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THE BLACK FOREST

Agents Of Mercy

Neo-Prog


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Agents Of Mercy The Black Forest album cover
3.98 | 203 ratings | 8 reviews | 25% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection


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Studio Album, released in 2011

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Black Forest (11:10)
2. A Quiet Little Town (6:58)
3. Black Sunday (6:20)
4. Elegy (6:14)
5. Citadel (7:02)
6. Between Sun & Moon (5:07)
7. Freak of Life (8:15)
8. Kingdom of Heaven (6:20)

Total time 57:26

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians

- Nad Sylvan / vocals, keyboards
- Roine Stolt / guitars, vocals
- Jonas Reingold / bass
- Lalle Larsson / keyboards, vocals
- Walle Wahlgren / drums

Releases information

Release date: September 17, 2011
Label: Foxtrot Music

Thanks to Anthony H. for the addition
and to windhawk for the last updates
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AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest ratings distribution


3.98
(203 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(25%)
25%
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(46%)
46%
Good, but non-essential (24%)
24%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest reviews


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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Anthony H.
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest [2011]

Rating: 8/10

An interesting change of direction.

At the time of this review's writing, it is fairly obvious that Agents of Mercy has become Roine Stolt's main gig. Roine has established himself as a true symph-prog maestro trough his work with The Flower Kings and Transatlantic; in my opinion, he is one of the best and most accomplished progressive-rock musicians not only of the past twenty years, but of all time. While Roine has firmly established his finesse for bombastic symphonic grandiosity, he has recently shown a desire to tweak his normal compositional attitude. Agents of Mercy seems to be the medium through which he is doing so. Because of this tweaking, the Agents have been rather controversial among Flower Kings fans. The Black Forest is the third Agents album after only three years. So far, each of these three albums has been stylistically unique, but still characteristic of Roine's signature style. The first album, The Fading Ghosts of Twilight, was a low-key and fairly underwhelming affair. The follow-up, Dramarama, was a symph-prog charged Beatlesesque treasure trove. That album was a masterpiece for me. This third album, The Black Forest, takes a new musical approach. The retro sensibility is still present, but in an entirely different way. This is by far the heaviest album Roine has ever been involved with. There is a strong hard-rock influence here, but it's combined with symph-prog bombast to create a consistently interesting listen that sounds like nothing Roine has ever done before.

The eleven-minute title track is a superb epic hard-rock song with sublime vocal lines from Nad and a wonderful keyboard solo from Lalle. The concluding section features a driving bass-line that blossoms into a fantastic conclusion. This track will be a classic in the years to come. "A Quiet Little Town" is centered on an infectiously funky bass-line. The drumming is particularly impressive here: Walle lays some very complex rhythms to back up the throbbing bass. "Black Sunday" is probably the heaviest thing on the album. The guitar is hard-hitting and the chorus is quite memorable. Jonas's bass is superb, as always. While "Elegy" is technically a ballad, that term greatly underestimates the power of this track. Nad's voice is in top game here, and Roine plays a magnificent solo near the end. "Citadel" features a hard-hitting Zeppelin-inspired riff, and Lalle's synth solo is one of the best on the album. Roine takes up the vocal duties on "Between Sun & Moon." This is certainly the most lighthearted song here, with great vocal melodies and guitar playing. "Freak of Life" is certainly the strangest song here, but in a good way. The instrumentation is excellent as always, but the vocals really stand out here. The combination of spoken-word, vocal interchange, and vocal harmonies make this quite an interesting listen. The closing piece "Kingdom of Heaven" is a somber piece that ends the album perfectly. The album's best guitar work is found on this track; Roine can really make the instrument sing.

I was enormously impressed with The Black Forest. The alternative musical approach the band has taken here manages to work extraordinarily well. One of the most impressive elements of this album is the democratic balance between the five members. Jonas and Walle create a grinding rhythm section that never ceases to be fantastic. Lalle lays down some phenomenal synth solos that would have made Peter Bardens proud. Roine's guitar takes a slightly different role here than normal - he uses it more as a rhythmic instrument and less as a melodic forefront. This style fits the music swimmingly. Last but certainly not least, Nad's wonderful voice ties the whole package together. Pieces like the title track and "Elegy" provide even more evidence of his vocal power. The Black Forest doesn't reach the same level that Dramarama did, but it is a phenomenal listen that I would recommend to any fan of heavy retro-inspired progressive music.

