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(41:24, Musicano Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. I Was the One 3:48 2. Judgement Day 5:20 3. Letting Go 6:00 4. Nothing 3:59 5. Symphony 4:00 6. Best Thing 4:05 7. Requiem 6:10 8. Dead or Alive 3:47 9. Love Again 4:15 LINEUP: Johan Carlgren – keyboards; vocals Johan Norrby – vocals; keyboards Stefan Helleblad – guitars; vocals Janne Henriksson – bass; vocals Nicka Hellenberg – drums With: Roger Gustafsson – lap steel Fredric Lytholm – el. guitars Jesper Jakobson – vocals Saga Carlgren – vocals Rickard Hellgren – violin
Prolusion. The Swedish band JONO started out as the solo project and creative vehicle of composer and musician Johan Norrby back in 2006, and an initial album was released under that moniker back then. Since then Jono has evolved into a real band. "Requiem" is the second full length album by Jono, released through the Swedish label Musicano Records in the summer of 2013.
Analysis. In the never ending discussion about whether or not a specific artist or a specific album merits a description as progressive rock, Jono is a band I suspect most would describe as residing outside of this particular universe. Not too far away and most certainly close to the border at times, but by and large a band not quite complex or challenging enough to be universally recognized as belonging in this context. A feature that may alienate a few of the more dedicated progressive rock fans is that the songs, by and large, are fairly catchy too, with plenty of singalong type chorus sections. The nine songs presented tend to alternate between two different kinds. On one hand we're treated to harder edged, smooth and catchy songs with a sound and approach that inspires associations to hard rock, AOR and glam metal. Catchy riff structures, playful subtly flamboyant guitar soloing, catchy chorus sections and, mostly, a fairly conventional compositional structure as well. The other kind of the songs presented are dampened, melancholic creations revolving around a piano motif, either starting out as ballads and evolving, sticking to a purebred ballad style or songs that have the piano ballad as a stylistic foundation that has been built upon. Ranging from straightforward, predictable construction carried by the lead vocals to more elaborate ones that probably would make a good case as far describing them as progressive rock is concerned. What ties these alternating and at times fairly different compositions into a whole is the subtly dramatic, theatrical flair utilized throughout. Effective use of symphonic textures, careful but distinctly dramatic alterations and developments as well as unexpected ones. As well as the lead vocals. Norrby has a theatrical mode of delivery, in a good way I might add, and his timbre alongside that makes it impossible to not mention Freddie Mercury. Especially in the compositions based on the piano one way or the other there's a strong presence of Queen and the late Freddie. If that is a strength or a weakness is a point that might merit a discussion; the main issue for me is that his voice works in these compositions. Norrby carries a song with ease, is skilled at conveying emotions and knows well how to add tension by way of alternating the intensity of his delivery too. All crystal clear and finely controlled. The end result is a highly entertaining and extremely well made album. Easy to like and easy to enjoy, with some nifty sophisticated details that pop up on occasion enriching the experience for those accustomed to music of a more complex and challenging nature. Just about perfectly mixed and produced too, further elevating the end product.
Conclusion. While Jono's second album "Requiem" may not be regarded as a progressive rock album per se, it is an extremely well made production of the kind that easily merits a description as fairly sophisticated and accessible hard rock. As far as references go, the lead vocals, as well as some theatrical flairs and occasional arrangements and lead motifs, emphasizing that association, Queen and Freddie Mercury are names that come naturally as far as associations go. I suspect the greater majority of fans of those will highly enjoy this album, as will those who know how to appreciate well made, melodic and catchy sophisticated hard rock in general.
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