… then right after the instrumental break… Lady is happy, as I’m sure you can tell! The song ends with the seamlessly integrated acoustic outro. Oh, and before I forget, I particularly love the bass and drum work on the intense rhythms and their occasional dual leads on this song!
Now, personally I like variations and even though Seventeen Again is an impressive stage where they showcase their talents, I must confess that it wasn’t the Lady’s cup of tea for some reason.
The piano lead followed by the 70’s backdrop of keys and a blaring solo; song becoming very uplifting around the 3 minute mark; impressive sections and the well-thought of traffic are all very good however. The song starts off very jazzy and slips into something with more of a poppy edge with more varying instrumentation.
Now, as for Ludwig & Sverker… It is amazing how this song has sneakily grown on me within a few days… First I thought it wasn’t one of my favourites – maybe even one of the weaker songs in the album (in comparison with the awesome stuff that is!!!). Saturday morning, giving the album another spin, I surprisingly found myself looking through my notes and this review trying to figure out which of my favourites this song was.
This is to say, it took me a number of listens before its true awesomeness was fully unveiled before my very ears. It boasts one of the most beautiful guitar melodies on the album and their plays around the main melody – so clever and masterful! David is certainly getting his axe to pull many clever tricks! I hear me some The Flower Kings on this one and I’m sure they won’t take this the wrong way – a good nod is a good nod!
Then, He Already Lives in You – especially on the 4 minute mark – includes my favourite vocal parts in this album. Nay, scratch that, the song includes my favourite all parts in this album as all the members are brilliant here! Seriously, can’t stop listening to it. Vocal crescendo gives me vertigo each and every time and just after that Rikard’s screams blend into the crazy key-work… Very impressive moment and overall, very impressive song. The production, mix, mastering, all can pretty much be described as “nailed it!” in this song. I really want to see Rikard performing this aggressively on stage!
Then comes Note… It is full on, unadulterated madness… I love that aspect, I mean the craziness of this tune… There are many brilliant ideas there, all of which are very impressive – however, to me it seems like they are scattered on a substrate. Listening to the tune, I occasionally zoned out and got drawn back in a few times at the moments of pure brilliance if this makes sense…
Don’t get me wrong though, that doesn’t mean I won’t acknowledge the various landscapes of sound captured impeccably throughout with the beautiful psychedelic feel in places – I will!
Now, as for Where the Lights Are Low – you’ll remember me talking about Rikard’s protean texture. Well, a completely different Rikard awaits us here in this song. You love it especially if you like blues infra-structures.
Overall, very satisfactory album from a very talented bunch. As you might have gathered, I loved the first half more for the obvious reason – and stating it shamelessly – that the first half represents a shift towards a heavier approach. Vocals are brilliant – Rikard is a beast of a vocalist with quite a range, nailing pretty much everything from screams to power vocals, Roger Waters-like low pitched notes to falsettos to growls. Again, the complexity, the quality and mastery are all consistent throughout – a true masterpiece.
As a final note, it is only two days before the album is released so you will not have to hold your breath for long! See details here on their Facebook page!
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