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Isildurs Bane (Sweden) - 2001 - "MIND Vol.2 Live"
(2CD, 155 min, 'Svenska Unikum')


Disc 1:

1.   Extroversion (Phase-1) 1:03

2.   Opportunistic Medicine 8:00

3-6. Cheval - Volonte de roche (in 4 parts) 19:04

7.   Extroversion (Phase-2) 2:11

8.   Exit Permit 23:32

9.   La Ruche 5:57

10-11. Holy Fools (in 2 parts) 11:43

12.  Ataraxia 3:40

13.  Extroversion (Phase-3) 2:12

Disc 2:

1.   Extroversion (Phase-4) 1:14

2.   The Flight Onward 9:22

3-9. Celestial Vessel (in 7 parts) 23:44

10.  Unity 3:25

11.  The Pilot 3:22

12.  Das Junkerhaus 5:22

13.  Extroversion (Phase-5) 1:39

14-16. The Voyage (in 3 parts) 16:09

17.  Exit Visa 6:48

18.  Extroversion (Phase-6) 4:07

All compositions by Mats Johansson

(except 11, Disc 1: by Viking Dahl).

Acoustic orchestration for tracks 8 (Disc 1)

& 17 (Disc 2) by Jan-Erik Saaf.

Arranged, edited & produced by Isildurs Bane.

Recorded live somewhere on Earth.

Engineered by Jan Severinsson.

Additionally recorded and mixed

at "Studio Annu Battre", Halmstad,

Sweden (IX to XII of 2000).


Mats Johansson - keyboards, theremin, accordion

Jonas Christophs - guitars

Klas Assarsson - vibes; melodic, classic,

                 Latin & electronic percussion

Kjell Severinsson - drums & percussion

Fredrik Johansson - bass

Guest musicians:

Joachim Gustafson - violin (& Conductor)

Peter Schoning - cello

Bjorn Lindh - flute

Fredrik Davidsson - trumpet & flugelhorn

Ola Akerman - trombone

Lars Hagglund - grand piano

Janne Schaffer - guitar

Fredrik Emilson - bass

Bengt Johansson - percussion


Several participants more - male & female speech, etc

in various European languages and in Latin.

Prologue. This brand new album from Isildurs Bane is not just a compilation of old materials performed live. Over a half of the tracks on "MIND Vol.2" are totally new compositions; at least you have never heard them before. These compositions are: Extroversion (all Phases 1 to 6), Cheval - Volonte de roche (3rd and 4th parts; the first two parts, though, were completely rearranged for this album), Holy Fools (entirely), Celestial Vessel (entirely), and Das Junkerhous (entirely, of course). Playing time of these compositions totals at 61 minutes, which makes it a whole (and long) album, doesn't it? It will be, however, pretty tough to recognize some parts and even short episodes of all other pieces even to those of you who are very familiar with Isildur Bane's creation as a whole. While some of these compositions were totally rearranged, the others and their parts (picked as if randomly) were intermixed for this album like different cards from different packs. Quoting some of Thomas Olsson's special notes concerning this album, "This is a montage, an interpretation, a deconstruction and reconstruction into something new", I can easily confirm that "MIND Vol.2" consists practically of all (and only) new compositions - according to band's main mastermind Mats Johansson's and all the other 'staff' band members conception. While musically two discs are radically different one from another, it's obvious that each of them is conceptual (instrumental albums talk). Also, it was amazing to learn that some (if not most) of the band's compositions exist in several different versions, i.e. with different arrangements, while there is nothing, apart from arrangements, that could disfigure any composition beyond recognition, including well known and even the most primitive pop-music things. I've read a few reviews on "MIND Volume 1" and "MIND Vol.2" in other sources, so I can't but wonder (as always) where these authors have found comparisons between the heroes of these lines and the following, great in their own ways, bands that have practically nothing to do with the Heroes of contemporary Progressive: The Enid, After Crying to name a few. Most often, though, reviewers compare Isildurs Bane to Camel (!). To me, this comparison is the king of all kings of absurdities. These bands are as comparable as Camel (the band) is comparable to a real camel. While I have never called Camel Titans of Prog (and I will never call them so), I consider Isildurs Bane real Titans, the band whose name should sound 'in company' with other Titans already now (the future will prove me right writing this in June of 2001). Back to reviewers just mentioned above, I agree that this is the easiest way to write a review just with a set of usual, simplistic words, describing bands and their music just "with the help" of comparisons (which sound sometimes really idiotic): "this sounds like that" and "that sounds like this". So I can only dream that lovers of comparisons will stop to write such superficial reviews (as a result of their superficial knowledge of the topics they write about) at least with respect to the bands whose music is so original that it's just impossible (and tactlessly, and unfairly!) to compare them to anyone. Thinking of Isildur's Bane, I recall a refrain from the "Wind and Wuthering" album (Genesis-1976): "This is your own special way". Isildurs Bane go their own, that is a highly special way.

The Album.

