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Änglagård - Hybris CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

4.35 | 1848 ratings

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5 stars In the 90s, more retro and symphonic styles of progressive rock was taking a turn. Bands such as The Flower Kings, Spock's Beard, and Echolyn were garnering some big buzz, and high praises across the board. Their styles and ways of creating new and exciting music really helped them stand on their own way. Unlike those bands, there are more obscure and darker sounding bands from around that time that looked at the more bright and celebratory Prog rock music that was going around a lot and thought to themselves, 'Nah, let's get a little dark and gothic'. There were two signature bands that had this mentality, our darlings from the USA, Discipline, and their Swedish brothers over with 'nglag'rd.

'nglag'rd is one of those bands that sort of just appeared, disappeared for an eternity, and came back just to disappear all over again. Their three album run is all around very positive with the only one that could be considered their worst still could be considered a great if not an excellent album. Their influences vary from the more jazzy side of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator and the symphonic and artistically charged Yes and Gentle Giant, however even with these influences they clearly have their own sound and style, combining more gothic classical stylization with their rock output while also cleverly sneaking in some folk elements as well. All of this creates a steaming pot of a great and cryptic sound that can be best described as gothic. I have expressed in the past that this style is a guilty pleasure of mine and will most likely stay as one for years to come. So you bet that with all these attributes this band soon became one I grew an attachment too, and you are absolutely right.

This uncanny valley can be entered through with the first song, Jordr'k. This instrumental track really sets the stage pretty much instantly with the beginning piano melody. The song pretty much builds off of that into guitar and organ driven riffs that just go into this hauntingly rich chord progression. This song just plays off of the first two minutes and they do it so well by showcasing true progression in the music. Even though it all sounds complex and even a little chaotic, it feels so fine tuned to where even the most complex of riffs feel very easy to get a hold of. Added onto this is the very great guitar work. I know most people would draw into the organ, but I think the guitar is the best instrument here. It strangely feels less like a guitar and more like an instrument that doesn't exist and I just love when a band can just make an instrument sound completely different from what we are used to. You can hear the European influence this has screaming all around it. The almost Beethoven-like structure and the old dark age feel this has really let's this song stick to me like glue. First impressions can really make or break an album for me, and this song really made me want more of this style.

We still continue the same style, but in a different light. Vandringar I Vilsenhet adds vocals into the mix. This adds a new layer to their uncanny style of music. The harmonies the vocals provide really make this song feel so much more enriching without it muddying up the instrumentation. In fact I think the vocals really add to it all. You can really feel the music with the singing a lot more now, almost as if the vocal work done here is in itself an instrument the band uses to move the music forward. I know they aren't Zeuhl but I do get some vibes from Magma's Stella Vander's operatic vocal works from pretty much all of their albums. I do not know if Magma did give this band some kind of influence, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did. I should also talk about the bass here, because it is pretty nice. It has this funk to it, but still be in line with the music presented here. It just shows you how well this band can adopt and convert a wide range of styles and fit them in line with their music.

Even with their shortest song, Infr'n Klarhet till Klarhet, we still get a strong use of progression in the music. While the style mostly remains unaltered, how the band conveys it feels all too different. These subtle yet noticeable changes truly makes this album so excellent. I would like to point my attention to the more bucolic parts. Not everything in these songs are all chaos of course, there are moments here that are a lot more laxed. These more laxed segments really do add a level of thought and care into the music. I am an avid supporter that not every progressive act should just be nothing but insanity. Progressive rock isn't and has always not been about creating chaos in music, but rather utilizing more obtuse elements in ways to advance the music forward into different directions, and sometimes those directions can be a lot quieter and introspective. Even in the quietest moments they find a way to entice me with their amazing sound.

Everything comes to a close with the last track, Kung Bore. As a finale to this album, I think it pays off in gold. It continues what the last songs have done, refines the aspects they introduced a little bit more, and really settles the album down with a nice finale piece. Really what I had to say about the last 3 songs apply to this one as well. This album doesn't end on a giant crescendo or something that is big and grandiose, instead it ends on how the album began, a cryptic yet beautiful melody. They really wanted to end this album off on their own terms, going against the already norm bending fragments of progressive rock by not going big and huge but instead ending things off how they would want to be ended off. Their hubris really is a testament to why I love this genre of music so much. It can branch out and grow and evolve into so much to where every band of Prog rock has a little something special to them, and this album shows why.

This album is a good showcase on what progressive rock truly means to me. It is a style that can evolve to whoever bends its will, and by doing so can create something amazing. This gothic album is a clear cut masterpiece through and through. If you love Prog rock and you haven't heard it already, 100% check it out. It is not that long, being only 44 minutes, yet it has so much to unpack that the album really does feel like an experience. It really is one the best out there.

Dapper~Blueberries | 5/5 |


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