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4 stars In March of 2013, legendary Swedish symphonic progressive rock band 'nglag'rd played a series of concerts over three nights at the Club Citta, Tokyo, sharing a bill with The Crimson ProjeKCt. 'nglag'rd, now with a revised lineup, present a unique take on progressive rock with influences such as Swedish folk music, old school progressive rock like King Crimson, Genesis, and Dun, and classical music, all in a very dynamic and symphonic style. Whereas many symphonic prog bands place the rock first and classical second, 'nglag'rd mix the 'sturm und drang' of classical music with rock instruments such as electric guitar, bass, and synths and prog rock experimentation.

I had the immense honor of seeing this band live at 2012's North East Art Rock Festival (NEARfest) and it was one of the best live experiences I've ever had. Over the past few days, I've been transported back to that weekend in June with this new live record which presents a well-documented and energetic performance from one the most perfection-driven group of musicians I know.

The track selection here represents every one of 'nglag'rd's three studio albums with some staples ("Jordr'k" - the classic opening track from the 1992 debut, Hybris and "H'stsejd" from the "Epilog" album) as well as some lesser known tracks ("Sorgmantel" and "L'ngtans Klocka" from 2012's Viljans Oga and "Kung Bore" from the debut). To me, this provides a nice cross section of the band's repertoire, as we get a taste of what the new lineup is capable of through the presentation of familiar material.

I use the word 'familiar' above somewhat loosely, though, as even the older pieces have demonstrated some growth since we last heard them. On all of the pieces, the band have altered the tempos and added some new sounds (such as the recorder on "Jordrok") and some added saxophone parts and synthesizers on a few other pieces. One of the things that makes or breaks a live record, for me, is the arrangements. With 'nglag'rd, the arrangements are constantly in flux and that makes these tracks worth hearing in different versions and the record worth buying. I personally feel a bit ripped off when a band plays the same arrangements time and time again, but 'nglag'rd constantly challenge themselves and their listeners.

In addition to the older pieces, we also get one new piece on this record - "Introvertus Fugu Part I". Clocking in at just under seven minutes, this is the shortest piece on the album and probably the biggest draw for 'nglag'rd fans. Beginning with some spacey piano chords and a disjointed arrangement, the piece gradually rises from freeform chaos to dynamic Crimson-y 'nglag'rd form and develops throughout its short (by 'nglag'rd standards) runtime to a thrilling conclusion that leaves the listener wanting to hear Part II! If this is what is in store of 'nglag'rd's fourth album (to be recorded later this year), then we are in for a real treat.

As for the performances here, they are nothing short of stunning. The newest members seem to fit in with the established style of the group, while flautist Anna Holmgren continues to develop her goregous, vibrato-laden lower register while Johan Brand taps into his Chris Squire meets Jannick Top Rickenbacker brilliance. Essential stuff for fans of progressive rock. Also, if this band comes anywhere near you, go out and support this music, it'll be a concert experience you'll never forget.


Anna Holmgren: flute, saxophone, Mellotron, recorder and melodica Johan Brand: bass, Moog Taurus basspedals and atmospheric sound Tord Lindman: guitar, vocals, gong and atmospheric sound Linus K'se: Hammond organ B-3, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes, Moog Voyager, piano, soprano saxophone and vocals Erik Hammarstr'm: drums, cymbals, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, cran casa, gong

Report this review (#1172312)
Posted Wednesday, May 7, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars May 14th of this year saw the release of a new Änglagård live album: Prog på Svenska? Live in Japan. Some of you may have been lucky enough to have been following Änglagård from the very beginning, but if you're anything like me, you came into the game when Änglagård's small catalog of music was either out of print or near impossible to find without spending a fortune; that is, with the exception of one little disc which somehow was available when snagging a copy of albums like Epilogue seemed to be a Herculean feat. That album was Buried Alive, the live recording of Änglagård's last show prior to their 1994 breakup. While the liner-notes of Buried Alive reveal a band that was not 100% satisfied, 20 years later with the release of Prog på Svenska?Live in Japan, Änglagård is back and going strong with a new live recording that is rich in dynamic and deep in maturity, a performance that I am confident that they are proud to immortalize for their fans.

Prog på Svenska represents the first of three consecutive nights that the masters of dark Swedish prog delivered at Club Città in Japan alongside The Crimson ProjeKCt (featuring the legendary Adrian Belew and Tony Levin). For me personally this is a special album that transports me back to when I witnessed their unbelievable performance only three weeks later at Baja Prog. Among a plethora of canonized acts at the festival (such as Hackett, New Trolls, and Three Friends), Änglagård's remarkable performance showed that they stand in no one's shadow. While there's nothing like being there in person, Prog på Svenska is about as good a live recording and performance as I've ever heard on disc. I certainly am jealous of the Japanese fans who got to see them three nights in a row last year.

