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All Traps On Earth - A Drop Of Light CD (album) cover

A DROP OF LIGHT

All Traps On Earth

 

Symphonic Prog

4.46 | 325 ratings

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siLLy puPPy
5 stars By far, THE best prog rock album of 2018!

There's nothing like a good traditional prog album in the modern day. While there are many brilliant new forks in the road in the ever expanding musical universe that constitute progressive rock, there's something very comforting about the moments when a band with connections to the past takes a traditional true and tried stylistic approach and upgrades it for the modern era. Such is the case of a prog revival band that hit the scene in 1991 and was one of the major bands that launched the prog revival of the 90s which together with such acts as Dream Theater took the genre to new levels and an increased awareness of the musical history from which they stemmed. I'm talking about Änglagård of course, the slick and complex Swedish outfit that revisited the past, honed the chops of their primary influences which included King Crimson, Genesis, Gentle Giant, Trettioåriga Kriget and Van Der Graaf Generator just to name a few and concocted a unique and diverse musical amalgam of satisfying retro prog which assisted the once mighty genre back onto the world's stage.

While Änglagård was one of the primary movers and shakers in the new prog revival scene, the band after releasing only two albums ("Hybris" and "Epilog") seemed to disappear as quickly as it came but reappeared out of nowhere almost a decade later with the third album "Viljans öga." Once again the band took a hiatus after playing peek-a-boo with the public but this time didn't come back with a followup and rabid prog fans have been left in the dark ever since as to whether the band will ever emerge from the shadow world and release a much wanted fourth album. Come 2018 and still no new Änglagård album but perhaps the next best thing. One of the members, namely Johan Brand (aka Johan Högberg) had planned as far back as 2012 to release some sort of solo album but never quite had a firm grasp as to how it would actually sound and what sort of stylistic approach he would adopt. With some rudimentary pieces in place, the project sort of gestated slowly until some new developments occurred.

By 2016, two more members of Änglagård, keyboardist Thomas Johnson and percussionist Erik Hammarström found a common interest with Brand in taking the classic Änglagård and adding new elements that were missing from the original team. The intended solo album became the band ALL TRAPS ON EARTH which like the band from which it spawned, pays tribute to what came before and adapts the classic sound to the modern era. The first album A DROP OF LIGHT sort of picks up where"Viljans öga" left off except that this time around, the band expanded to include a wealth of new musical styles in the mix with an unfathomable number of instrumental overdrive woven into the musical tapestry to create one of the most vibrant and exciting retro prog albums of the year 2018. Joining this power trio from the once mighty band of symphonic prog wizards is the inclusion of Brand's own daughter Miranda Brand who contributes an amazing delivery of operatic wordless vocals that add an angelic human touch that was mostly absent from Änglagård's classic sound but in the process evokes prog's heyday Canterbury Scene acts such as Hatfield & The North.

A DROP OF LIGHT despite the darkened album cover art actually evokes a lighthearted feel to the album's 63 and a half minute run. Much like the classic band that it evolved from, ALL TRAPS ON EARTH unleashes an epic sounding prog album of four lengthy tracks with a fifth tiny two minute inclusion that serves as a breather amongst the four sprawling adventurous behemoth tracks that exceed the thirteen minute mark with the opening "All Traps On Earth" clocking in over a staggering 18 minutes. Much in the vein of classic Änglagård, the music is very much centered in a classic symphonic prog setting that focuses on complex melodies of a classical nature and then forcefully develops them into sprawling prog monstrosities with a thick dense atmospheric overcast as time signature rich angularities march into infinity as they deliver stellar instrumental interplay and exquisite virtuosic workouts while supplemental instruments find their ways into the nooks and crannies. Yes, the similarities are stark and there is no doubt from which great band this new creation has emerged but there are differences as well!

Unlike the classic Änglagård playbook, ALL TRAPS ON EARTH embellishes the classic prog underpinning with a wealth of timbres and tempo changes. Firstly of all, there is very much a zeuhl martial rhythmic influence that protrudes into the mix at various stages but not the in your face sort of Teutonic Magma style, but rather the avant-prog infused style of the one hit prog wonder Dün. Likewise A DROP OF LIGHT finds jazzy touches with the help of stellar saxophones, trumpets, flugelhorns and clarinets. In fact there are five guest musicians that not only provide the horns but include flutes, recorders and extra guitars. The instruments performed by the power trio alone number in the dozens with every kind of organ, mellotron, keyboard and piano sound finding its way into the flow of things. Percussion is well tended to with the extra gusto of marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, crotales, timpani, wood block, tam tam and Mike Oldfield's favorite of all, tubular bells! The tapestry of this music is woven in a much more diverse manner with the instrumentation and voluminous vocal grace of Miranda Brand's presence which takes this to a similar but distantly related sonic reality. While Änglagård could be cold and detached, ALL TRAPS ON EARTH finds an easier emotional connection with not only angular rhythmic swirls pounding away at the senses but sensual tender moments that offer easier on the ears periods of breathing room.

While clearly tailored for the modern era, there is no doubt that ALL TRAPS ON EARTH is a traditional retro prog album through and through. Through the lens of the Änglagård heritage, ALL TRAPS ON EARTH captures the initial 70s influences that made that band so retro on its own terms. Tucked into the edgy and complex nature of A DROP OF LIGHT are the usual classic prog influences such as King Crimson, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator as well as the more alienating zeuhl and avant-prog sounds mixed with the warmth of the Canterbury Scene. The music can be dark and forbidding as well as enlightening and elegiac all within the same composition and then moves onto more angular constructs but the overall vibe of A DROP OF LIGHT is as written on the packaging sticker "magnificent symphonic prog from Sweden." While my main form of modern prog entertainment often comes from the unfettered experimentations that pushes the genre into a wider array of expansion, there's no doubt that a perfectly executed slice of traditional prog that evokes the forefathers' master plan can be as exciting as the most cutting edge unorthodoxies. In recent years, we have been finding a new strain of retro prog reaching the qualitative magnanimity of their influences as evidenced by 2017's outstanding Wobbler album. ALL TRAPS ON EARTH is here the very next year to prove that it was indeed no fluke and that a new generation of classic prog is back. For all the hype that surrounds certain albums, many trends seem to only attract a portion of the prog world but every once in a while an album like A DROP OF LIGHT descends from the heaven's above as a musical unifying factor which in this case signifies the undisputed champion of best prog album of 2018! Hallelujah!

siLLy puPPy | 5/5 |

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