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THE OPIUM CARTEL

Crossover Prog • Norway


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The Opium Cartel biography
This Norwegian band were formed in 2006.It is a project lead by songwriter/guitarist Jacob Holm-Lupo of White Willow fame. Holm -Lupo has collaborated with a host of progressive artists to release the 2009 album Night Blooms, working alongside Mattias Olsson ( Anglagard), Rachel Haden ( Todd Rundgren) & Tim Bowness ( No-Man)

The musicbasically follows in the Scandinavian Progressive tradition with full use of analog keyboards such as Rhodes and Mellotron as well as with ethereal atmospheres interspersed with greatly inspired symphonic moments.

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Buy THE OPIUM CARTEL Music


ArdorArdor
Termo Records 2013
Audio CD$19.36
$12.99 (used)
Night BloomsNight Blooms
Termo Records 2009
Audio CD$11.49
$17.90 (used)
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THE OPIUM CARTEL discography


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THE OPIUM CARTEL top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.44 | 16 ratings
Night Blooms
2009
4.07 | 10 ratings
Ardor
2013

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THE OPIUM CARTEL Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Ardor by OPIUM CARTEL, THE album cover Studio Album, 2013
4.07 | 10 ratings

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Ardor
The Opium Cartel Crossover Prog

Review by tszirmay
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars Euro-pop played by some of the finest progressive players on the planet? Really? There seems to be a nice niche market there, especially with the credentials presented by this multi-national crew. Originally ignited by Jacob Holm-Lupo of White Willow fame, the cast also has enlisted the immensely talented Lars Froile of Wobbler and the semi-legendary Swedish drummer Mattias Olsson of Anglagard! Add Pixel bassist Ellen Wang and a slew of talented vocalists, you will start getting a clearer picture. The vocal contingent comprises of No-Man/Henry Fool stalwarts Tim Bowness and Stephen Bennett, solo artist Rhys Marsh, plus Norwegian pop stars Venke Knutsen and Alex Stenerud . On their website , they simply identify themselves like this " Influences on The Opium Cartel's music include 80's art pop such as Japan, Roxy Music, Prefab Sprout and The Blue Nile, as well as 70's folk-rock like Sandy Denny and Nick Drake. Reviewers have variously referred to the music as dream- pop, folk-tronica and art-pop''. I would also add tinges of the Beatles, Tears for Fears, The Box, Naked Eyes, OMD and even some prog-folk tendencies. The menu has 8 shorter tracks between 3.21 and 6.17, as well as a lengthy moody final epic that clocks in over 10 minutes.

"Kissing the Moon" immediately shows off the quality of the musicians involved, a breezy and proggish tune that sounds like an outtake from Naked Eyes (a masterful 80s synth-pop group) ,with a Thompson Twins-like duo of male(Marsh and female vocals. The melody is penetrating and the playing is superb, rippling synths gurgling in the background as Mattias lays down a solid beat. Excellent opener that touches all kinds of fine buttons.

But it's with "When We Dream" that the roof is blown, a tremendous piece that showcases the incredible voice of Alex Stenerud , sounding uncannily like OMD's Andy McCluskey, supported by icy keyboards that wink at Depeche Mode. The chorus is simply spellbinding, shoving goose bumps to the forefront, propelling both power and emotion.

Tim Bowness' unmistakable hush colors the sorrowful gleam of 'Silence Instead", a trembling ballad loaded with typical No-Man melancholy, as far away from pop drivel as you could possible consider. Simple arrangement done superbly, acoustic guitar, keyboard effects and flute, occasionally troubled by a solemn beat and odd percussives. Brilliant!

"Northern Rains" could be a Norse folk song, reworked into a synth-pop classic, again offering very familiar shades, the complex vocal work utterly stunning as if Derek Shulman would be leading Tears for Fears! Infectious chorus of 'walk away, walk away, walk away' gets the job done, convincingly.

My goodness, "Revenant" could have been the bastard child of a Roxy Music father and a Kate Bush mom. It's the shortest piece her but strikes an otherwise very uncommercial pose. Acoustic guitar and triangle dress up the vocal duet, wispy and dreamy at the same time, Knutsen's child-like delivery being particularly mesmerizing.