The live-set on this album shows a balanced representation of the old and the new, featuring two tracks from each studio release along with an unreleased intro track which I assume (and hope) will be on Änglagård's next studio production. So that the anticipation doesn't kill anyone, I'll start right off with the new song: "Introvertus Fugu Part 1." Perhaps the first thing to know about this track is that it's our first look into the composition of the new band featuring Linus Kåse and Erik Hammarström alongside Anna, Johan, and Tord. I can happily say that "Introvertus" shows a band that knows how to move forward without abandoning the distinctive identity that they are known for, a fact that strongly hints at a powerful album to come in the future. The opening moments of the song show the band increasingly incorporating elements of modern classical and atonal music through the delicately dark chord changes on the piano before constructing a wave of tension with ambient bass noise, a distinctive guitar motif, and a descending melody on flute playing against tuned percussion. As the ambient textures continue to swell, a big percussive crash shockingly interjects, setting the stage for an ominous swelling of Mellotron chords, resulting in an eerily delightful sound. The intensity continues to build with a drum roll on snare and cymbals that transition the piece into an aggressive angular instrumental attack featuring howling Minimoog modulation; enter a fiercely dark melody which is doubled or harmonized on most instruments before the band takes the listener into their signature dose of woodsy folkiness. Johan and Linus continue pounding in the rhythm section before the eerie central motif returns to bring "Introvertus" towards its close with the full force of Anna and Linus' dueling woodwinds, one hanging on the melody while the other produces chaotic squeals before withering off the melody in a very unsettling (but cool) way.

After kicking it off with an exciting intro the band takes us back 20 years with "Hostsejd." The rich dynamics, especially the meticulously controlled Mellotron swells, really shine on this one while some small differences in instrumentation (such as the sax on the first main melody instead of flute) really keep the piece fresh and exciting. Although I was craving the intro on the follow up track, "Längtans Klocka," the supreme level of interplay between all instruments that starts off the piece is fantastic. Furthermore, the guitar/Mellotron duet at about 6:30 that leads into a memorable theme is quite the highlight. Finally, the circus-y melody towards the end of the song somehow becomes even more diabolic in this slightly stripped down version as Tord's demented waltzy riff serves as a perfect backdrop for the drunken saxes. Speaking of Tord, it certainly is nice to see him back in the band, and I must add that his guitar playing and sense of emotion is perfect for the band and has improved over the years. This is perhaps most clearly demonstrated on "Jordrök," a quintessential song in Änglagård's catalog. The reality of the matter is that despite the fact that the band was quite mature at the time of Hybris' release, their capacity to bring out all the nuances in pieces like this shows that they are musicians who have truly refined their craft over the years. "Jordrök" sounds more alive than ever; the Mellotron flute section in the middle, one of the band's absolute trademark melodies, is to die for, and Linus' superb use of phrasing and pacing in the piano intro certainly takes this classic piece up several notches.

Moving deeper into the performance we see "Sorgmantel," one of my personal favorites from Viljans Öga. The first thing I noticed about this particular performance is that the intro sounds much more raw due to differences in instrumentation, this version starting out with a guitar and bass call and response. While I absolutely adore the studio version, this new arrangement and performance was also wonderful and brought its own set of advantages to the table. First, the bass/guitar duet at the beginning really exposes the melody and shows you that its not just about fancy instrumentation, it's a gorgeous melody through and through. Second, the band is not concerned in the least bit with rushing through the performance of this piece; the pacing is delicate, precise, and emotional with plenty of space for ritard and sway as the intro melody gets passed around from guitar to bass and flute and is then countered by the piano, making the fugue-nature of this piece even more evident. The playing is incredibly tight but busting with dynamic throughout as "Sorgmantel" takes its many twists and turns before working its way to a quiet ending; graceful? even breathtaking.

To wrap up the night, Änglagård once again goes back to the early 90′s, this time with "Kung Bore" and "Sista Somrar." Although the former leans more on the folky side of the band, as does much of their first album, the highlight of the piece actually ended up being the mysterious and ambient middle section where the band shows that they have mastered perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of music: playing quietly with vibrant emotion. Between the light swells of guitar, weird effects on bass, a steady organ pattern in the upper register, and a lightly beating drum, this section goes beyond merely doing justice to the original. Finally, the depth and emotion of "Sista Somrar's" slow, dark intro is, quite frankly, deadly, and goes miles deeper than the original studio recording (which was in and of itself very impressive) as an ominous sax melody flanked by stormy percussion and effects guides us to the unleashing of an uncanny tron female solo voice that will haunt your nightmares for weeks to come.

