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Symphonic Prog • Sweden

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ATLAS are a Swedish Symphonic Prog group that released a single studio album in 1979. The album titled "Bla Vardag" featured an accomplished lineup of musicians; Björn Ekborn on organ, piano, synths, clavinet, mellotron, Rhodes, Erik Björn Nielsen on synths, mellotron, Rhodes, organ, piano, Micke Pinotti on drums, Uffe Hedlund on bass, bass pedals, guitar, and Janne Persson on guitar, percussion double-keyboards, guitars, bass and drums.

The music is primarily beautiful symphonic rock with a fusion slant, largely instrumental, with a great deal of inspired passages with an emphasis on guitar and dual keyboard interplay. ATLAS are commonly compared to an instrumental version of GENESIS, BO HANNSON and late 70's CAMEL such as the sound of their "Breathless" album. The Swedish Prog scene is concentric on a lighter sound, almost Canterbury in feel at times, along the lines of ALTER ECHO, THE FOUNDATION, KAIPA, MOON SAFARI, and IN THE LABYRINTH, and this is the type of serene music that ATLAS generates, featuring a double keyboard soundscape.

Although there is only one album to seek out, it is a critically praised musical treat; certainly one of the strongest traditional Symphonic albums from the late 70s. Discerning fans of instrumental prog with a symphonic flair will find a lot to like about "Blå Vardag".

UPDATED 2014 ---AtomicCrimsonRush (Scott Tuffnell)---

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ATLAS discography

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4.21 | 160 ratings
Blå Vardag

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ATLAS Reviews

Showing last 10 reviews only
 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by Tarcisio Moura
Prog Reviewer

3 stars 3.5 stars really. I was quite surprised by the sole album produced by this obscure swedish band, even more so if you consider that Bla Vardag was released in 1979! It´s really hard to find a good, old fashioned prog album around that time, specially for a new group and an all instrumental one! Small wonder it made no impact at all (tell me about wrong timing!!). However, the music inside the ugly cover is really good: lots of keyboards (they had two keyboard players), strong Genesis, Camel and ELP influences plus a more than light leaning towards jazz rock/fusion arrangements.

Overall I liked very much the whole CD. The music is quite pleasant, very well produced and recorded. Sometimes, specially on the jazz rock parts, the sound gets a little too predicable and boring, but most of the time is highly melodic and creative. A little more edge would do wonders, but, hey, we´re talking about a first work and, in this light, Bla Vardag is more than just good or promising. A real shame they didn´t have the chance to produce a follow up. It would be very interesting to see what they would come up with after they hade more experience and time to hone their skills at the songwriting department.

Highlights: the melodic title track and the 12 minute suite Pa Gata, really good. My CD came with three bonus tracks (one is said to be recorded specially for the CD release of the album) and I can say that those extra tunes are on par, or maybe slightly bettter, than the original work, making these additions a very welcome surprise. Sound quality is also top notch.

Conclusion: even if Bla Vardag is not a masterpiece some claim, this is a highly enjoable instrumental prog that came from a time when symphonic progressive music was on its darkest hours (and least creative period). If you like fine instrumental prog music with jazz rock overtones, you should check this out.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by DrömmarenAdrian

4 stars Atlas released one record with the name Atlas and afterwards they changed name to Mosaik and did one record with that name three years after this disc "Blå vardag". This record from 1979 contains eight songs and it was easy for me to like it. Their music has a deep sound and it's filled with instruments and great melodies. Every track is worth listen to but of course I have my favourites. "På gata" has a strong and handsome melody which knows what it want. It happens a lot in this music. This record really shows what symphonic rock is and does that with distinct tunes and great harmonies. "Hemifrån" is another gem which is a musdical journey through time and space. What I miss here is song. I can't really place is in the same level such as Genesis (which they almost sounds like). This is also a record that I maybe will raise higher later on. But now I will give it four strong stars. The lack of song is big. They do it well even without song but I am curious how It would have sounded with vocals included. A very honest record with great symphonic progressive rock, worth liften to. Perhaps it will fit your taste. The similarities with Camel's Snow goose is something i notised.

This is one of the best Swedish prog albums I have heard. It's interesting to search around for new music. There are a lot of hidden gems in the flower garden of prog.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by BrufordFreak
Collaborator Jazz-Rock / Fusion / Canterbury Team

4 stars Music from 1979 in the style of CAMEL, FOCUS or early GENESIS but without the virtuosic guitar work of a Jan Akkerman or Steve Hackett. I's pretty well recorded--clear and well mixed. The songs are thoughtfully composed in a symphonic at-times bordering on jazz fusion style with no shortage of complexity and dynamic variation. The songs are all sensitively performed with all instrumentalists contributing equally. The keyboard players (there are two!) are to my ears the most impressive performers, though the bass and drums are very tight and quite talented. It might be said that the guitarist is the weak link--though he's by no means poor. For example: There's a nice foray into the realm of STEVE HACKETT in the middle of the Nursery Cryme/Moving Waves-like "På Gata" (over some awesome organ work) before he loses his patience and tries to shred with a fuzz sound in a blues-rock style that, to my ears, kind of ruins it. A better comparison would be he's really like Mike Rutherford: a decent rhythmist and ensemble player but not a stunner as a lead.

