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DRAMARAMA

Agents Of Mercy

Neo-Prog


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2 stars Well. I had a promo copy that I delete after the 4th listening. I won t buy the original(I didn t like it at all)

Another Roine Stolt experiment.

I really particularly don t like this experimentation with a confusing mix of neo prog ,symphonic prog,with canterbury scene and The Beatles (middle east era -Indian- era).

Too much undefinitions .

I m sure RS is a huge admirer of The Beatles...but the the formula of mixing The Beatles music( Middle East era) with neo and symphonic prog get me tired.......

Well may be if with that inspirations could have create great music but...

The same in the other projects :individual ones,The Flower Kings(sometimes) Karmakanic(sometimes) and in Agents Of MERCY.

Sometimes it seems to much improvisation....where is the melody..? or where is the characteristic music of this band? (well in jazz rock no define melody but good) but if this is neo prog.....

Well if the band project is a mix of unlined prog rock well....may be is me I dont like it. I like prog rock bands with a very define line of music and more melodic.

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Send comments to robbob (BETA) | Report this review (#303619)
Posted Tuesday, October 12, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album really took some time to understand it. But, so I think, if there is Roine Stolt album must be great. I has not been really fascinated with the first Agents of Mercy album. It appeared to be boring in some ways, but then I get it. The same thing with this one.

Roine Stolt instead of doing new Flower Kings album continues to make some projects and coops. Since 2007 there was new Transatlantic, 3rd World Electric, now two Agents of Mercy and appearing on Karmakanic and Supernal Endgame albums. All of this releases are great, but the most weakest of all - Agents of Mercy.

The music on this one album maybe has more drive, but it still slow and intelligent. Music with no rush, with so many improvisations that, without doubts, will pass by your ears on the first several times of listening. Still it has its own very nice and catchy moments. I think the best songs are "Last Few Grains of Hope" and "The Ballad of Mary Chilton" and, maybe, "Cinnamon Tree". "Journey" has a good dream-solo but it would be too improvise for someone. The line from great "We Have Been Freed", with same lyrics like in the song's name, reminds me of Transatlantic's line "We have been blinded in our own hearts?" (just a coincidence). The first song also has a good melody as the some others (like "Meet Johnnie Walker"), but the mood of all album anyway is in the slow and tranquil dream melody and improvisation style.

Altogether, this album probably will be liked by the fans of Roine Stolt and The Flower Kings music. Because even with no knowledge of is there Roine Stolt on this album or not, you definitely can say that he made this music. Because you can hear it and recognized its styles, that you have heard on other projects. The album also has a wonderful dreamy bass by Reingold, and voice of Ned Sylvan sometimes too much resembles a great voice of Roine Stolt, and I sometimes can't say who is singing right now. I don't know why is that but this is a fact.

So, this is great album. 4 stars.

And all the world is waiting for the new Flower Kings. Roine, do not do another project till new TFK will come true!

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Send comments to Rendref (BETA) | Report this review (#304238)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars There really isn't that much improvisation - only one song where one soloist lets it all hang out.

I'd say this album is quite melodic and - similar to The Fading Ghosts of Twilight - is a great collection of well written songs with strong melodic ideas.

One of the big differences here is that TFGoT had more of an overarching feeling of melancholy. TFGoT has a certain flow and cohesiveness that Dramarama does not have.

But that is not to say that is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, the material on Dramarama is quite strong. It is simply more varied in emotional style. There are melancholy tunes, and more upbeat tunes, bombastic tunes and quieter tunes.

If you liked the previous album or if you like music with some Queen and Beatles influence (but somewhat more complex and interesting) you will like this.

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Send comments to plasmatopia (BETA) | Report this review (#306479)
Posted Sunday, October 24, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Another Solid Prog Album From Sweden

After releasing their debut album last year, Swedish supergroup Agents of Mercy makes a pretty strong follow-up with DramaRama. Although this is an album that most symphonic prog veterans have essentially heard before, this is still another high-quality release Roine Stolt and company. If you liked the first album from Agents of Mercy, this should be another pleasant surprise for you. There's definitely no shortage of quality musicianship and songwriting to be found here. With that said, I still can't help but feel slightly disappointed when comparing DramaRama to some of the masterpieces that Stolt has participated with in The Flower Kings or Transatlantic. When compared to works of genius like Adam & Eve, Bridge Across Forever, or The Sum of No Evil, DramaRama simply falls a bit short. Still, if you're looking for a reliable and high quality progressive rock album, this is worth an acquisition.

The music played here is symphonic progressive rock, but different from that of The Flower Kings. Unlike TFK's work, there's not very much soloing on DramaRama, which can be a good or a bad thing, pending on your opinion of the band. There are plenty of times where I think The Flower Kings go a bit "overboard" with the soloing until it gets a bit tiring, so the general lack of solos may be a plus for some people. The melodic sections with vocal harmonies and instrumental simplicity give DramaRama a distinct Beatles influence. As a whole, if I were to describe this album, I would say it's a mix of The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, and some influence from Roine Stolt's other projects (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, The Tangent, etc.) as well. Thus, if you like symphonic prog on the more happy and melodic side, this album should be right up your alley.

