CD Reviews

Hasse Fröberg and the Musical Companion - 'Future Past' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     November 09, 2010    
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This album provides almost everything I like about music, missing only AOR from the menu and as such it ticks lots of boxes.

Anyone familiar with Swedish Classic Prog giants, The Flower Kings (TFK), will be aware that Hasse Fröberg plays rhythm guitar and provides one of the two lead vocals in that band. To look at him without knowing the band he was in you’d probably say he was in a Hard Rock / Blues outfit rather than a Prog ensemble, and in truth he tends to get to sing the more up tempo and edgy numbers with TFK. Consequently, my expectations of this album where that he’d plough a different furrow and give vent to his rockier side, so I was slightly surprised that it still has more than a little in common with TFK although as the album develops his influences come more to the fore. Several tracks would not be out of place on a TFK album albeit with some nuances and the variety of the other material makes for a very pleasing collection of songs indeed. In fact I have been playing the album at every available opportunity despite having a pile of other new releases awaiting my attention.

There could have been the feel of a project about this but that’s way off the mark because they’ve produced an album that’s cohesive and sounds like a band that has been together for years; which I understand was exactly what Hasse was after.

The album’s opening track turns out to be a short sound bite of children playing before ‘Fallen Empire’ bursts forth in grand fashion and immediately has the feel of a Prog epic about it. In its 10 minute span it has all the hallmarks of greatness as it moves through different themes and styles, all of which meld together perfectly. The melodies are delightful, the hooks and choruses are memorable and are redolent of the aforementioned TFK. The middle section has a classic Genesis/Steve Hackett feel with chiming acoustic guitars before the mood hardens thanks to some delicious bass from Thomsson and a lovely Hammond Organ sound courtesy of Kjell Haraldsson.

The next track, ‘Song For July’, then throws a nice curve ball into proceedings as it has an Americana feel to it thanks to the acoustic guitars and a sprightly, lightweight organ sound and some Bruce Hornby style piano tinkling. The vocal arrangement has me in mind of Venice, which means the harmonies are glorious. The song is really uplifting and will brighten anyone’s mood. ‘Piece Of The Sky’ is another epic and opens with some major Pink Floyd organ chords before a lovely retro synth takes the lead and it settles into a nice shuffle beat. It features another strong melody and the chorus has a wonderfully dirty Hammond Organ underpinning it. Part way through the mood changes to a lighter, Kaipa, style before guitarist, Anton Lindsjö, delivers a stunning solo. It is superbly constructed as it builds and grows in vigour and complexity without descending into widdle territory. The following keyboard solo takes me back to the 70s thanks to the synth sound used. Drummer Ola Strandberg gets to show his chops with some amazing fills. This is an incredible band where every player steps up to the plate and delivers the goods.

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‘I Wouldn’t Change A Thing’ starts with a nice bass refrain before it’s joined by a highly melodic theme led by an electric piano and Hasse’s voice. The verses are quite gentle but the bridge introduces a harder edge with a Supertramp-like electric piano. The synth and guitar driven chorus rocks along very nicely indeed. The overall feel is what I’d term as soulful and starts to demonstrate the versatility of this band as styles are mixed in a seamless fashion. Just when you think the die has been cast they throw in a superb homage to Thin Lizzy with a dual guitar section that is spot on.
‘Above’ is another lengthy number and is a veritable smorgasbord of styles that again comes together without sounding forced or contrived. It has a huge riff at the outset that screams “Hard Rock” before it settles back into TFK territory. However, that riff returns with a vengeance on the choruses. To keep you on your toes there’s a piano and guitar interlude that borders on light jazz and shows both Haraldsson and Lindsjö to be stars.
‘Everyday’ bounces along on a simple piano motif, while the pace slows slightly for a beautiful chorus. The track features some more wonderfully retro keyboards and having pulled you in with this style they then stun with an instrumental section that is pure Dream Theater in construction with the keyboards being straight from the Jordan Rudess school. The following guitar solo is warm and mellow and beautifully observed offering an interesting juxtaposition to what has gone before.

The opening of ‘The Ultimate Thrill’ puts me in mind of early Spock’s Beard thanks to the organ sound and the slightly odd syncopation. This gives way to another big riff from both guitar and organ. At this point my good friend, Paul Jerome Smith, will run for cover because Fröberg does a very passable Glenn Hughes on the vocals that goes to prove that he rocks. Mid song they take a breather but this is soon supplanted by some more Dream Theater type keyboards and a stunning guitar solo and you’ve got one hell of a track on your hands.

The album closes with ‘Only My Blood’ which clocks in at just under 13 minutes. An atmospheric opening has Hasse singing over a delicate piano and guitar refrain. The tension grows before the song crashes into overdrive for a short period then settles back again into the original theme. Some fantastic bass sits under a Roine Stolt style guitar solo. Once again they mix styles and moods to maximum effect with some delightfully mellow passages oozing class. The big bass, Mellotron (think Genesis doing ‘Afterglow’) and guitar ending is a thing of wonder and would be a suitable ending to any gig.

For me this album provides almost everything I like about music, missing only AOR from the menu and as such it ticks lots of boxes. It’s not entirely what I was expecting but it has quickly found its way onto my list of contenders for the end of year ‘Best of 2010’ poll.

Gary Marshall

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