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5 stars I am a big fan of Introitus' previous two albums, in fact their 2011 album "Elements" was near the top of my list for that year. So I had high expectations for this, their third release. Well, the Bender family and friends have not let me down.

"Anima" is another tour de force. Just great songwriting, arrangements, and musicianship. It starts with Matts Bender on keyboards, who plays his instruments with such power and versatility. As in the past, the keyboards are the dominant instruments here. Still, Par Helje does a great job on guitars, with some soaring Hackettesque solos as well as some blistering licks. And Anna Bender's crystal clear vocals just add to the power and emotion of the album.

Three of the 9 tracks exceed 10 minutes in length, and there is not a weak track on the entire album. Just powerful and emotional, loaded with great melodies and instrumental passages. Everything you could want from modern symph/neo prog. This album will certainly be in my rotation for quite a while as it just gets better with each listen. And a sure bet, like "Elements", to be near the top of my 2014 list of best albums.

Report this review (#1266623)
Posted Tuesday, September 2, 2014 | Review Permalink
Second Life Syndrome
4 stars My, my. Trying to follow up Introitus' "Elements" is a difficult gig for any album by any artist, as it is a true masterpiece, in my opinion. Introitus themselves have given it a shot, and "Anima" has turned out to be a smashing success and a rock solid musical experience. Introitus, very much a family effort, features the Bender family and their friends making gorgeous music and great traditions, too.

After "Fantasy" and "Elements", the band has taken their sound a little bit to the heavier side at times, believe it or not. We still get to experience (and it really is an "experience") Mats Bender's lively, lush tapestry of keys, and also Anna Bender's monumental voice. However, Pär Helje on guitar and Mattias Bender on drums seem to have a little more leeway here, as the music really picks up some grit and features some rather hard-hitting sequences. This is all counterbalanced, however, by the beautiful flute from Henrik Björlind and the impressively noteworthy bass lines of Dennis Lindkvist. Indeed, the rhythm section of this album really nailed the vibe and the feel it needed.

Introitus has always written lyrics that seem close to home and to the heart. In fact, I really admire the way Anna and Mats respect and encourage their children, and also the love they express for each other. "Anima" is no different, as the same heartfelt lyrics return, such as in the tender "You Will Always Be My Girl". And, yet, there is a dark side to this album, too, with some depressing, insecure songs like "Broken Glass". However, Introitus' signature neo-prog, complete with grand flourishes and rockin' instrumentals, is constantly weaving its way through all of this.

I confess that Introitus is one of my very favorite bands, and this album really shows why that is. This band isn't afraid to utilize sweeping synth in the same place as fantastic blast beats. They aren't afraid to include purely instrumental tracks like "Free", a complete knock out of fast paced rock, Celtic flutes, and even some electronic elements. They aren't afraid to tackle a sixteen minute epic called "Anima" that is literally the best epic I've heard this year, complete with a compelling chorus, ambient sections, and, like usual, a firestorm of an instrumental. In fact, it's so impressive, that they had to include a dreamy cooldown track directly afterwards, "Exire".

So, kudos to Introitus for creating yet another masterful album. "Anima" has all the synthy goodness, beautiful lyrics, and hardened edges that I was hoping to hear, and that automatically makes it one of my favorites of the year. And the best thing? Introitus albums always grow on me, so I expect to love "Anima" even more within a few months. Be sure to hear this wonderful album.

4.5 stars

Report this review (#1283040)
Posted Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
3 stars I am glad to review an album from a Swedish band, when I am a swede myself and this one is called "Introitus" and has been making records since 2007. After the debut "Fantasy" and the follow up "Elements" it is now 2014 time for their third "Anima" which cover shows a dance couple in front of a lake. A lot of musicians cooperate on this album: Mats Bender (keyboard), Anna Jobs Bender(vocals), Johanna Bender(vocals), Mattias Bender(drums and vocals), Henrik Ben..., no I meant Björlind (flute and additional keyboards), Pär Helje (guitar) and Dennis Lindkvist(bass). The size of the record is quite big, the songs are few which prog songs use to be.

The musical containt on "Anima" is interesting. The coexistence of many styles and aspects make this fusioned world and I do like many of them. I'll start with everything I like. It is clear this is well done and composed music with a lot of musicallity in performances. The album is full of great guitar solos, drums in a high class and symphonic keyboard walls. The melodies come as big structures and sometimes they are so symphonic. An example of that is the title track "Anima" of sixteen minutes. The second half of that song is very interesting with a male vocalist, subert instrumentalists and a choir as well. "Broken Glass" has also a lot to get high about. The best song though is "Free" where I love the Swedish folk song which is similar to Monica Törnell who did similar things in the seventies and the folk melody here is lovely. That is a bright shining point on "Anima" and "Free" gets 8/10.

