Änglagård — Epilog
((Not on label) HYB CD 010, 1994, CD)
The long-awaited sequel to the classic Hybris has brought with it a lot of hype, curiosity, and questions. Epilog clearly squelches any rumors of a sophomore slump, and has answered all doubters with a repeat effort of shocking maturity, serenity, and pure art. Änglagård shows a tremendous amount of growth on this album, and have wisely steered the band in a direction few people would have anticipated. Whereas the band willingly will admit that Hybris was full of a lot of flash (and that is certainly no criticism), Epilog is far more dreamy and pastoral all the way around. The opening "Prolog" is a gentle Mellotron/classical guitar/flute passage with a rich but brief melody. The 16-minute 'Höstsejd' opens with an eerie but alarmingly simple organ line which mutates into a full-band extravaganza through multiple themes, all of which are fairly ambiguous and far more angular than anything found on Hybris. This is very challenging material to become familiar with, but that's part of what will make it endure. The 14-second "Rösten" (nothing but some noise and thumps) leads uncomfortably into the next two tracks "Skogsranden" and "Sista Somrar," which follow the style set in "Höstsejd." Throughout the album, Änglagård experiment with some new sounds such as wah-wah guitar leads, heavily reverbed pianos, flanged bass guitar, and even brief guest spots on violin, viola, cello, and female voice giving them an even richer sound than before. The solo piano piece "Saknadens Fullhet" closes the album with little resolution, in an almost Satie-like manner. In fact the lack of resolution of musical ideas is what makes the album more difficult, and more complex, than their previous effort. While Epilog is sure to reach critical acclaim in all fronts (albeit much of it token), its maturity, artistic vision, and genuine integrity make it worthy of such praise. So, in the end, is it a better album than Hybris? Maybe, maybe not — it certainly is different, both more simple and more complex, but with the same unique signature sound. All of the minimalist passages will likely disappoint some fans, as will the roller-coaster dynamic ride which takes the listener up and down alternately so many times, perhaps too many. Nevertheless, this is moving instrumental music, epic in its conception and flawlessly performed and recorded. Positively essential, and probably the best album of what has been a very strong year for progressive.
by Dan Casey,
Since Änglagård's superb 1992 debut Hybris
, more than a few folks have been eagerly awaiting the follow-up effort from this magnificent Swedish ensemble. Everyone wondered — would they be able to equal the high musical standards they had set on their first release, or even exceed them? Well the answer, in a word, is YES! The six tracks comprising Epilog
only reinforce the fact that Änglagård is one of the premier progressive outfits around. Brimming with intricate arrangements and their trademark sudden dynamic changes, Epilog
displays even craftier composition and more thorough thematic development than its predecessor. With dual guitars, analog keyboards, flute, and a monster rhythm section, the band has a wide palette of sounds at their disposal, and the wonderfully orchestrated themes are indicative of their skills as arrangers as well as writers. The three long tracks which comprise the bulk of this album are nothing short of fantastic. The music is at times reminiscent of early Genesis or Shylock, but derivative of neither, and in its best moments goes far beyond what either of those groups ever accomplished. The album is permeated by an air of darkness and mystery, and the overall mood is generally brooding. Though the powerful and intense moments are here in abundance, the softer, more delicate side of the music is emphasized, lending a beautiful, dreamy quality to the album. As always, the band remains impressively tight through all the musical complexities. Epilog
easily gets my vote for the best new CD release of 1994, and it comes with the highest recommendation to any fan of progressive music.
by Rob Walker,
First off, I think change is good, so long as the change is in a positive direction. The world of music is a chaotic, complex entity, and to stay in the same place for too long is more than just a loss of dynamism; it is stagnation. In the same sense, when many musicians change styles, they move towards writing music as a commodity rather than an art. In other words, I'd rather that an artist experiment and fail rather than to stay with the tried and true. Applying this philosophy to Änglagård’s new release, I am thrilled that Epilog
is not "Hybris
Part II." However, they still sound very "Änglagård." All instrumental, Epilog
is six pieces of complex, analog-keyboard drenched progressive rock in the 70s style. Gone is much of the Genesis and Shylock feel. New is a classical orientation. Rather than the non-stop intensity of Hybris
, Änglagård have opted for a subtle, mellow, introspective approach, reminiscent of chamber-rock. Epilog
also contains a soulful, folky feel which makes me think of autumn in the forested, northern climates that I used to live in. The intro and outro of Epilog
are short, atmospheric keyboard pieces. They sandwich three longer tracks and one very short piece. "Höstsejd," the first long piece, introduces the new Änglagård style as it keeps returning to a repetitive keyboard line between dynamics and moments of heavy intensity. Yes, the Änglagård signature-style dynamics are on Epilog
. They are more abrupt and sudden in places, but are usually predictable. "Rösten" is largely the same piece that was released as a single earlier this year, entitled "Ganglat fran Knapptibble." It contains the same main riff and quiet interlude. "Sista Somrar" continues in the same style as the other two, with more abrupt dynamics. Essentially, these three pieces could be considered one long piece; their style is similar and there is a fine sense of continuity between them. As this was one of the most-anticipated releases of the year, I'm finding it hard to be disappointed with. But I feel that Änglagård is capable of more. More angularity, more innovative composition, and if anything, they are in need of more modern instrumentation: the Mellotrons make the band sound completely out of context, and are getting old. While they have matured and progressed in style, Epilog
barely opens the door to what this band is capable of. As these six musicians continue on, I hope that their musical paths will contain constant exploration and challenge. Overall, if you enjoyed Hybris
is almost sure to be a winner. If you found Hybris
interesting, but too derivative, you may find this album more to your liking. If you were hoping for a quantum leap forward, you may find yourself disappointed, as I am. However, I still have to rate this moody, complex offering near the top of my list for 1994.
by Mike Borella,
Filed under: New releases, Issue 6, 1994 releases
Related artist(s): Änglagård