Sweden Prog Fest-2015, Day Two: Sea Monsters, Minstrels and All Brothers/Sisters
Декабрь 22, 2015
Елена Савицкая (164 статей)

Sweden Prog Fest-2015, Day Two: Sea Monsters, Minstrels and All Brothers/Sisters

We continue to publish our epic saga about Sweden Prog Fest–2015. There were lots of interesting artists at the Day Two from Sweden and abroad: Since Ever, Gorgeous T.E.D., Barracuda Triangle, Ritual and Von Hertzen Brothers! Let’s remind, that this is our first live review in English – for the pleasure of our English speaking readers, musicians and in the name of prog, of course.

The beginning of Day Two – and yet another “dark horse” in my list. A group with not so catchy name Since Ever (don’t be confused with Ever Since) turned out to be a nice and very enthusiastic band, playing some sort of trendy sympho/gothic metal with female lead vocals. There might be a lot of parallels – from early Within Temptation to After Forever and so on, but Since Ever doesn’t exploit someone else’s clichés. And they have their own strong points: they are young and sincere. The band has just recently released their debut CD “Isolation” but they are very confident on stage. A strong voice and artistry of soloist Linda Lundberg, rich sound with “orchestra” keyboards (and 7-strings “Ibanez” of course), all shades of exalted sadness, black dresses, slow epic compositions… Not bad for a prog fest!

The next guys have already been familiar to me: in 2014 Gorgeous T.E.D. in extended line-up (starring a keyboard player Jörgen Schelander and a guitarist – and also SPF promoter – Mats Jonason) under the name of Oink Floyd (sic!) performed “Animals” in its entirety, and it was absolutely amazing! This time Gorgeous T.E.D. played their own material, and it was also quite intriguing, psychedelic and… funny. At the beginning we saw a short video about four astronauts: a commander Daniel Hammarstedt (vocals, keyboards) and three crew members – a guitarist Janne Alkryd, a bass/keyboard player Hans Dahlgren and a drummer Lars-Sture Johansson (but don’t ask me who is Ted, I really have no idea). Then the guys in their uniforms took places on stage and the cosmic trip began. Smooth and saturated epic/symphonic/space rock (with obvious Pink Floyd influences and some touches of neo) was like a balm to listeners’ souls. Expressive voice, lots of synthesizers, flying guitar solos… But Gorgeous T.E.D. added to a necessary dose of humor in their performance: for example, some gentle ballad was supported by a video about making lemonade in… a washing machine. And the finale was totally unexpected. As the band started to play “Senorita (I’m On Fire)” – a plain and driving rock’n’roll hit with Spanish tones in chorus, – the flamenco dancer came on stage, dressed in red and black, performing a passionate dance with Daniel. Surely such a bright ending will stay in mind for a long time. Really gorgeous!

When Barracuda Triangle came up on stage, one could see at once – they are a real “gang”! Not just a project, but true friends: a keyboardist Tomas Bodin, a bass guitarist Jonas Reingold and a drummer Felix Lehrmann, who has known each other for thousands years in many projects (most known is, of course, The Flower Kings). The trio just returned from «the boat» (progressive rock “Cruise to the Edge” in Miami), and looked very cheerful and slightly exotic, especially Jonas with his African hair-do. And – though it’s hard to believe – this Sweden Prog Fest was only the third Barracuda’s live appearance ever! Since the band released a very critically acclaimed debut CD (“Electro Shock Therapy”, 2014), there have been few chances to play together, because they are living in different countries now (Tomas in Sweden, Jonas in Austria and Felix in Germany, where he is from). But there is nothing impossible for such extra class musicians, and the live magic was on its way. It seemed that they had chemistry on some subconscious level, «catching» each other even not from semi-word, but from semi-look. Even if something was going wrong with the sound equipment (that may happen at a live gig!), it was only the cause for joking and improvising. Yes, it seems like improvising is an important way of music development in Barracuda Triangle. And there is a lot of space for magnificent Jonas Reingold to unfold as a main soloist in the band. On hearing his soft subtone jazzy passages in Jaco style, the heart is missing a beat… But there are lots of “composing” moments too – they are like bright pictures, each with some history behind. The magician Tomas Bodin is one who responsible for the textures, strange acid timbers and freaky melodies: Barracuda’s music is full of irony, psychedelic landscapes and cinematographic images. And what’s the most important, it’s very groovy – thanks to brilliant Felix Lehrmann (who is one of the most claimed and… merry drummers in the world, to say the truth). One can’t just listen to it calmly and being relaxed. You should move, catch the rhythm, even dance! And, as I managed to learn from reliable sources, the second Barracuda’s CD is not so far away (the interview with Tomas is also in my recorder).