I must though say that even if the music here and there is interesting and sweet, is my lack of interest in what the music gives me the must apparent for me. I find the songs uninspiring and especially the vocals are a total mess. I don't say the singer aren't good but it is certainly not my style. As soon as the music turns instrumental I like it and the good things on this album are not few so I will give it three stars, even if they are weak. The absolutely best song is "Free" and I recommend it!

Report this review (#1286244)
Posted Tuesday, September 30, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Elements, the predecessor to this album, is one of my favourites of all time, with its gut-wrenching emotions marking a work that was nothing short of genius, so following this up was always going to be a mighty ask for any act.

Swedish band Introitus have, though, made an excellent job. Anima, an interesting examination of the human soul, or psyche, once again highlights all that is interesting and endearing about the band, but does also move the band's sound forward in that there is far greater room for expression by Pars Helje and his guitar, and he takes full advantage with some memorable riffs and rhythms.

At the heart of all that is best here, though, again, is the wonderful combination of wife and husband - Anna Bender on vocals, and Mats on keyboards.

There are three ten minute plus epics to delight our senses here. The first, Broken Glass, is, to these ears, perhaps the least convincing. When it is good, with heavy, crashing riffs accompanying the beautiful sound of Anna's voice, then it is very good. Regrettably, this is not perfected throughout the entire ten and a half minutes, as some parts are patchy, with a couple of minutes of filler, really.

Slipping Away clocks in at over eleven minutes long, and opens with the most delightful bluesy guitar riff, and special mention here must be made for the sensual bass lines provided by Dennis Lindkvist, ably backed by the fantastically produced thunder of Mattias Bender on drums. The vocal drips with feeling, and deals with that timeline common to all souls, that of facing death of the flesh. The wall of sound that is created is a joy to listen to, and the whole piece gels together in a lock tight fashion.

The final epic is the title track itself, Anima. It really is a wondrous track, a beautiful paeon to the eternal nature of the changing nature of the seasons and life itself in the beloved forest where The Bender family reside, and wrapped in a satanic fable. It is exceptionally dark in places, but the fusion of symphonic, soaring rock, and folk tales ultimately brings a warmth that only this act are capable of. There is even time for a pulsating mini-drum solo, which highlights gleefully the talents of young Mattias.

The comedown from the emotional wave of Anima is the pretty piano led instrumental, Exire, and we also have a two and a half minute "secret track" with which to close proceedings entirely. Both do the difficult job of bringing us safely back to earth to chill perfectly.

Elsewhere, there are plenty of other delights awaiting the listener. The Gothic, and ghostly, Who Goes There is a rollicking seven minutes of spooky fun, worth the entrance fee for Mat's swirling poltergeist keys alone. This is easily the most haunting fun had since Genesis delighted us with Home By The Sea, and there are some very heavy passages to rock us out.

You Will Always Be My Girl is, as you would imagine, a tribute to daughter Bender, whose lovely features, with her beau, adorn the striking album cover. Genuine, heartfelt, and an uplifting track to savour. Anna demonstrates, again, just what a lovely voice that she has, and it really is a shame that the wider pop listening world will never hear it. This lot, in another era, would have been massive.

Lastly, Free is a deeply intelligent piece of modern rock, with folk sympathies running deep. There are no lyrics as such, but a soaring chant which accompanies a rich band instrumental, with some easily detected Focus influences therein. This is easily one of the finest tracks I have heard in 2014.

Let me tell you, Introitus are so much more than just a neo prog band. Whilst that sound is their forte, they produce so much more than this. Above all, I think that the best tribute I can pay to a band kind enough to do an interview with me on this site is that my life is infinitely richer for having had them enter it. They are a joy, and this four star album comes highly recommended to you all.

Report this review (#1295324)
Posted Thursday, October 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars The fabulous Swedish outfit is back! I was seduced by their second opus, "Elements" (2011). "Anima" is another tour de force. You'll find great song writing, arrangements, musicianship and production as before. It starts with Matts Bender on keyboards who plays his instruments with such power and resourcefulness. As in the previous opus, the keyboards are the dominant instruments here. But Par Helje does a great job on the guitars, with some gorgeous Hackett-like solos. And Anna Bender's (Matts' wife) crystal clear vocals and poetic lyrics just add emotion to the blend. I forget Matts and Anna's children on drums and backing vocals! No, this is not a family business as you may say but rather a labour of love! Three of the 9 tracks exceed 10 minutes in duration and there is not a weak track on the whole album. As I said, "Anima" is powerful and emotional on the same time, enlightened by lush melodies and instrumental passages. Everything you could want from modern symphonic and neo prog is here. I think like "Elements", "Anima" will be at the top of my 2014 best albums list. Fans of Magenta, hurry! Highly recommended.
Report this review (#1327437)
Posted Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | Review Permalink

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