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Ritual - The Hemulic Voluntary Band CD (album) cover




Crossover Prog

4.12 | 244 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars One of Sweden's more criminally overlooked Prog Rock bands has released only a handful of studio albums over the last decade. But this year 2007 recording, their latest to date, is also their best effort so far.

The album's muscular but melodic style follows in the eclectic footprints of GENTLE GIANT at their mid-'70s peak, employing everything from conventional rock instrumentation to the more ethnic, folk-based sounds of bouzoukis, mandolins, dulcimers et al. And the syncopated clavinet used in the title track at the top of the album is clearly meant to provide an affectionate facsimile of the classic Gentle Giant sound, minus the distinctive croon of Derek Shulman (the sometimes strident voice of Ritual frontman Patrick Lundstrüm can be an acquired taste).

Several more short songs ably display the band's musical range, from the traditional Neo- Prog punch of "In The Wild" to the acoustic melancholy of "Late In November" and the toe- tapping Scandinavian funk of "Waiting By the Bridge". But the album highlight is unquestionably the ambitious 26-minute saga "A Dangerous Journey", the band's first attempt at a large scale, multi-chapter composition, and destined to be remembered as a career masterpiece.

If it were possible in these pages to award ratings to individual tracks, this one would easily be a five-star classic. Imagine GENESIS in 1972 having written a musical adaptation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" instead of "Supper's Ready" (as always, the yardstick for any Prog Rock epic), and you'll have a rough idea of what to expect. Like the album title itself, the song is drawn from the literature of Finnish author Tove Jansson, in this case a 1977 picture book for children, beautifully reproduced (or at least paraphrased in the band's lyrics) in the CD booklet, with illustrations.

A truncated video clip of a live performance of the song can also be found on the band's Prog Archive page, filmed at their (so far) only Stateside gig, at the May 2008 ROSFest in suburban Philadelphia. The video quality stinks, but the sound is very good, and the song's haunting acoustic guitar and nyckelharpa introduction provides a nice contrast to their rockier mp3 music streams also available here.

It was, to this fan in attendance, the highlight of the entire three-day festival, and augurs well for the band's future. If they can build on the ambition of "A Dangerous Journey" in upcoming releases (a new studio album is in the works, as I write), Ritual may well become a major name in modern Prog Rock. And better late than never.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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