Favorite songs: a very FOCUS-like 7. "Hemifrån" (7:51) with the best HACKETT-like work and piano playing on the album (9/10); the classically oriented finale 8. "Sebastian" (4:31) (Bach?) (9/10); the diverse epic, 2. På Gata" (14:10) (8/10); the syrupy Camel-like title song, 3. "Blå Vardag" (6:57) (8/10); the jazzy little 4. "Glånglåt" (2:53) (8/10); the keyboard-dominated FOCUS-like 5. "Den Vita Tranans Väg (7:19) (8/10), and; the more fusion-oriented 6. "Björnstorp" (6:18) with its tasteful drum solo and ending electric guitars' duel (8/10).

Definitely a solid contribution to prog world and one of Sweden's earliest. Consistent with interesting, mature symphonic compositions performed at a high CAMEL-like level.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by Mr. Mustard

4 stars I found this while I was on my "discovering rampage" of Swedish prog like The Flower Kings and Anglagard. I came across these guys, who are of course Swedish. Let me tell you it was a pleasant surprise and one of my favorite discoveries to date. This album has everything I like in symphonic prog. The melodies are there, the harmonies are there, and the lush instruments that make the genre so great are also present.

The album is fully instrumental, which is fine by me. The instrumentation is strong enough on its own it would probably be hindered by vocals anyway. To describe the music, I would probably say it's a combination of symphonic prog like Genesis with a mix of jazz fusion. The songs do carrier a rather lighter a free flowing feel as seen in jazz.

The best part of this album is easily the endless melodies these guys are playing. You might think one moment is cool and exciting but then they hit you with something even better. They are also able to make the songs flow very well.

The majority of the album is upbeat and packed with riffs. The slower sections that do exist are played wonderfully and have a nice atmospheric feel, similar to Pink Floyd perhaps.

I would recommend this album to most fans of symphonic prog and jazz fusion. People who like their music on the darker may be turned off by this as it is mostly happy, uplifting and overall very easy listening.

If I were to have any problem with this album it is the production of the cymbals which seem to be overly loud in the mix and in your face in a few songs. Other than that, this is a very good, if a bit unknown album.


 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by Isa
Prog Reviewer

4 stars |B-| A passionate, sophisticated, and genuine late-seventies prog sound.

Here we have an instrumental symphonic prog album, Blå Vardag, by the band Atlas. It is the only album known in existence by the Swedish band. I suspect this album either helped to establish or rode the wave of the (more optimistic sounding) Swedish symphonic prog sound as we know it, though I'd have to listen to more bands of the region and era. It's quite clear where much of this band's sound came from and was aimed to emulate: late seventies symphonic prog, particularly Steve Hackett's first few albums, Genesis' Trick of the Tail, and certainly Yes. The jazz-fusion material reminds me a lot of Bill Bruford's first album as well. Much of their music has a real sense of beauty, with classical and jazz- fusion influences abounding. In fact, I'd say the album gets much more jazz-fusion sounding as it plays toward the middle, then seems to gradually revert back to the Steve Hackett and Genesis sounding symphonic prog sound. It's in general much less rock oriented and much more cerebral and "progressive," which works quite well with the sound that the band is going for.

What I like most about this album is the clear sense that the musicians were really emulating and creating music that they were really passionate about, and melding their favorite influences in an attempt to make their own sound. The music has a real sense of optimism with a trace of naivety. It's a darn shame that they disbanded after only one album, we can only wonder what they might have sounded like had they another few albums to really develop their own original, cohesive sound, but alas, we are left with one beautiful work of symphonic/fusion influenced, Swedish, little gem of an album.

