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Änglagård - Hybris CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.38 | 1644 ratings

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5 stars When I first began my voyage across the prog continent two years ago, Anglagard was one of the names that soon attracted my attention. The CDs were expensive to order (like $40 expensive) and I was bothered by the fact that such highly rated music would be so costly to acquire. But then I listened to some samples and I experienced the "Emperor's New Clothes" feeling for the first time. This is the term I have given to music that many progheads rave about as being extraordinary and masterpieces which to me sound like musicians trying too hard to do something "different". "Where is the music?" I ask myself. I have felt this many times when first listening to Van Der Graaf Generator, King Crimson, The Soft Machine, and even old Pink Floyd. It seems to me that sometimes a deliberate attempt to eschew all formality of melody and harmony results in a cacophonous juxtaposition of sounds which may or may not be created by musical instruments. Of course, over time I have come to understand and even enjoy most of these artists' attempts at being avant guard, progressive, or "different". And what I first thought was a band trying to do everything possible in a single song now strikes me as a genius effort in writing complex music that can be enjoyed given time to appreciate it.

Anglagard, however, would have eluded my collection entirely were it not for Wobbler, whose first and second albums are equally complex and require time to digest little by little. It was Wobbler's third album "Rites at Dawn" that was such a magical concoction of complex retro-symphonic prog that brought me to their previous releases, and ultimately back to Anglagard, this time with an expanded mind for music. Sometimes, in order to climb one mountain you are better off having experienced climbing another first.

The band formed in the early 90's with the purpose of creating highly complex and complicated music in the vein of the 70's prog masters. Their debut in 1992, "Hybris" includes just four tracks (the reissue which was mercifully cheaper but still expensive includes a bonus track) running between 8 and 13 minutes. I find it difficult to describe each song individually without writing a novella; however, the basic ingredients are guitars (clean electric, distorted electric, and acoustic), keyboards (organ, synthesizer, piano, and Mellotrone), flute, bass, drums and percussion, and perhaps some additional string instruments. Vocals are featured on some of the tracks but sparsely and in Swedish. The choice of language is by no means detrimental to the music but the quality of the vocals is wanting. Like many prog bands, there is no gifted vocalist, only gifted musicians.

Each track is unique though on any of them you can expect to hear aggressive music in odd meter, subtle parts and melancholic beauty, building suspense and abrupt stops, and generally a wondrous interplay of sounds. Some parts are truly sublime while others are transitions in between. I only wonder how the band members can remember what to play when during each song. In the Rush documentary, "Beyond the Lighted Stage", Terry Brown, former producer for Rush, said that "La Villa Strangiatto" was so complex that you'd need a computer to keep track of where you were in the song. Anglagard's music goes beyond that in complexity. As such, it is not everyone's cup of prog. If you enjoy songs with more focus on melody then you'll likely be disappointed. Some prog bands take a slow scenic drive through the countryside with their songs. Anglagard is more like a express train at times, with musical motifs almost flying by the window in comparison.

It's taken time to get a feel for the music and identify my favourite parts but I'd say at least three of the tracks are now familiar to me and I quite enjoy them. It's remarkable that a band put this kind of album together while the grunge movement was in bloom. It would seem it was almost a direct backlash to the end of the 80's and grunge.

FragileKings | 5/5 |


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