The 6 minute "White Wolf" is eerily reminiscent of classic Prefab Sprout, another crafty 80s group that had made its mark during the lean prog tears but suddenly veers into a long and heavy instrumental vibe with a masterful flute solo and pulsating rhythm work from both the bass and Olsson. The vocals are incredibly tight and the playing is well above platitude. This piece actually is closer to White Willow, a brooding and glacial barrage of dense sound. The final outro is a swirling tornado of choir work that would make Giant fans blush with envy!

"The Waiting Ground" takes a little side trip to Liverpudlian fields, lush with plasticene porters and marmalade skies. It verges on plagiarism but guess what, the Beatles are such a huge influence that you could put half the musicians on the planet in a copyright penitentiary! Yeah, it's very close to Lucy and her diamonds on LSD but cleverly done, a kaleidoscope of flirting synths and raspy hushes. Perhaps one of the highlight tracks here and a tune that you need to hear, featuring a short Froislie organ rant.

So you want incontrovertible proof? Jacob Holm-Lupo is a colossal and well-documented Blue Oyster Club fan, so to keep the prog tradition of boldly going where no one dares to go flowing, one of my personal favorite all-time ballads is presented here with significant genius. "Then Came the Last Days of May" is a prog classic, a rock classic and a 70s classic, sadly not as well-known as the lamer monster mega-hit " Don"t Fear the Reaper" ! True fans know better! This is a fantastic homage, thoroughly different yet familiar, with the ethereal voice of Venke replacing Eric Bloom's New York sarcasm-laden swagger. Jacob's axe solo is so reverential of Don Roeser's that he simply takes it into another, more humble direction. Quality and class!

The grand finale is the prog show stopper, an 11 minute epic stroke of genius that has 'classic, stamped all over its grooves, an entirely luminous vocal, helped along by a minimalist arrangement featuring electric piano, a clockwork orange beat and whopping symphonics. But that's not all, kiddies! Just to harass the newbies, the arrangement contains deft piano work, looping bass synthesis, cannonading Oberheims and a delirious sax blowout that will shiver your timbers! Old school Roxy Music comes to mind again, but "Mariner, Come In" has a sense of staying power that is impossible to describe, a monumental piece of music vibrating with imagery, while retaining a sense of weirdness that is most appealing. Bravo!

Let's get one thing straight! This is not your classic Gentle Giant/Yes/King Crimson formula of complex classically influenced prog. But as our genre struggles to seduce new fans, this is a perfect stepping stone to get their tippy toes wet in the progressive swimming pool. Plus, and more importantly, it might ignite some female passions and perhaps get you in a snugly mode with the little lady.

4 Poppy seed leagues

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 Night Blooms by OPIUM CARTEL, THE album cover Studio Album, 2009
3.44 | 16 ratings

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Night Blooms
The Opium Cartel Crossover Prog

Review by toroddfuglesteg

3 stars Opium Cartel is one of Jacob Holm-Lupo's projects. It is also a multinational project with Jacob from White Willow, Mattias Olsson from Anglagard, Rachel Haden from Todd Rundgren) & Tim Bowness from No-Man + some other musicians (mainly White Willow). A super group, bands like this was called back in the 1970s. This album was also pieced together with studio recordings from the members and I doubt if the band has ever been in the same room together. The joys of the internet !

This is by no means criticism or have any negative associations. It is great that so diverse musicians can meet up in cyberspace and make an album like this. An album that by no means sounds like 2010 and the internet age. Opium Cartel takes us back to the 1970s and add a lot of 2010 to the process too. Rachel Haden's vocals is superb. The same goes for the rest of the musicians here.

The music have much of the same DNA as Jacob served up on White Willow's new album Terminal Twilight. All fans of this band should purchase Night Blooms. There is a major, but some would say, a minor difference though. Where White Willow goes big on the sound, The Opium Cartel uses a much smaller sound. Minimalism is the key here. There is also a lot of electronica involved here. That and a lot of folk music. Acoustic guitars with Rachel's voice on the top. For example on the best track here; The Last Rose of Summer. In short; less is more is the motto on this album.

Besides of The Last Rose of Summer, the other tracks are a bit anonymous to me. And that even after the obligatory ten listening sessions. Hence, I would not label this as a great album. But the sound is great and the band is onto something here. It pleases me to hear that album # 2 is in the works. But this album does not quite make it.

3.5 stars

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Thanks to chris s for the artist addition.

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