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Send comments to Anthony H. (BETA) | Report this review (#540553) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, October 02, 2011

Review by Muzikman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars With Roine Stolt's brainchild Agents of Mercy going back in the studio within a very short time after their second release Dramarama, I knew that he had those creative juices flowing and was itching to get back to work. This comes as no surprise as the man has been on a creative curve going upwards for over two decades now.

In case you were new to this band they are Nad Sylvan (Lead vocal & keyboard), Roine Stolt (Guitars & vocal, production), Lalle Larsson (Keyboards & vocal), Jonas Reingold (Bass) and Walle Wahlgren (Drums).

As with his several other projects, Roine stretches out more and comes up with a masterpiece of progressive rock that always improves upon the last recording. Black Forest is the band's first concept album and actually a 56 minute track that they cut up into more bite sized digestible pieces. So where does one start with a prog rock magnum opus such as this? Is it going to be pompous overkill or a beautiful painting on a musical palette? What I heard was 8 tracks of unrestrained brilliance from beginning to end on this release. I expect each release to be different and so far all three have with this being the most captivating of them all. I found it interesting how CD Baby listed this album as 70s rock with influences from Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Procol Harum. The influences are clear with the music Roine makes however I would not call this 70s rock, there are bits and pieces that would qualify as such on any album but make no mistake this is progressive rock through and through.

The lead off track "Black Forest" takes you into another time and place some 300 years ago through the eyes of a weary traveler and as the album progresses so does the music and the story. "A Quiet Little Town" is an interesting thought provoking track that will form a perception not only through the storyteller's eyes but through you, the listener. It is beauty and cynicism that leaves you hanging at the end of a rope waiting for an escape route then around the corner comes more darkness with "Black Sunday." While this is all going on as you are absorbing all the incredible soundscapes created by this band of musical supermen, you hear Roine's guitar wailing away, cutting like a knife or in the same instance giving a subtle nod for the next instrument to come in and lead the way. Although Roine is a musical genius he plays as part of a team and each member of the band gets their moments in the sun as matter of course.

"Freak of Life" is the most powerful rocking track. It sounds like it could be a step back to medieval times but the difference is there is a stage where Roine and the band are playing this song right outside the renaissance fair, luring you in to see the show. You could also imagine this being played outside of a modern day circus big top. Any way you look at it, it's a freak show. Think of a deranged Jethro Tull minus Ian's flute and a little more sophisticated and heavy you may get a grasp of what this music can sound like on this powerhouse track.

But don't get the impression this is anything like Jethro Tull or any other band you have heard. This is Agents of Mercy, a project that started off with two guys throwing a few songs together that became a band that rivals the Flower Kings in their most fertile period. I think it was best to put the Flower Kings to bed for a while and start something new and challenging, and that is what Mr. Stolt has done, again with great success.

Black Forest can be a fantasy, a tale from the dark ages or a twisted look upon on the cold realities of life regardless of what century you lived in. It all depends on what eyes you are looking through but in the end what you get is one of the finest progressive rock albums of 2011.

Key Tracks: The Black Forest, Freak Of Life, Black Sunday

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Send comments to Muzikman (BETA) | Report this review (#563443) | Review Permalink
Posted Sunday, November 06, 2011

Review by Nightfly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars The Black Forest is the new album from Swedish symphonic/neo proggers Agents Of Mercy. Originally conceived as something of a side project for Flower Kings guitarist Roine Stolt and Nad Sylvan of Unifaun fame, it would appear that Agents Of Mercy has replaced The Flower Kings as Stolt's main gig, this being their third album in quick succession since their debut in 2009 and The Flower Kings having not released a new studio album since 2007. As on 2010's Dramarama the pair are joined by Stolt's Flower King's buddy Jonas Reingold on bass, Lalle Larsson on keyboards and drummer Walle Wahlgren forming what appears to be a now stable line-up.

Anyone having heard Dramarama in particular will know what to expect here as The Black Forest contains the same sort of symphonic prog. This time however the band seem to be going for a more bombastic approach with a number of songs such as Citadel and Black Sunday having a heavier edge than past outings. The more restrained Elegy and Between Sun & Moon is more in keeping with the past though. Agents of Mercy go for a more direct songwriting approach where the song takes precedence over the lengthy instrumental workouts the FK's often went for, though there's still much to enjoy on a musical level here. Best of all is opener and title track The Black Forest which does break the ten minute barrier. It's a dynamic piece with strong melodies and giving them more opportunity to stretch out on a musical level and the song most like The Flower King's on the album.