In my opinion, Prog på Svenska?Live in Japan is an essential live album that you don't want to miss out on. Quite honestly, I am a person who rarely enjoys live albums because oftentimes the performances and production are either significantly worse than the studio recording, or the live version ends up being stripped down to the point where there's just something missing, or the band simply doesn't offer an experience which is significant enough to enjoy the live version deeply; in most cases you sort of 'had to have been there' to get what's so great about it. Such is not the case with Änglagård's latest live documentation. From the performances to the production and the differences in detail from the originals, Prog på Svenska is a stellar capturing of live art through and through. And of course, I might add that if you ever get the chance to see Änglagård perform, take the opportunity; if your significant other isn't a prog fan, take them anyways. Änglagård's extreme level of delicacy in phrasing and dynamic is a tough match to beat in progressive music and should hold up even in the face of the snootiest of music connoisseurs.

Report this review (#1287530)
Posted Saturday, October 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
5 stars So we finally get a live ANGLAGARD album that the band is actually happy with. The "Buried Alive" recording was one the band didn't want released as they felt their performance wasn't up to par, as well as not being overly happy with the sound quality. Well I thought it was excellent but I have to admit they have stepped up their game here and the sound quality is simply perfect. The music was recorded from three shows they did at Club Citta in Japan back in March of 2013. If I was trying to describe this band to someone who hadn't heard them i'd say their mellow bits were like GENESIS, very beautiful, while the heavier sections bring a muscular KING CRIMSON to mind, especially with the mellotron dominating the sound at times. I love how upfront the bass is as well.

So we get two tracks from each of their three studio albums plus a new one that they opened the shows with each night called "Introvertus Fugu Part 1". In describing the opening number i'm going to let their own description in the liner notes do the talking. "This little rascal that we simply call "Introvertus Fugu Part 1" came about when a Rickenbacker bass line collided with a short atonal vibraphone sequence one day at a rehearsal. The bass line developed into the full-band main section, and together with a flute melody the vibraphone formed a counterpoint. Then the stone was rolling. Distant sparse piano, eerie guitar notes and tubular bells were initially heard. A hell- break-loose rhythm section banging next to squiggly guitar, mellotron and nasty organ followed. For the last section we brought in uproaring saxaphones and...Yes, part of the live experience as a whole, but it also became a natural and important starting point for us a group in the art of crafting". "Hostsejd" is from "Epilog" and is classic stuff. Organ and mellotron can be heard before these massive bass lines arrive followed by a full sound. We will continue to get the contrasts between the loud and mellow. Amazing song. "Langtans Klocka" from "Viljans Oga" is fairly relaxed until the guitar arrives 2 1/2 minutes in and it all starts to come alive. Great instrumental display here before a calm arrives before 4 minutes. Killer bass at times as the contrasts of laid back and full speed ahead continue. Love the guitar in this one and it ends in an insane manner.

"Jordok" from "Hybris" is simply brilliant. Before the song begins one of the members of ANGLAGARD tells the audience that they've been wanting to get to Japan for 20 years. Again the contrasts between the beautiful and the powerful sections is breathtaking. Flute, mellotron and guitar create wonder then the muscular bass kicks in with storming mellotron and frantic drum work. Just a killer track and the final minute is gorgeous. "Sorgmantel" from their latest album "Viljans Oga" begins disc two. This stays mellow with flute, piano, bass and more until it becomes fuller before 2 minutes then even fuller a minute after that. The bass is ground-shaking after 4 minutes then the guitar leads briefly. A GENESIS soundscape follows as themes are repeated. Again the contrasts the rest of the way are so inspiring to me. "Kung Bore" from "Hybris" opens with piano as it builds rather quickly. A beautiful calm before 3 minutes with flute, strings and more as fragile vocals arrive. Again we get some killer moments when it turns heavy then when the mellow pieces float in i'm in awe once again. Big finish to this one as the crowd roars it's approval. The final song is "Sista Somrar" from "Epilog" and it was actually recorded during a sound check before their final concert. Melancholy to start before it turns haunting before 5 minutes. Then it kicks into gear as contrasts once again continue. It's haunting again after 8 minutes as themes are repeated. This song is just an incredible way to end this recording.

When it comes to live albums this one is going to be right near the top of my all-time favourite live recordings. Crystal clear sound and band who would intimidate many other bands out there with how well they play these complex and emotional compositions. I'm not worthy!

