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Agents Of Mercy - Dramarama CD (album) cover


Agents Of Mercy


Symphonic Prog

3.92 | 207 ratings

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Anthony H.
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Agents of Mercy: Dramarama [2010]

Rating: 9/10

Dramarama is the second album from Roine Stolt's current project Agents of Mercy. The Agents' debut album, The Fading Ghost of Twilight, was more of a side project from Roine and vocalist Nad Sylvan; it wasn't a full-on band effort. Fading Ghosts was a good album, but not a great one, and I was rather disappointed when it became clear that Agents of Mercy was becoming Roine's main gig. However, my fears were instantly abated after hearing Dramarama. There are a number of factors that make this not only a better album than its predecessor, but also an incredible piece of work in its own right. Firstly, Roine and Nad are finally joined by a permanent band; it's clear that the Agents are no longer a side project. Jonas Riengold has already established himself as a phenomenal bassist with his work with The Flower Kings and Karmakanic, and he continues to do so here. Keyboardist Lalle Larsson is exceptionally talented, and young drummer Walle Wahlgren gives a promising performance. While these five musicians do work enormously well together, the songwriting is what makes Dramarama a truly special record.

As The Fading Ghosts of Twilight made clear, Roine is approaching Agents of Mercy with a different musical attitude. While The Flower Kings are epic and grandiose, AoM are relatively subtle and song-oriented. This is not to say that this band shies away from grandiosity; rather, they approach it in a different way. Fading Ghosts attempted to combine quiet acoustic songwriting with symphonic bombast, but this failed to work out in a completely cohesive manner. On Dramarama, however, Roine and company use Beatlesesque psychedelic pop as a base and proceed to build upon it with symphonic progressive-rock majesty. The result is a combination of 60s sensibilities with 70s-prog arrangements, creating a magnificent and memorable whole.

"The Duke of Sadness" begins the album in a symphonic manner; soaring guitar riffs, long instrumental sections, and fantastic vocal melodies abound. Roine's signature guitar playing meshes perfectly with Lalle's inspired keyboard work. "Last Few Grains of Hope" is a subdued and somber piece. Nad's voice is particularly moving here, and Roine plays an incredibly soulful solo. "Peace United" is a wonderful slice of proggified 60s-pop. Yet again, Nad's vocals are irresistible, and the synths back him up perfectly. The constant highlights continue with "Journey." This track is completely psychedelic; the majority of it consists of an extended synth solo from Lalle. This track alone is enough to propel Mr. Larsson into the stratosphere of modern prog. "Gratitude" is a "prog ballad", if you will - quiet instrumentation backs up more wonderful singing from Mr. Sylvan. This is a fantastic and emotional track, and Jonas's bass tones are perfect here. The Mellotron-laden "Meet Johnny Walker" is another proggified Beatlesesque tune. A symphonic section near the end gives this track another layer of musical depth. "Cinnamon Tree" is a folk-rock piece with a wonderful chorus and an infectious main theme. "The Ballad of Mary Chilton" is completely acoustic, and is one of the highlights of the album. This is probably Nad's best vocal performance, and the guitar work backs him up perfectly. "Roger the Tailor" continues in a similar vein. Hammond adds another layer to the acoustic musical storytelling. "Conspiracy" is an organ-laden hard-rock track with a simple-yet-brilliant main theme. "We Have Been Freed" returns to the longer track format. This piece combines the softer and harder elements of the band's sound; yet again, Nad and Lalle both shine. The album closes with "Time", a piano ballad with poignant lyrics and wonderful vocal melodies.

I honestly cannot think of single negative thing to say about Dramarama. Every song here has its own charming personality; there isn't a single moment that fails to be a joy to listen to. This album will not appeal to everyone - it is not a particularly dense or intricate listen. What it lacks in complexity, however, it makes up for in honest songwriting and impassioned musicianship. This album has a true sense of intimacy that is severely lacking on many musical releases, especially modern ones. It's emotional, whimsical, and fun. This is absolutely fantastic stuff, and any progressive-rock fan who can appreciate lightheartedness cannot afford to miss this gem.

Anthony H. | 5/5 |


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