Track Commentary: The opening track Elisabiten starts us off with some energy, some very fun time-signature changes, dynamic shifts, and some beautiful harmonic progressions. The synthesizer plays a very prominent role in the movement of the music, and one can immediately hear the Swedish style where bands such as Beardfish were influenced in their sound. I love the way they really change up their music with the piano toward the end... basically classical music played on rock instruments. The second track Pa Gata starts us off with a very Genesis sounding laying with the bass-synth pads and really fun 7/8 pattern. The guitar work here is good, but I sure wish the part was played with a bit more expression. The drumming is very good but gets pretty repetitive in this track. I like the darker sounding piano/synth duet section. This track has a good sense of diversity. The guitar is a bit rushed in his arpeggios sometimes unfortunately, he probably wasn't as experience with playing in 7/8 as he would have liked to be when they made the recording, but it might have also been a decisive interpretation... kind of one of those gray areas. The guitar solo has the added octave chorused effect, very characteristic of late seventies prog, and he plays very expressively here. There is a beautiful, yet abrupt change most of the way through the piece where the acoustic guitar and piano play a pretty sort of improvised sounding duet section, leading into a jazz-piano solo, which is really cool. The ending is pretty bombastic, yet charming. The Third track, Bla Vardag, starts off with a lyrical synth solo, backed up by cymbal roles leading into the same motif being backed by the rest of the band. This sounds very much to me like a ballad I might have heard from one of Bill Bruford's solo albums... quite jazzy sounding. I like the bass patterns on this piece, so juicy. I especially love the 11/8 section with the work on the high hat and percussive bass lines, it's one of the most brilliant moments in the whole album. Probably my favorite piece on the whole album. Gånglåt reminds me very much of another work off Bill Bruford's first album, lots of unison and paralell lines between the electric guitar and electric piano. Den vita tranans väg is a little more lack-luster sounding of a track to me in general, definitely something the band put together with some quick jamming, though they develop it well enough for it to hold its salt. There just seems less inspiration behind it is my feeling, and they try too hard to be technical with it sometimes. Some parts are starkly Steve Hackett- sounding. Björnstorp gets a little more rock sounding with the aggressive drums and bass, mixed with some pretty classical influenced flutes playing parallel lines. This is a good track and is pretty much improvisations over a good 7/8 held in place by the drummer, who has a really awesome, groovy solo, which gradually reverts back to the theme from the beginning. Hemifran has a really diverse and much less repetitive sound to it, and emulates Genesis quite a bit. Lots of really good soloing and skill of this pianist. Sebastian has a very noodle- on-your-instrument kind of intro, which fortunately develops into some really cool and groovy work from the band, particularly the piano. Some really pretty though overly layered sections in this pieces, maybe live this song sounds less cluttered I would think. I like the Piccardy at the end.

All in all there is a lot to be said for this less-known album, and it has a lot to offer for both the casual and the more scholarly progressive listener. Those of us out there who really love that more cerebral symphonic prog sound, particularly that in the late seventies when jazz-fusion started to leak into the sound, will find a plethora of moments in this album that are really beautiful and uplifting. I personally find that the band tends to make their best music in this album when they are really focused on cohesive melody and a bit less on jamming or noodling around playing notes that really could be left out sometimes, which luckily only happens occasionally. Bla Vardag is probably the highlight of the album for me, since I have a soft-spot for that lyrical jazz-fusion sound. A must for symphonic proggers and an excellent, vibrant work for really anyone.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Atlas were a one-album wonder from Sweden whose sole release is a charming blend of accessible symphonic prog in the tradition of Genesis, Kaipa and Bo Hansson with occasional fusion leanings reminiscent of the Canterbury-influenced albums of Camel during Richard Sinclair's tenure in that band (so the better parts of Breathless and Rain Dances) or of some tracks by Hatfield and the North or National Health. The band do go full-fusion at some points, however - in particular, Bjornstorp includes a great drum solo worthy of the greats of the genre, and I'm talking as someone who usually has little patience for drum solos. A wonderful combination of influences into a cohesive sound which, sadly, didn't survive past this one album.
 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by 40footwolf

1 stars I realize giving such a low rating to an album that's practically unheard of seems like kicking a man when he's down, but it's conceivable that somebody might seek this out, hoping for a lost progressive gem, and I tell that person, right now: Go elsewhere.

It is difficult to think of one commendable thing about this album, or indeed, much to say about the album, period. The keyboards? Horrid, piercing things. The arrangements? Unimaginative and boring. Think of combining Genesis and Soft Machine, and now make the music you're imagining into something that is dull and derivative enough to make you question how a thinking human being could create such soulless material from whole cloth. Add in a 57 minute runtime and you have a long, stultifying train wreck of an album that only the staunchest of collectors will find any interest in.

In conclusion, some albums are obscure for a reason, and this is one of those albums. If this review seems to short, I can guarantee you that "zzz" is far shorter and gets the point across just as well. Truly impossible to recommend.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by Bonnek
Special Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars Atlas is a Swedish symphonic instrumental band with a thoughtful mix of the late 70ties sound of Camel and Genesis. It is a pleasant listen but it fades to the background too quickly without leaving much of a lasting impression.

