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Jens Johansson

Jazz Rock/Fusion

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Jens Johansson The Last Viking album cover
3.02 | 6 ratings | 2 reviews | 0% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1999

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Last Viking (5:05)
2. Burning Eyes (4:45)
3. Valhall Scuffle (5:27)
4. Fading Away (4:45)
5. Forest Song (4:50)
6. In The Mirror (4:37)
7. Close To You (3:41)
8. Carry Me (4:23)
9. Winter Battle (5:35)
10. Alone (5:08)

Total Time: 48:58

Line-up / Musicians

- Jens Johansson / keyboards
- Anders Johansson / drums
- Göran Edman / vocals
- Mike Romeo / bass, guitar

Releases information

Japan: CD Pony Canyon PCCY-01340/1999
South America: CD Heptagon Record HECD-023

Thanks to dick heath for the addition
and to SouthSideoftheSky for the last updates
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JENS JOHANSSON The Last Viking ratings distribution

(6 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(0%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(33%)
Good, but non-essential (50%)
Collectors/fans only (17%)
Poor. Only for completionists (0%)

JENS JOHANSSON The Last Viking reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
4 stars The last of it's kind

The two brothers, keyboardist Jens and drummer Anders Johansson, has so far made three albums together (plus one together with guitarist Allan Holdsworth). The Last Viking was the last one they did and this one is quite different from the others. The Last Viking is clearly less jazzy and also, at least on the surface, less progressive than the two other Johansson Brothers albums and even more so compared to the straightforward Jazz-Rock of Heavy Machinery (the one they did with Holdsworth). But The Last Viking is also more consistent and, on the whole, much better in my opinion.

For those of you who don't know the history of these guys, they both used to play in Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force in the 80's. For this album they enlisted Mike Romeo from Symphony X on guitars and Göran Edholm on vocals. The former is strongly influenced by Malmsteen's playing and the latter also used to sing for Malmsteen. But even if The Last Viking has some minor similarities with Yngwie Malmsteen's music, and also to that of Symphony X, these influences are not too apparent. The Last Viking has a much warmer and melodic sound that would be foreign to these metal bands, and the Johansson brothers have a much wider set of influences that stretches far beyond the narrow boundaries of metal music. This can be seen on their (especially Jens') extremely diverse output.

The Johansson brothers are obviously very skilled on their respective instruments and Romeo is a great guitar player, but this is not an album based on shredding and showing off chops. On the contrary, these songs are strongly based on melody and not on instrumental workout. They do burst out in many short, often extremely fast paced and impressive keyboard and guitar solos, but these are always appropriate within the context of the songs and never excessive. It is also clear that the three instrumentalists work together, and it is never a matter of just providing a backdrop for only one of them to show off. The instrumentalists share about equal space in the sound, which I like a lot.

We find here a very nice balance between up tempo songs, ballads and instrumentals. The material is very melodic. The ballads and the two instrumentals are great counterpoints to the more fast paced metal songs. On the surface this is rather conventional 80's metal, but at the same time it is not conventional at all. Below the surface we find a rich sonic palette and a strong sense of melody. The Jazz and Blues influences of earlier Johansson Brothers albums are almost gone, as are the more experimental edge, but there are still strong Classical influences here. Many would probably find this music a bit cheesy, but I find it cute and charming. I must say that I like this album a lot more than I like Symphony X or most of Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force's output.

Many progressive rock and metal fans probably notice that the songs here are rather short, but song length is not a necessary feature of progressive rock music. Is this Prog? Prog Metal? Or just conventional 80's metal with some progressive influences? I'm not sure, but I am pretty sure that this can appeal to many fans of these genres.

The vocals are very good and In The Mirror especially has excellent harmony vocals. The lyrics are perhaps not too interesting and are often about love and man's relation with nature (and Vikings?!). Again, some would find this cheesy, but I find it rather charming. You cannot take it too seriously, as I'm sure they don't do themselves! The keyboards sound like organs, pianos and harpsichords (even if I'm pretty sure that everything is produced with electronic keyboards). Everything has a sound that I do not recognize from somewhere else.

I enjoy this album! Give it a try!

Review by Tarcisio Moura
2 stars I remember when this album was released in Brazil with a different (and much better) cover. I bought it without even listening to it because I thought there were simply too many excellent musicians involved to be a bad record. Well, I learned two things after that: first, I should have listened to The Last Viking before I spent my hard earned money on it. Second, even excellent musicians working together dont´t exactly mean it´ll always turn out into an excellent work.

Granted: it´s not really a bad record. But when you think of all these fantastic people playing, one would expect something at least very good. Jens Johansson had made quite a name for himself playing with Ingwie Malmsteen´s Rising Force (together with his brother Anders, also featured here) and, especially, Stratovarius. Michael Romeo (Symphony X) is one prog metal´s best guitarists and singer Göran Edman (once also a Malmsteen´s Rising Force member and now on Karmakanic, among others) has a great voice. Quite a dream team for this kind of work.

However, The Last Viking suffers from a very bad production (the bass is almost inaudible) and a lack of strong songwriting. Some parts are good, like the second track. Burning Eyes, that reminds of good latter day Deep Purple stuff. But most of the time the songs just sound disappointingly short, not well arranged and many seem to be half baked. I don´t know about Johansson´s other, more Jazz rock oriented, works, but this one didn´t convince me at all. Romeo is seldom heard, unlike anything he has ever done before or since. A truly waste of great musicianship.

If you´re a fan of the guys who play here, let me warn you: listen before buying. It might spare you from the big disappointment I had at the time. Rating: two stars because of some (brief) good moments. This one is for collectors and completionists only.

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