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Ragnarok - 2008 - "Path"

(48:47, Musea Records)


*****
                 
TRACK LIST:                   

1.  Mirrors & Windows 4:25
2.  Lakansvind 5:02	
3.  Chinese River 5:44
4.  Waterlevels 6:29
5.  Dog-1 6:59
6.  September 4:28
7.  Angel 5:30
8.  Dog-2 10:10

LINEUP:

Peder Nabo  keyboards; zither
Thomas Wiegert  drums 
Staffan Strindberg  bass 
Henrik Strindberg  guitar 
Peter Bryngelsson  guitar; dobro

Prolusion. The Swedish act RAGNAROK was formed back in 1972 and released a handful of albums from 1976 till 1983, all of them generally well received. The next production issued with the band's name, 1991's "Well", is by many seen as a creation that is not really a part of the true discography of the band due to the extreme change in style on that release, and as a result "Path" will be regarded by those same people as the first album by this act in 25 years. It's been a long wait though, whether or not one regards their 1991 production as a part of this band's history.

Analysis. I'm pretty much unaware of this band's past history, apart from coming across several negative comments about their 1991 release and about just as many positive ones for their 1976 debut album. Apparently a rather well-known act in the 70s, it seems like this outfit has revived in recent years, and for the past 5 years they have been active on the live circuit, hves seen to it that their most popular releases have become available again on CD as well as in digital formats, and now have finally issued a new studio production, released by the legendary French label Musea Records. The musical style investigated on this creation is a form of folk-influenced, mostly mellow progressive rock, at times with heavy leanings towards psychedelic music. And despite the style explored, as well as this being an act with a rather long history, the music as such isn't looking back in terms of sound and performance. The production is modern and the music is timeless more than anything else. Guitars dominate all compositions: usually at least two guitars will be present, often three; there are multiple layers, but they are rarely used in a distinct harmonic manner. A typical creation will start out calm and mellow, with sound effects or a single instrument most times, and an opening guitar theme will soon come in. Melodic overlay or soloing from a second guitar will get added, in most cases in an atmospheric and searching manner. As the song evolves, keyboards or a third guitar will be added, underscoring the main melody line and creating a carefully crafted nuanced sonic tapestry. The intensity and energy of the composition will magnify, but the music as such stay mellow, and the at times rather complex and majestic-sounding soundscape does produce some real intense segments, but only rarely will a distorted electric guitar riff be added as means to introduce harsher sounding touches to a tune. Instead, the band explores two somewhat different aspects of folk-influenced progressive rock on this production, with one set of songs incorporating jazzy elements and mainly exploring a mood-filled and subtly nuanced landscape. The other set of songs is more complex and probably more intriguing for many listeners as well. In these creations, like the track Dog-1, a more distinct psychedelic sphere of music is explored and the band utilizes both dissonances and disharmonies in these compositions; not in an overly dramatic manner, but rather as carefully planned and placed use of these effects to create unique moods and sounds. In a few of these songs some rather complex structural effects are used as well. There are a few instances of the main melody line being the result of three or more instruments intermixed, usually with two guitars serving melodic fragments and a third guitar, percussion or keyboard conveying a more basic foundation that binds these fragments together into a whole. Bass, drums and percussion make up the rest of the instrumentation used in these songs, along with keyboards, as briefly described above, and sound effects. Their roles are mostly secondary on this album, but add the drive, basic melody lines and effects as and when needed in a skilled and professional manner. It's an intriguing production on many levels, this album is. The compositions are somewhat mixed in quality as I hear them, the style variations may alienate a few listeners, but it seems like this outfit doesn't try to replicate the music of yesteryear and instead has focused on making new, contemporary material. Either so or this act was way ahead of its time when starting out. Still, it's a fine creation they have here, and hopefully the first of more to come.

Conclusion. Fans of folk-influenced mellow progressive rock should find this to be an interesting production and followers of psychedelic rock should get quite a lot of joy out of this one as well, in particular those fond of the more mellow varieties of this style. Open-minded jazz enthusiasts might also find quite a few songs to be compelling, and although mixed in quality it's also an adventurous production to some degree and as such worthwhile of further investigation by the curious.

OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 7, 2008
The Rating Room


Related Links:

Musea Records
Ragnarok


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