Änglagård - Viljans öga. 2012 private.
The only radar Änglagård's new album is flying under is the Radio Shack kit that a 3rd grader can put together. As such, there really isn't a need for me to write a review and create any kind of exposure. There are hundreds out there already. It didn't take long, but the contrarian "overrated" crowd is starting to make the rounds. Not sure why folks feel it necessary to rain on parades. But it's free speech and all that.
My main purpose of putting this album up is just my tiny way of demonstrating respect for what I consider the most significant progressive band of the 1990s, and perhaps the band most credited with maintaining the original 1970s spirit - and launching a renaissance that remains in effect today. Much of the criticism that comes Änglagård's way is just that - it's not really progressing, it's just rehashing a style that was popular in 1973. And I would counter that it was a style that died an all too-early death. And it's also a genre that is multidimensional and the combinations are practically endless. We've all heard modern bands try desperately to recreate the sounds of another era. While they are earnest attempts - and the requisite analog instrumentation are in place - the results tend to be a pastiche rather than fully realized compositions. To this day, when I hear an album that gets it "just right", it reminds me why I'm a dyed-in-the-wool old-school progressive rock fan. And Änglagård always gets it just right.
When Änglagård burst onto the scene in 1992 and their subsequent ProgFest performance in 1993, all of my running set at the time were bursting with enthusiasm. Not only was our favorite genre of music back and in full swing, but it might actually improve. Not to mention we would have plenty of new product to consider, and not just be stuck to the dusty bins of an old record store (Actually I really miss those old record stores. Ebay is great, but I miss the days when you could still find a rare import for $3 in a bottom crate - deep in the International section of some obscure store in Nebraska. Sigh).
Änglagård continued with the excellent "Epilog" and then... then.... just disappeared really. For years there was talk of a comeback. To the point of ridiculousness. It became something of a running joke. If not for the participation of actual band members on these chat boards, the whole thing would have been discredited. Then, SEVENTEEN years later, another one of those tired announcements arrived: Änglagård has reformed and will have a new album out soon. Yawn. Heard that before.
Except this time it was real. The album cover was posted. The minute I saw it I just knew this was going to be special. Of course the naysayers were out in full force decrying the cover. Really? Where is the optimism of our planet anyway? To be honest, cover notwithstanding, I was still a bit skeptical. Spiritual leader Tord Lindman was no longer involved. And most importantly - 17 years is a long time. Really no band, in any era, is able to capture the spirit and angst of their youth. Anyone who has scaled challenging mountains, and the metaphoric equivalent in daily life, will tell you for as long as you can stand it what a wonderful achievement it was - except the thought of doing it again is nauseating. There's a price to pay for greatness. You have to exceed your mind, body, spirit or whatever. And all of that is hard to regain after going about the normal/mundane daily routine.
But this is Änglagård, and they were always different. I was floored by how great "Viljans öga" is. It sounds like classic Änglagård for certain but it's still very unique. They have changed some, and perhaps for the better. In fact, the two middle tracks 'Sorgmantel' (12:07) and 'Snårdom' (16:14) might be the best compositions they've ever performed. Is it their best album? No, I'm not willing to say that. All three studio efforts are brilliant but I'm still partial to "Hybris".
Änglagård is the rare modern band where I consider it paramount to own both the CD and LP. The latter is a stunning 2 LP gatefold with a full sized booklet. I have all 3 original Änglagård albums on display, placed side by side, in my audio room. It's an awesome sight to behold.
So the question remains: Is this the bookend to a great era of progressive rock? Or are we about to embark on a new journey? I hope for the latter. Of course.