And what a surprise! Hasse Fröberg on stage again! When the promoters said that they had 80% of The Flower Kings at the festival, it was not just a joke. And the four members of the great Swedish band performed the anthem “Stardust We Are” – without Roine Stolt’s guitar, but with an intense bass soloing. How strange… and beautiful. No idea if it was a spontaneous decision or a well-prepared impromptu. But when TFK are on another hiatus again (?), the fans are glad to hear from them. So thanks to Barracuda Triangle featuring Hasse Fröberg for that precious gift!

The participation of Ritual band in SPF was very intriguing for me. They haven’t released any new material since a highly acclaimed Moomin-saga “The Hemulic Voluntary Band” (2007), and there weren’t much news about the band at all. This can be explained by their high occupation in different projects. A singer Patrik Lundström, for example, is busy with Hans Lundin’s Kaipa and also with some pop stuff. Even at their Facebook page the musicians had to confirm that “Ritual still exists”! But when Patrik appeared on stage in his image of fairy prince – in romantic white shirt, with long curly blond hair and eyes makeup, and also with some sort of “the star burning in the forehead” (according to Russian poet Alexander S. Pushkin), that became clear: the show is going on! Not many bands use that theatrical pathos now. The mixture of 70s and neo prog, folk and psychedelic rock sounded nice and spellbinding. Some pieces were already familiar in live performance, thanks to “Ritual Live” album (“What Are You Waiting For”, “Solitary Man”), some were played live for the first time (“Breathless”). One of the climax moments of Ritual’s set was a graceful «medieval» “The Hemulic Voluntary Band” song itself, with its Gentle Giant’s interplay between the instruments. The fans choir enthusiastically sang the first line of the chorus, and the band replied: “We’re ready to play…” The association with wandering musicians grew stronger when the band came to the proscenium for the acoustic medley. Patrik took an acoustic guitar, a bassist Fredrik Lindqvist – a whistle and a lute, a drummer Johan Nordgren played a Swedish national instrument nyckelharpa (wheel lyre) and the bells, and a keyboardist Jon Gamble chose some harmonium/strings timbers. They all looked like true minstrels at that moment. And what a harmonious sound of “unplugged” instruments and four voices! The audience burst out with ovations – absolutely deservedly. And the long-waited new album is almost finished, according to the very same Ritual’s Facebook page…

To be honest, after all that beautiful, interesting and diverse bands it was not so easy to impress even further – but it was the time for headliners, guests from Finland – Von Hertzen Brothers. This band is very famous not only among prog lovers, but in wider circles of hard/heavy, alterno, indie and even pop music fans. Von Hertzen Brothers formed in year 2000 by three brothers: Mikko von Hertzen (vocals, guitars), Kie von Hertzen (guitars, backing vocals) and Jonne von Hertzen (bass, backing vocals), whose father and uncle were also well-known musicians in Scandinavia. The band released 6 quite successful albums (the most recent, «New Day Rising», came out few weeks ago) and got Progressive Music Awards for their song “Flowers and Rust” in 2013. Of course this super hit was performed in the beginning of the show, followed by fresh «New Day Rising». Vigorous and dynamic, melodic and soulful, their songs seemed however maybe a little bit simple and not such “proggy” to me. Just “not my cup of tea”, so what? All that “style differences” didn’t matter for the listeners, who were grabbed with highly vivid and driving music of Von Hertzen Brothers. Some young people began to dance madly in front of the stage, so there were even some moments when the stage floor needed to be fixed. One of the last songs was VHB hit “Gloria” with its folk “accordion” motifs and passionate vocal polyphony, and for encore – slow and pensive “The Willing Victim”, perceived as a sort of suspension point in this loud and powerful performance. The audience was totally exhausted. (Russian listeners could check out VHB live performance recently in Moscow (11 Dec) and Saint-Petersburg (12 Dec), when they were “warming up” the famous Finnish cellists Apocalyptica).

So, what can I say in conclusion? It was the finest prog festival, with strong and well-balanced line-up and excellent sound. The venue is perfect for such kind of music, with its comfortable sitting places and, the last but not least, good beer at the bar. And, most important, the audience: kind, friendly, attentive and responsible. All of this creates perfect atmosphere for a progressive rock concert. “We all like a big family”, as my colleague from Sweden Rock Magazine said. Of course it would have been cool if more Russian proggers had attended the festival. Yes I know it may be not the best time for travelling now… but listen to music, support your favorite artists, read articles, put your “likes”. And… let there be peace and love!

Text and photo: Elena Savitskaya (InRock Music Magazine)
Many thanks to Mats Jonason (Sweden Prog Fest) for the accreditation

Общее впечатление

Sweden Prog Fest-2015
Stockholm, Sweden
20-21 November 2015
Day Two

Елена Савицкая

Елена Савицкая