Report this review (#1338565)
Posted Saturday, January 3, 2015 | Review Permalink
5 stars Prog på Svenska ? Live in Japan

My initial impressions upon first listen is that in spite of the member changes from one album to another, this band can still play very well together. This performance demonstrates their individual and collective talents very well. It takes a lot of preparation to properly perform these pieces, and playing them live is even more challenging than recording them in the studio; if someone makes a mistake or the balance is not good, you're stuck with the result, unless you edit the recording later. Änglagård's challenging music makes the risk factor of live performance very high, but with great risk comes great reward.

And the reward of this concert, in my opinion, is indeed very great.

To summarize the strengths of this concert, I would say that their performance is very balanced, musical, and technical.

*Balanced: They play in sync very consistently, and the sounds of each instrument blend together very well. I never felt like the flute was getting covered by the more naturally powerful instruments (drums, electric guitar), the bass could be heard at an appropriate volume, and each of the percussion instruments could be clearly heard.

*Musical: I love how you can tell this is obviously a live recording when you hear it. You can hear certain nuances that let you know these musicians are really playing their instruments on stage together in real time. I emphasize this because some listeners may want to remember that these are actual human beings playing challenging music together and executing a great team performance. Additionally, I truly appreciate the changes in dynamic level (loud and soft, crescendo and decrescendo) and changes in rhythm (slight accelerando and ritardando to let certain phrases "breathe" a little for musical effect).

I also appreciate how they adapted these pieces for a live setting. For example, in the studio version of "Längtans klocka", at one point the character of the sound in the "folk music" section is similar to an old recording (like a phonograph record). This would be very challenging to bring to a stage without some additional sound manipulation, so the choice they made in using the saxophone to play this section was actually very enjoyable, even though it was different from the original. I appreciate their creativity in adapting certain things to fit the stage without sacrificing the quality of their art.

Another good example of how they adapted their music for their band at that time can be heard in Kung Bore. The drum fills in the later part of the song are different from the Hybris album recording. I'm totally okay with this, and actually appreciate that their new drummer has a chance to put his unique musical fingerprints on the performance. Bold choice, and I greatly appreciate it.

The ability to play and balance so many dense layers of musical material sets Änglagård's musicians apart as elite artists, in my opinion. I was pleasantly surprised at how much music five people could play at once, and it still sound good! At the end of "Längtans klocka", I found myself thinking, "How are there only five people on stage?" They figured out how to play and blend so many layers and textures, which is very rewarding to hear. Also, given that Hybris was recorded with two guitarists back in 1992, I was curious if this album's pieces would sound like they were missing something since there was only one guitarist on stage for this concert. Thankfully, I didn't feel like anything was lacking. The sound was fine, and the pieces were quite enjoyable to hear in this context.

*Technical: It has already been well-documented in studio album reviews that Änglagård is a very talented group of musicians, so I won't say too much about that at this moment. All I want to mention is that as a musician myself, I understand and appreciate the preparation required to play music that is this challenging. Each piece is demanding, having very specific technical nuances that require a lot of skill and focus to play each time you get on stage. I give them a lot of credit for playing these pieces with as few errors a possible. And I appreciate that the challenge of playing the correct notes did not prevent them from focusing on "making music". It isn't just about playing the right notes; it's also about making these phrases and sections sound natural, flow into each other like a great story or a river, and share authentic human emotional expression. They did all of these things, and that is the mark of a truly professional group of artists.

I give top marks for these wonderful musicians. They not only played the notes correctly, but they made the musical phrases connect very well and played in great balance with each other. Thank you for your great concert and great contributions to music, Änglagård!

Report this review (#2240011)
Posted Thursday, July 25, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars An excellent live album full of technical precision yet enough feelings to dive in. I've seen the first live band's performance after a long time, in February 2013 in Sweden, Stockholm. The performance was absolutely absorbing and pleasant.

The sound is very good, too. Live versions bring additional life and dynamism to the music and don't stay behind their studio versions. My only complaint is a different sound for the long awaited organ solo in "Jordok". The nice first symphonic track is a great warm-up full of bombastic sounds. All three studio albums are equally represented.

Go and get this fantastic celebration of some of the best 90's traditional progressive rock music!

Report this review (#2241667)
Posted Saturday, August 3, 2019 | Review Permalink
5 stars Review Nº 435

Anglagard was born in 1991 out of the Swedish Progressive Rock movement. They released their first album, "Hybris". They disbanded in 1994, the year of their second album "Epilog", after the final performance at Progfest in Los Angeles. The recordings of that live concert were released as a live album named "Buried Alive" that was launched only in 1996.