The sound reminds me a lot of Camel's Breathless and Genesis' Trick of the Tail, complete with some regrettable buzzing bee synths and lots of prog and fusion clichés. But generally the band made good use of their influences and while unoriginal they still created some nice instrumental compositions with fluently morphing themes. The mood is very light, mellow and melodious, exactly like many 70's prog fans will prefer it. There are some exciting moments throughout the album but due to the combination of light melodies and soft fusion, it frequently feels as if we ended up in a soft-porn flick.

If you like mellow prog and don't mind the occasional tweeting tea-pot synths you can sure add a star to this rating. It's a bit too predictable and easy-listening for me to match what I consider the 4 star albums in the sympho branch. Nevertheless, a good genre-album that is rightfully loved by many.

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by progrules
Prog Reviewer

5 stars This hidden gem kind of album got my interest because of it's positive reviews here on PA. So time to check it out. Prog from 1979 is intriguing on itself and when it on top of that comes from Sweden as well it's almost a guarantee for quality.

And so this appeared a true fact after listening for several times. This is high caliber instrumental symphonic stuff in slightly jazzy style. Main instrument is the keyboard or should I say organ because that's significant in many of the tracks. The songs are complex in a nice way, that is complex enough to be interesting (and progressive) but not over the top. Really pleasant material on here.

And so it will please most progfans I dare to state. At least it has done so far. Bear in mind that this is no.15 of all times where symphonic prog is concerned. And even no.4 where the rating average is concerned. And it's only because of the low number of ratings this isn't as high as it should be. So time to check it out I would like to say to all respectable progfans. 5 stars isn't exaggerated

 Blå Vardag  by ATLAS album cover Studio Album, 1979
4.21 | 160 ratings

Blå Vardag
Atlas Symphonic Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

5 stars In the dog days of wavering summer, it was perhaps time to do some added exercise by going to the fabled collection case and search for that oddity , that bizarro-prog recording (probably those one-shot wonder jobs), issued from some non-Anglo-Saxon area , that would be apt fodder for my cannon. Like most bibliophiles, I started off at the letter A and after a mere few shuffles to get to Atoll albums, I noticed this album sitting pretty and perched, patiently awaiting my selection and embrace. Atlas only had this one jewel and then promptly vanished from the face of the earth, yet this 1979 album is very highly rated and for just cause, as close one can come to a seminal Swedish monument to the unknown progger, with its eternal flame still burning bright. With due apologies to Greenslade and Banco , this dual keyboard-led band could really kick some serious melodic behind, hurling waves of mellotrons, clavinets, amazing (and oh so underused) Fender Rhodes e-piano, organ, synths and piano. The crew prefers a dense, gentler approach, closer perhaps to a keyboard-heavy Camel or Sebastian Hardie, weaving intricate patterns where occasional electric guitars enliven the proceedings. Both Erik Björn Nielsen and Björn Ekbom rule the various ivories, trussing an elaborate web, spewing melodies from seemingly nowhere, sometimes jazzy, romantic or symphonic, as on the second part of "Pa Gata" where the elegant and grandiose piano dominates with utter finery. The title track (translated as Blue Tuesday) is simply restraint at its most agonizing, a misty grove of sophisticated sound, the bluesy electric piano echoing in ecstasy, escorting a sibilant synth flight, almost ambient symphonics that while placid, never evaporate into soporifics. "Ganglat" is somewhat of a continuance in a jazzier vein, almost Canterburian at times but loaded with slick e-piano droppings and a light-fuzz guitar solo a la Jan Akkerman. The next track is a slow builder, nothing too hectic or deranged, an insightful platform for another smooth guitar digression, with some organ tossed in for good measure, the classical reference recalling Dutch band Trace. The discreet exit is inspiring. "Björnstorp" has an upfront bass rumble, some flute additives and a dual key/guitar onslaught full of regal elegance, conjuring up images of Focus once again, especially when drummer Pinotti does his Pierre van der Linden-like drum solo. The fragile "Hemifran" keeps the eye on the horizon, another breezy, lofty jazz-rock affair that again features the complex interaction between keyboardists, recalling an upbeat attitude that has nothing to do with the somber Scandinavian style we all know and love (which partly explains why our sinkadotentree feels that there are few stark dynamics here, according to his review). It becomes obvious that the Swedish progressive school also has a lighter side with bands such as Alter Echo, the Foundation, Kaipa, Moon Safari, In the Labyrinth and Atlas. The guitar solo that ends this piece is revelatory of a certain complacent passion, another Viking trait that is highly typical of this northern country. "Sebastian" is a bonus track that closes out this marvelous disc, a Wakeman- esque piano-led promenade that has severe classical leanings, all within a playful framework, sprightly electric guitar leads singing in the musical meadows, the mellotron bowing with grace. . Soft or not, this is another cornerstone brick in the wall. 5 Stockholm syndromes
Thanks to the Symphonic Team for the artist addition. and to AtomicCrimsonRush for the last updates

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