Disc 1. All compositions on Disc 1 of "MIND Vol.2" sound either obviously like contemporary Classical Music performed with "Rock instruments" along with "the Classical ones" or in the way of traditional Progressive Rock which, in case of unique Isildurs Bane, has some classical feel. But as I mentioned before, the pieces even from the band's previous album(s), sound way different from their originals almost always. For example, I've found some similarities only in both versions of Ataraxia, although the different approach to arranging the old and new versions is obvious. Unfortunately, I can compare only those compositions from "MIND 2" that feature the "MIND 1" CD, as I haven't heard the other Isildurs Bane albums. These are compositions that (I'd rather say whose titles) feature both the 1st and 2nd Volumes of the band's "MIND" conception: The Flight Onward, Ataraxia, Unity, and The Pilot. There are, however, two more compositions from "MIND I" used (very unusually) on "MIND 2": Holistic Medicine and Opportunistic Walk. Here we have as if a short-cut combination of these both named Opportunistic Medicine which has, maybe, just a spirit of them, but sounds as a new piece. All the other compositions of "MIND I" that sound on this album, apart from Ataraxia, were rearranged seriously enough to differ them from the 'original' pieces quite radically. Here's the first example. While the original version of The Flight Onward was played exclusively by the "Rock section" of Isildurs Bane, on "MIND 2" it sounds way different, being this time performed by the band along with the guest musicians, i.e. together with the band's "small orchestra" (if not with some "big orchestra's" help, additionally). By the way, to learn more details of the MIND conception you can read my review on Isildurs Bane's previous (studio) album by clicking here. Opportunistic Medicine sounds especially unexpected. It can be divided into 5 parts, but relatively only, as at least four of these parts contain variegated arrangements within themselves. Apart from the first, very accessible kind of spacey part, which is atypical (at least to my ears) for the band, all the three following ones as if demonstrate a few of Isildurs Bane's wide variety constituents of their capabilities to play Progressive Rock of all things, but not contemporary Classical Music. Arrangements based on heavy guitars diverse riffing, an extensive and very diverse drumming along with cascades of solos from one (or two) of the percussionists, complex structures with duels between electric guitar and vibraphone solos 'at the head' of them, short yet wonderful keyboard passages, and the joint playing of all the 'staff' musicians change one another kaleidoscopically. Ataraxia, as I said, is the only piece here whose overall sound is, on the whole, as 'philosophically' mellow as on its original version from the studio "MIND 1" album of 1997. Parts of both the leading instruments here (acoustic guitar and cello) were, however, rearranged quite a different way. The other compositions of the first disc of "MIND 2", apart from the said above, are totally new, excluding the first two parts of Cheval (Volonte de roche). This is one of the three compositions on Disc 1 that amaze with the richness of their arrangements. The other two are Holy Fools and Exit Permit that, in my view, is especially wonderful and I easily consider it the centerpiece of the "MIND 2" (double) album as a whole. While both the second parts of Cheval and Holy Fools are played mostly by the band along with orchestra with (stylistically!) similar arrangements typical for (contemporary) Classical Music, their first parts sound very differently. There are lots of Classic Progressive arrangements on the first two parts and in the final of Cheval, as well as possibilities to shine with masterful soloing for each of Isildurs Bane's members, including a wonderful solo "war" between bassist Fredrik Johansson and drummer Kjell Severinsson. In places this music is real Prog Metal, though guitarist Jonas Christophs plays at least one of prominent roles in the majority compositions on the album, but he especially shines when his own arrangements go (just wonderful) along with a variety of orchestral. The band's main composer (who is by no means the same as an arranger) Mats Johansson's keyboards add, at first sight, an unusual mellowness to 'heavy' structures, and Klas Assarssons virtuosic vibraphone solos come to the fore too. As an addition to music "MIND 2" also feature a solid number of narrative episodes, male and female speeches in a lot of different languages, including even Latin. Remembering that on the second parts of both Cheval and Holy Fools the band with their small orchestra mostly perform contemporary Classical Music (and I especially like exactly that kind of compositions or parts of some of them on this album), now it's time to return to the first part of Holy Fools. Although I like it very much, as well as anything on "MIND 2", I don't have too many words to describe it. Filled with various specific sounds and some solos from guitarist and percussionist, overall, the first part of Holy Fools could be best characterized as something new in music that is mostly of 'spacey landscapes', though I understand that such a description sounds quite lubberly. Minimalist forms are rare on the album (and in Isildurs Bane's creation in general, as I guess) and only all Extroversion's parts represent either short (kind of minimalist) keyboard sketches, or mini-miniatures (sorry for such a strange yet really proper in this case definition) of cinematic character, sometimes accompanied by some noises or speeches. To me, the best composition of "MIND 2" is the 23,5-minutes Exit Permit. Performed by the band along with full orchestra, this is a typical Classical Music. Cellos, guitar, keyboards, vibraphone, wind instruments (trombones sometimes) bass, and even drums play different than orchestral arrangements throughout the compositions. Heavy guitar riffs, acoustic piano passages and a lot of varied percussive instruments make this (Classical) music even richer. While interplays between slow violin passages and electric guitar solos are more than just wonderful, construction of their arrangements is so unusual to these ears that I can't call it differently but a brilliant innovation (at least concerning all Progressive genres). Although there are few mellow episodes in the second part of Exit Permit, changes of themes and arrangements are practically constant throughout, so such specific (and complex) structures can be referred to nothing but Classical Music. Finally, La Ruche is full only of mellow-to-melancholic (or the other way round) yet always diverse and very impressive interplays between cello, piano and synthesizer. In total, this composition reminds me the same thing that I just talked about.

