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AGENTS OF MERCY

Neo-Prog • Sweden


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Agents Of Mercy biography
Formed in 2008, AGENTS OF MERCY was originally a side-project by Roine Stolt (guitars, bass, vocals) of The Flower Kings fame, whrere the goal was to create a low key, mostly acoustic based type of music.

Along the way Nad Sylvan (vocals) from Unifaun was invited to participate with vocals. However, one thing lead to another, and pretty soon the two of them found themselves involved in a creation that almost took on a life of it's own - for some reason or other the compositions got longer and longer, more and more progressive rock elements found their way into their creations - pretty soon this had evolved into a collaborative project, and the music had changed from low key and acoustic to anything but low key and highly progressive.

With the participation of several musical friends debut album The Fading Ghosts of Twilight was issued in March 2009. Sylvan and Stolt finished some additional projects following the album release; and are taking this project on the road in the autumn of 2009 - in most cases doing a double bill with another Flower Kings side-projct; Karmakanic.

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Fading Ghosts of TwilightFading Ghosts of Twilight
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DramaramaDramarama
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AGENTS OF MERCY top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.14 | 88 ratings
The Fading Ghosts of Twilight
2009
3.97 | 162 ratings
Dramarama
2010
3.99 | 205 ratings
The Black Forest
2011

AGENTS OF MERCY Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.29 | 7 ratings
The Power of Two (With Karmakanic)
2010

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AGENTS OF MERCY Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

Review by progressouno

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 the sonic template set forth on 2010's Dramarama. The jams are better executed, the lyrics more memorable, and the cohesiveness of the record far more unified. There's an actual band identity here, one that's clearly evolved from a Stolt-Sylvan studio project to encompass a broader musical universe filled with impassioned lyrical content and bolder aural dynamics. Quite eager to hear what's next.

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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

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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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

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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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

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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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

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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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

Review by Tobbe J

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, heavy riffing, instrumental virtuositiy (Lalle is a a monster keyboardplayer!!) but there is also some very Roinish pixie dust here and there. :) All in all one of the best albums of the year!! Go get folks!! My four stars should be read as 4 and a half actually...

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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

Review by robbob

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,without a definition.

This album is a masterpiece of symphonic prog(and symphonic because reminds me very much masterpieces of Yes,Genesis(Wind and Wuthering) and the best Transatlantic...)

Roine Stolt and their boys did a very serious effort here...a very well worked album ,excellent arrangements and melodies stay in my musical memory now and will remain further long,because are excellent songs .

So congratulations...because I did,nt have to much faith in their future because of DramaRama ...but this one demonstrate they are an excellent band .

Masterpiece

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 The Black Forest by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.99 | 205 ratings

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The Black Forest
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

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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 Dramarama by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.97 | 162 ratings

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Dramarama
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

Review by infandous

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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 Dramarama by AGENTS OF MERCY album cover Studio Album, 2010
3.97 | 162 ratings

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Dramarama
Agents Of Mercy Neo-Prog

Review by 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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