As you can imagine from the likes of Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Lalle Larsson, and Walle Wahlgren, the level of musicianship is very high. These guys are some of the most talented prog musicians from Sweden, and it shows on DramaRama. The vocals from Nad Sylvan took some time for me to appreciate because of his unique tone, but once they're given some time to sink in, I realized that he's quite a talented vocalist.

The production is terrific. It showcases the modern amenities in production while maintaining a vintage seventies sound. This is the perfect sound for the album.

Conclusion:

DramaRama is a really good album from Agents of Mercy, but it still stands as one of the weaker releases that these prolific musicians have participated in over the years. If you like Beatles-esque symphonic prog with a heavy emphasis on melody and harmony, DramaRama is an album worth getting. The songwriting, musicianship, and production are all very strong, so the least I can give this album is 3.5 stars.

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#306758)
Posted Tuesday, October 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars This year on this album I seen few reviews some good and Some not so good, and yet this album is a jewel is a pretty good album, for me is one of the 10 best albums of the year, unlike in album of Ghosts Of The Fading Twilight who is also a great álbum. I find a more variated music, where I find a strong Influence with Genesis, The Flower Kings, The Beatles and ELO with an excellent production, the music of Dramarama surround in beautiful symphonic passages with the great voice of Nad Sylvan make this album a masterpiece, highly recommended for Any lovers of good progressive rock.

I using a translator of Spanish to English in my reviews.

All The Best.

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Send comments to GermanZERO (BETA) | Report this review (#321483)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
4 stars In my review last year of the The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight, the first album by Agents Of Mercy I said, or words to the effect of, that for the calibre of the performers it was a largely disappointing release, lacking memorable melodies and hooks. Well the main songwriters, Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic etc) and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) have clearly taken note of what I said (yeah right!) and returned with a far more satisfying and enjoyable effort. They are once again joined by Stolt's Flower Kings cohort Jonas Reingold on bass and new in are drummer Walle Wahlgren and keyboard player Lalle Larsson, both of whom have played with one or more of the other players here at one time or another in other projects.

As already mentioned, I'm pleased to report that Dramarama is a far superior work to their debut. While it may tread the same ground of symphonic/neo prog the compositions are better constructed, this time with plenty of strong hooks making it more accessible, at times even the occasional Beatles influence seems to come through. I'm not suggesting Dramarama is all about sugary melodies as there's plenty of great playing to get your teeth into. Just listen to the excellent and lengthy synth solo from Larsson on Journey for example and whilst the overriding objective it would seem is not on complexity, with this sort of musical muscle it still impresses with some well thought out instrumental interplay, even if it is of secondary importance, the song being king here. This time around around for reasons I can't put my finger on, I find Sylvan's voice much better too, perhaps because there's more for him to get his teeth into this time.

This album has a more upbeat feel and the band turn in a much more dynamic performance than on their previous release. Some tasteful acoustic moments sit well alongside the more bombastic sections and the greater variety makes for a more well rounded album as a whole. At the end of the day though it's simply a much better collection of songs than their debut where the stronger melodies shine through.

Whilst I couldn't say that Dramarama is the equal of Stolt's greatest work with The Flower Kings it's nevertheless a very enjoyable album, particularly pleasing for me because of my apathy towards their debut. This should please most fans of the players involved here and worth 4 stars.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#335390)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Roine Stolt spends a lot of time writing music and playing guitar. If he is not trotting around the globe with his beloved Flower Kings he is either performing solo work, cranking out solos for supergroup Transatlantic or even jamming in a jazz fusion band called 3RD World Electric (check out Kilimanjaro Secret Brew for a taste), which really is not a stretch for a guitar genius like Stolt. In 2009 to add to the ever growing list, he started another project called Agents of Mercy. An acoustic experiment with vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) turned into a full blown band. They would subsequently release a solid debut titled The Fading Ghosts of Twilight. It was a fine slice of prog rock and you had to wonder what was around the corner for the versatile Mr. Stolt.

What I appreciate most about Stolt is that he is always ready to push the boundaries and take a chance in whatever band configuration he happens to be in at the time, and good luck keeping tabs on that movement by the way.

So along comes 2010 and now we have a brilliant sophomore release from Agents of Mercy to enjoy called Dramarama. Lead singer Sylvan sounds like a cross between Gabriel and Fish, he certainly has a unique and pleasing vocal style that seems to fit quite well with temperaments and atmospheres provided by Stolt and company. Flower Kings and 3rd World Electric bandmate Jonas Reingold join the proceedings on bass while Lalle Larsson (keys) and Walle Wahigren (drums. percussion) fill out the rest of the positions in the band. Note that Stolt in addition to providing vocals and lead guitar contributes with additional keys, ukulele, and lap steel.