VM. June 23, 2001

Disc 2. Already with the beginning of the 'second part' of "MIND Vol.2" and up to The Voyage musicians move towards extremely different musical forms than those I've heard on Disc 1. It's hard unexpectedly to 'find yourself' if not in another galaxy than at least in another star system, though. Performed by the band without their guest string and other 'classical' instrument masters (i.e. without that wonderful "small orchestra"), most of the compositions here represent Isildurs Bane's another musical dimension. Once again excluding Mats Johansson's keyboard-spoken* (you should already know what I mean*) Extroversion's Phases, tracks 2 to 11 are performed as if to demonstrate how masterly the band works in all the three 'chief' Progressive genres (Art-Rock, Prog-Metal, Jazz-Fusion) and, additionally, in the two of its (Spacey & Psychedelic) manifestations. And work it does! Lots of electric guitar moves (I just can't call them "riffs") are heavy, diverse and innovative enough to conquer new 'metallic' territories with 'progressive' landscapes, especially being supported by the fire of the two rhythm- section artillerists (this is a derivation of the word "artist"), as well as by the soloing attacks of bassist and drummer. At the same time anyone in the band accentuates that there's no essential need to play speedy solos to create complex progressive works. Heavy sound based arrangements change with Jonas's long solos - from intensive jazzy-alike improvisations to soft passages in the course of one Symphonic Art Rock and all this going along with the tasteful work of keyboards, vibraphones and varied percussion. Unusual Spacey spaces are waiting for listener's attention like the Black Holes - to swallow it up, strand and cast ashore of another dimension full of strange psychedelic sounds and amazingly charming voices of extraterrestial female entities who speak one of the European languages for some reason - who knows why? I think, just to attract the listener's attention or, maybe, to arouse him? And it works again, though in my case, it works only when I hear a female voice. (There are also lots of male voices and speeches on Disc 2 that could, maybe, arouse some women, but I'd just wonder if some woman really listens to Isildurs Bane and (especially) comprehends their music.) All in all, at least those compositions that I've heard on "MIND Volume 1" (The Flight Onward, The Pilot, and Unity) sound quite radically different here. The Voyage, at last, brings us into the realm of Classical Music played exclusively by all and only the band 'staff' members (yet), i.e. with using the traditional Rock instruments and vibraphone which is at least a semi-traditional one in the set. Here we have the band in its really joint work once again. Everyone separately and all together shine on The Voyage, though, of course, these are just lead instrumentalists that make this music so Classically flavoured. Jonas's parts rule most of the three lands (parts) of The Voyage, but especially wonderful are Mats' keyboard passages in the second part. On this "side-long" composition you'll also hear the vibraphone working on the fields of Classical Music. Exit Visa, followed right after The Voyage (hey guys why do you need the Exit Visa since you just returned from The Voyage?), is the only Disc 2 composition performed by the band together with their wonderful "small orchestra". This is contemporary Classical Music at its very best. Though, just in order for Disc 1 and Disc 2 to be totally different in sound I'd place Exit Visa on Disc 1 instead of one of those compositions that played there only by the band. But is this really a point to argue about?

Summary. There is no place to comparisons between the music of Isildurs Bane (at least of their "MIND" series of albums) and any other existing or defunct band, including even such unique adherents of Classical Music (as well as unique bands in general) as Univers Zero, The Enid, Art Zoyd, to name a few. While almost all albums of Univers Zero and the best (i.e. early) works of The Enid and Art Zoyd are totally based on the structures of Classical or Neo-Classical Music, Isildurs Bane, unlike them, first of all perform Classical Music with 'completely' traditional Rock instruments, let alone their capabilities to unite Classical Music with various forms of contemporary Progressive Rock. Actually, the Isildurs Bane music is so innovative that it's hard for me to place them under some specific 'banner' within Progressive Rock. It is because this Swedish band (at least presently) don't just play Progressive Rock music, but of all things Progressive Music that just includes the elements of a plenitude of Progressive Rock genres, sub-genres and manifestations. To these ears, Isildurs Bane has to be currently one of just a handful of the best bands that perform revolutionary in many ways music as well as being one of the best bands of all times.

P.S. I wonder why none of 'our brothers in pen', apart from this writer, never mentions such true Titans as Univers Zero and Isildurs Bane (to name a few) when they list the Titans of Progressive. By the way, any set of Titans I ever seen is similar among themselves like twin brothers. Maybe, such a (traditional, an official?) set of Titans is an Axiom and 'our pen-brothers' have just no Choice even to add anything of their own to that set? Then what about another Axiom - Axiom of the Freedom of Choice that, for all I know, rules any democratic society?

VM. June 28, 2001


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