Another very good album from Agents of Mercy, with moments that equal Dramarama and in the title track surpassing it, though perhaps as a whole not quite on the same level. Well worth 3 stars though.

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Send comments to Nightfly (BETA) | Report this review (#568242) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Review by Windhawk
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Swedish band AGENTS OF MERCY initially started out as the solo vehicle of Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Kaipa, Transatlantic), but in a few years this side project has developed into a fine and mature band, actively recording and releasing new material and performing it live. "The Black Forest" is their third and most recent CD, and was released in the fall of 2011.

Vintage oriented symphonic progressive rock is what Agents of Mercy is all about, with a few bells and whistles added to their repertoire this time around that does add a subtle nuance of innovation to the proceedings. Excellent musicianship, performance and production all around are the icing on the cake. If you have a soft spot for the likes of Genesis and Camel and generally enjoy that sound, this is a CD that should appeal to you.

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Send comments to Windhawk (BETA) | Report this review (#620170) | Review Permalink
Posted Thursday, January 26, 2012

Review by ProgShine
COLLABORATOR Errors & Omissions and Crossover Team
4 stars Agents Of Mercy is a brainchild of Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) and it's quite easy to identify an album with his signature. His pattern of composition is unmistakable and it's already a stamp in the 'new' wave of Prog Rock. Although in The Black Forest (2011), latest release by Agents Of Mercy band that he founded with Nad Sylvan, he comes with darker shadows. And not only with the lyrics, with the compositions too. Maybe Roine father's death have something to do with it, it was about the same time.

As usual the band that plays on the album is sharp. None other than Lalle Larsson (keyboards) and Jonas Reingold (bass). Names that any Flower Kings fan knows by heart.

'The Black Forest' starts werdly the album and the track has many changes in its 11:10. The chorus seems to mention Gentle Giant with "The Power And The Glory" line. 'A Quiet Little Town' was written by Nad Sylvan and it's quite different. 'Black Sunday' has weird vocals followed by organ and synths. Full of rhythm and heavy like few times I've seen Roine been. 'Elegy' is classic. Violins and piano give its sound. 'Citadel' is followed without blank space and has its lyrics inspired by Elizabeth Bathory de Ecsed (Google it), first track where Roine does lead vocals. 'Between Sun & Moon' reminds me a Rush's track with the same name, but there's nothing to do with it. Roine sings again. One of my favorites in the album. Great line on the lyrics:

"When you look for a lifeline And reasons to soldier on Take a look at your offspring and The seeds of success you've sown"

'Freak Of Life' is another one written by Nad and it's a Circus kinda track, this to match with the lyrics that talk about old time Circus. 'Kingdom Of Heaven' is the last song and it's almost instrumental. Almost cause Roine sings just one line: "No more fears, no more tears?' probably has everything to do with his father again. The Black Forest (2011) isn't really a conceptual album, but there's a sort of concept in it. They're talking about the dark side of life and people.

Great album.

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Send comments to ProgShine (BETA) | Report this review (#642868) | Review Permalink
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Latest members reviews

4 stars Easily the most muscular release from Agents of Mercy, The Black Forest reveals a greater willingness to expand on its musical ideas ("Elegy" with its exquisite guitar solo) and simply stretch out far more than the band did on its comparatively reserved debut. Black Forest essentially improves on th ... (read more)

Report this review (#803123) | Posted by progressouno | Saturday, August 11, 2012 | Review Permanlink

4 stars So the creativity within Agents of Mercy has hit its peak so far!! First album was a little bit too mellow in my taste, the second was way better in every aspect to my ears and so, now, finally, everything's in place for Roine, Nad, Jonas, Lalle and Walle!! The whole album reeks of good melodies, ... (read more)

Report this review (#553936) | Posted by Tobbe J | Friday, October 21, 2011 | Review Permanlink

5 stars Third album from this talented Swedish symphonic?(or neo prog band) And this third album is the best of the band by far. Very inspired melodies by this very experimented and talented musicians. I had my argues about DramaRama ...a quite confused prog music,not very inspired in my opinion, ... (read more)

Report this review (#549517) | Posted by robbob | Thursday, October 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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