In 2009, Anglagard, after a long hiatus of time, reformed and returned to action working on some new compositions, and after a long period of rehearsals and recordings, in 2012, they were able to released their third studio album "Viljans Oga", surprisingly maintaining the high quality level obtained in the two previous studio albums. In March of 2013, Anglagard played in a series of three concerts at Club Citta, Tokyo in Japan to promote "Viljans Oga". At the time Anglagard was sharing the bill with The Crimson ProjeKCt. They performed with a varied track list and a revised line up.

So, the line up on "Prog Pa Svenska - Live In Japan" is Anna Holmgren (flute, saxophone, Mellotron and recorder), Tord Lindman (guitar, vocals, gong and atmospheric sound), Linus Kase (vocals, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Fender Rhodes piano, Moog Voyager, piano and soprano saxophone, Johan Brand (bass, Taurus bass pedals and atmospheric sound) and Erik Hammarstrom (drums, cymbals, vibraphone, glockenspiel, tubular bells, cran casa and gong).

"Prog Pa Svenska - Live In Japan" contains songs from all three studio albums of Anglagard. In addition to the older pieces, you also can get one brand new piece that was previously unreleased. This new piece shows that the band can still write fantastic prog rock songs. About the all old pieces, "familiar" is probably the right word to describe them, even if they have demonstrated some growth since the last time we heard them. On all pieces, the band have altered the tempos and added some new sounds. Saxophone parts and synthesizer sounds were added on some of those pieces.

Since "Prog Pa Svenska - Live In Japan" is pre-eminently a live act you won't hear the same versions that can be enjoyed on the ordinary studio albums. However, the renditions here rarely diverge from the originals. But, in some places, guitar replaces keyboards or sax replaces guitar. However, one of the things that makes or breaks a live album, for me, is the arrangements. With Anglagard, the arrangements are constantly in flux and that makes these tracks worth hearing in different versions and the album worth buying. Personally, I feel a bit ripped off when a band plays the same arrangements time and time again, but Anglagard constantly challenge themselves and their listeners. So, despite the pieces aren't properly as different as the originals, to have something different is what I always liked in all live albums.

"Prog Pa Svenska - Live In Japan" has seven tracks. "Introvertus Fugu (Den Asociala Blasfisken) Part 1" is the new piece. It's an impressive atmospheric intro. It's the shortest piece here and probably is the biggest draw for Anglagard's fans. Beginning with some spacey piano chords and a disjointed arrangement, the piece gradually rises from freeform chaos to dynamic Anglagard form to its conclusion. "Jordrok" and "Kung Bore" are from "Hybris". "Jordrok" is a dark and melancholic instrumental. It's complex with constant changes and where all members have its function and no one dominates. "Kung Bore" is a complex song, very nostalgic, with great vocals, some classical parts, good keyboards and a good rhythm section. "Hostsejd" and "Sista Somrar" are from "Epilog". "Hostsejd" has moments of pure energy, is mellow with abrupt transition passages between calm and mellow parts and loud and wild parts. "Sista Somrar" starts calm and soft until changes with a strong and aggressive passage. It will continue throughout the entire theme. Here, we can see the perfection and harmony between the classical and rock. "Langtans Klocka" and "Sorgmantel" are from "Viljans Oga". "Langtans Klocka" brings an autumnal tone with an elegant and almost classical style. It has great guitar riffs, supported on the back by keyboards, twined by beautiful bass lines and great drumming performance. The track's rhythm, stop and start, so common on Anglagard. "Sorgmantel" is a melodic number. The music flows smoothly and continuously with often tempo changes. The striking contrast between Mellotron and distorted guitar is excellent.

Conclusion: Finally, we have here an excellent live album of Anglagard, the album the band always wanted to release. Who are used to Anglagard knows they were disappointed and frustrated with their performance on "Buried Alive". On this album, Anglagard proves to be faithful to the icons of the 70's and keep the true spirit of prog. With a huge maturity and own style, a great treatment with an instrumental sound of high level and an excellent production, Anglagard shows their whole personality, quality of execution and sound, knowing to join their personal brand with the mysticism and charm so characteristic of the Scandinavian musical expression. They proved the great music doesn't have time. In my opinion, not one single second on this great double live album is boring. It's just a fine addition to my already large collection of live albums. Of course, the complex music on this album isn't everybody's cup of tea. But, give it a try.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Report this review (#2546863)
Posted Sunday, May 30, 2021 | Review Permalink

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