A multiple progressive disorder of beautiful mayhem!
Anglagard has always had a special place in my prog collection after their glorious triumph 'Hybris' in 1992. This album alone deservedly catapulted them to prog legends, especially for releasing the no holds barred prog in a year when prog was struggling to grab a foothold after a decade of regression. I admired Anglagard for holding on to all the things that made prog great; thus keeping the dream alive with complex lengthy song structures, incredible virtuoso musicianship and above all innovative time signatures and creative layered symphonic arrangements.
I was certainly not alone in believing that the band had come to an unceremonious end, but Anglagard have forced reviewers and music connoisseurs to rewrite the history books with "Viljans Oga". Two years after 'Hybris' the band released 'Epilog' and then in 1996 a live album surfaced with 'Buried Alive' and they were never heard from again. However, 2012 is fast becoming a year of prog resurgence with many older bands producing some of the best material heard in years such as Rush, The Flower Kings, and now Anglagard, 18 years later.
The vintage sound is prevalent throughout the glorious 'Ur Vilande', with trademark flute played brilliantly by Anna Homlgren from the original lineup. Mattias Olsson is a master on percussion as always, Johan Brand plays Bass and Taurus, Thomas Johnson is back on Pianos, Mellotrons and synths, Jonas Engdeg'rd returns on Guitars, but there is no Tord Lindman on this new lineup. The instrumental is lengthy but never dreary, featuring some incredible guitar and percussion augmentations. It is a wonderful start to the album and a promise of a masterpiece is looming from the outset. Anglagard are definitely back!
'Sorgmantel' begins with gorgeous flute over musical box chimes, and then woodwind and reflective piano enters the landscape. The sound generated is mystical and comes from a faraway kingdom that fires the imagination. As Brand's bass begins to pulse, swathes of keyboards dominate and then a new time sig with flute and guitar embellishments. The band are tight knowing precisely when to stop and start, and when they move into full flight with all musicians breaking out on their instruments, it is a delight to the ears. The music breaks to allow musicians to showcase their craft, Anna's flute solo chimes over Johnson's swells of keyboard, Brand's bass jumps in and out of Olsson's percussion meters, and then polyrhythmic time sigs are unleashed. Olsson's drums are a celebration of mayhem, and they drive the music along with a passion unheard since Magma's Christian Vander. Engdeg'rd's lead guitar turns aggressive on this, the keyboard runs are frantic, and the flute warbling is intense. This is Anglagard at their heaviest, and they lift to a crescendo of sound and fury.
'Snardom' is a delirious flute driven instrumental with a pounding percussion and layers of keyboards. The beautiful flute is mesmirising as always by Anna, but I love the way it interrelates with the noisier guitars and drums. There are tons of intricate time signatures to revel in, and an incessant heavy blast of staccato musical explosions. It has a King Crimson style rhythm and some undeniably effective sax blasts, creating beautiful mayhem. The bassline is awesome and the way the beat changes almost at will as guitar and flute compete for the spotlight is a stroke of genius. It settles into a dreamscape of flute, piano and acoustic vibrations, that lull me into a state of bliss, almost to the point of tears. It builds back into a haunting melody and it ascends to the stratosphere with high pitched fret work and sustained string bends; it does not get any better than this. I am in awe of this song; really it is a masterpiece of prog, and a throwback to the glorious 70s in every respect.
'Langtans Klocka' begins quietly with piano and an ominous drone. The flute comes in like an angel on wings of gossamer. My heart melts with the exquisiteness of Anna's flute playing. The atmosphere builds with an upbeat bright guitar phrase over jumpy flute and chimes. Eventually Engdeg'rd's heavier guitar crashes in and the time sig is wonderfully irregular. The bass is amazing and it plays off the percussion leading to a passage of xylophone and saxophone, with very odd intricate metrical patterns. The complexity of the music is astonishing, and it soon leads to a segment of melodic guitar playing along with the flute, until a slower pace locks in allowing the flute to pour over the music like honey. Violined guitar and mellotron soaks up the atmosphere and then an outbreak of loud music punches a hole through the fabric. It ends with a grand guignol circus theme similar to the themes on 'Hybris'. There are even some vocal intonations to accentuate the angular circus style. This is weird but deliriously off kilter enough to end the album on an innovative note, with xylophone and glockenspiel thrown in; it is impossible to predict Anglagard's music and that is one of its drawcards.
I cannot believe 'Viljans Oga' is as good as 'Hybris' and yet Anglagard have done it again, and it is one of the greatest albums I have heard in years. The dynamic music is mesmirising and without the vocals of Lindman, it is not marred in any way, perhaps even improved as we can just sit back and have our ears caressed by mindbending musicianship. I actually didn't think this would measure up to Anglagard's masterful 1992 opus, as that is a tall order. I was wrong in every respect. This is a bonafide masterpiece and one of the definitive prog albums of 2012.