Review Summary: Mixing strong textural prowess and folky elements, this is one hidden prog rock gem to own.
While it's easy to take the progressive genre as one that's defined by famous bands such as Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush, as well as some lesser known bands such as Camel and Pallas, there are some bands that some people will just never encounter. For some, Sweden's Ragnarok may be a familiar face, but generally it's a pretty unknown band. Despite this, their self titled album is definitely one of prog rock's hidden gems and a worthy listen for anyone who appreciates moody and atmospheric music.
The musicianship on this album is good in general. Henrik (guitar and flute) and Staffan Strindberg (bass) each deliver fantastic performances, with Henrik's floating and expressive lines and folky acoustic passages complimenting fellow guitarists Peter Bryngelsson and Peter Nabo (the latter of which also plays the flute of this album, too), and Staffan delivering strong and clear bass lines. Vocalist Liselott Larsen isn't present often but gives a rather comic performance, and Kosta-Mats Christiansson provides jazzy drum lines. Really though, the strongest element of the musicianship is how each member acts in synergy with the others, which works fantastically with the instruments used here.
The album's main strength is how fluidly each track flows while each other, avoiding the jarring tendency to fly into hard rocking passages and instead remaining fairly sedate throughout, which helps to keep the moods explored in each track from falling apart. It also benefits the continuity of the album as nothing immediately contrasts with the track following it. However, if you're looking for "lively" progressive rock you may not enjoy this due to its sedate nature and overall lack of upbeat tones. Another strength is how organic the whole sound feels, with a wide range of sounds which all sound natural rather than too synthetic, unlike a lot of prog albums. It rarely pulls the usual prog card of having an extremely long track or too, instead employing shorter tracks.
The album opens simply withe the folky and gloomy Farvel Kobenhavn
which immediately sets a tone for the album and following tracks, expressing most of the albums strengths. The following Promenader
features more use of the electric guitar and chiming synths, giving it a slightly brighter feel, while also providing great amounts of mood, with a tastefully applied guitar solo furthering the fusion-ish feel of the song while, Dagarnas Skum
provides some of the most adventurous dynamics and variety on the album. Fabriksfunky
applies more of the fusion influences while still maintaining a great deal of atmosphere and mood with a strong use of piano and chimes. Stiltje Uppbrott
provides the saddest sounds of the album with great use of piano and guitar before developing into a happier mood, and the closing track uses chimes the most effectively of any piece on the album.
The albums only real weaknesses are the rather undeveloped Fjottot
, which is a pleasant change from the gloomier moods of the album but isn't as strong as an individual track, and Tatanga Mani
, which develops too slowly and has some slightly jarring moods switches, while its groovy section comes too late to be as effective as some other tracks.
Overall this is a fantastic and fluid album. I honestly can't quite tell how this album isn't better known considering its strength as a whole and great use of mood, and I'd certainly rank it among the best prog albums I've heard.