In the 12 tracks comprising this CD I would find it difficult to single out any tracks as the best as they all were top shelf prog rock compositions. To be fair I would have to say I did have my favorites like the lead off track "The Duke of Sadness", which was the most prolific lyrically and musically for these ears. "Last Few Grains of Hope" and "Conspiracy" were as equally dark and emotional with some tremendous musicianship providing the highlights. Roine's guitar playing is once again exemplary on every account and the vocals are a superb compliment to the message in the lyrics and the music that push them all along so effortlessly.

I have listened to this album countless times and have not tired one bit from what it has to offer and there always seem to be something that catches my ear or touches me on an emotional level that didn't the previous time I gave it a spin. That is what prog rock is supposed to do, capture your imagination, create imagery in your mind's eye and challenge your psyche.

This band does not reach the level of a powerhouse like Transatlantic, it is a different kind of prog, but they certainly match up well with the Flower Kings after putting this release out. This is a band that is fully matured now with an exciting future ahead if it stays together.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Duke Of Sadness, Last Few Grains Of Hope, Conspiracy

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#347239)
Posted Wednesday, December 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars The Swedish outfit AGENTS OF MERCY initially started out as a creative side vehicle of Roine Stolt from The Flower Kings, which evolved into a collaborative effort with fellow Swede Nad Sylvan, and, following their initial release in 2009, the final transformation for this endeavour was to blossom into a full-fledged band effort. Something of a supergroup in terms of the local Swedish art rock universe, "Dramarama" is the sophomore album issued under the Agents of Mercy moniker, and their first production as a bona fide band project.

If you like vintage symphonic art rock, don't mind some obvious influences and enjoy the ones harder to place, "Dramarama" is a production you'll be pleased with. Splendid musicianship and well-crafted compositions come with the territory for a band with such a line-up, and Stolt is a classy producer who manages to bring out the best of the material at hand. Perhaps not a contender for originality awards for 2010, but a high quality production within its field nonetheless.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#369501)
Posted Saturday, January 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#528994)
Posted Wednesday, September 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Like seemingly a lot of Flower Kings fans, I was not terribly thrilled by the first Agents of Mercy album, The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight. While there were some excellent songs, the album as a whole was rather simplified compared to much of what Roine had done in the past. Considering that it started out as an acoustic singer/songwriter type project, but then became a bit more prog oriented, goes some way to explaining it's somewhat mellow and stripped down approach.

With Dramarama however, we have a full fledged band, one that Roine seems to consider his main gig for the time being. What we have here is a more expanded and more "prog' type of album, with the individual members getting to shine a bit more, particularly Lalle Larsson. What I like about this album is that it is front loaded with more proggy material, then becomes a bit more folky and mellow towards the end. It should be noted that this is not the dense, complex prog of the Flower Kings or other FK related projects. It is more of an early 70's type of sound with prog elements. Much of the early Genesis sound that was so much in evidence on the previous album is gone, aside from Nad's voice which still has the kind of cross between Gabriel and Collins type of sound to it..........though at other times sounds remarkably like Roine did in the mid-90's. I am not suggesting this is derivative, like the Flower Kings so often get accused of being, merely that this band has decided to harness the analog warmth of 70's recordings while still keeping things crystal clear (and also using primarily 70's instruments and sounds). I guess there is some Beatlesesque melody and structure to many of the tunes, particularly the shorter more pop sounding ones like Cinnamon Tree and Peace United. But there is also an almost fusiony element as well, found particularly in the song Journey, that showcases Larsson's talents on the Moog (probably a sample, but maybe not). Some have criticized this as indulgent, but I think Larsson easily possesses the talent to make this a worthwhile listen. It's a very well constructed solo, showcasing his sense of melody as well as his considerable chops.

The Roine tunes tend toward the symphonic while the Nad tunes tend towards the more melodic and whimsical. Taken as a whole they make for a very diverse and rewarding album, as long as you accept that this is the mellow side of prog and is not meant as some sort of instrumental tour de force. While the last album struck me as almost prog muzak, this album strikes me as a very tasteful and emotive album with a mellow, laid back atmosphere that works to it's advantage very well.

One last point about this band that should be noted, is that, much like The Flower Kings, in the live setting they become a whole 'nother animal. If you really want to understand and appreciate what makes this such an interesting and worthwhile band, you absolutely must see them perform live. I saw them on the tours for both albums, and in both cases my appreciation for the albums increased greatly after seeing them.

All in all, an excellent album, fully deserving of all 4 stars I am awarding it. It misses the fifth because I really don't hear a masterpiece here, though I am starting to think that this band most definitely has one in them. I guess we'll have to wait and see, but in the meantime, I will be getting plenty of enjoyment out of this album and will be sure to catch them live when the next opportunity presents itself.

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Send comments to infandous (BETA) | Report this review (#530109)
Posted Friday, September 23, 2011 | Review Permalink

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