Review Summary: Hear the final chapter of the story that shaped the galaxy as we know it.
Our hero, Hällas, lays unconscious on the cold stone of the Underworld. In a twist of fate, a cosmical event known as who knows what, the Moon starts orbiting out of control, changing the course of night and day and coming close to Earth. This allows its moonlight beams to reach Hällas, awakening him from his slumber, and hence another chapter of his saga begins.
A very serious but admirably (and presumably) stoned Tommy Alexandersson (vocals, bass) explains the events of Conundrum
to a bemused Nicklas Malmqvist (synths, keyboards). Spoiler alert: Star Rider is, actually, a robot, well not really, but yes. After some more bits of unintelligible lore and other minor band skirmishes, Hällas, the Swedish prog-rock necromancers are ready to seal and ship their second studio album, which follows the steps their fantastic 2017 release, Excerpts from a Future Past
oozes 70s progressive rock goodness in the manner of bands like Hawkwind or Wishbone Ash, but Hällas know how to make it sound modern and, to put it in simple words, really fucking cool. "Ascension" functions as a quick intro describing the events mentioned above. In less than a couple of minutes, you will be riding your interstellar steed across the galaxy with "Beyond Night and Day". "Strider" plays like a space blues epic while first single "Tear of a Traitor" blends early NWOBHM with every hidden stash of LSD available in Sweden, resulting in the bastard son of Church of the Cosmic Skull and Abba.
"Carry On" is the perfect 80s flick intro song that has been in the back your mind since you were a kid and that suddenly you are able to sing along to without even having heard it once. And here's where things get serious. As the first half of Conundrum
sunsets, three songs remain before the album completely vanishes. These three songs show a more committed, more ambitious, less tongue-in-cheek approach than any of the songs that played before. In this second half, Hällas goes all out with their prog arsenal. If the first half of Conundrum
shows how the band is more than capable to write soft-hearted shot bursts of sticky rock melodies, in the second half their love for intoxicating progressive deliriums and enrapturing jams emerge in full swing.
The highly evoking artwork painted by Adam Burke of Nightjar Illustrations comes to live and drags you in while Hällas unleash a perfectly balanced mix of psychedelia and progressive rock like they've been in cryo for over 50 years and just brought back a few months ago. Nicklas Malmqvist's job on keyboards is superb, Tommy Alexandersson's vocals, while not being a jaw dropping showcase of technicality, they embellish every song when he recites the carefully written pieces of lore like a cosmic bard. Alexander Moraitis and Marcus Petersson make their guitars wail and sing in perfect unison with Tommy's bass, not too heavy, not too soft, just hitting that sweet spot of melody without being overtly noisy. Add Kasper Eriksson's steady drumming and a very suitable production and the results are everything one could desire from a prog band in the year of our Lord and Savior.
, the trilogy that tells the tale of this galactic Solaire of Astora comes to an end, but who knows what the story beholds! Will the Astral Seer turn into a Selenite giraffe while it creates a massive black hole than only Star Rider, after reviving Hällas with a solar beam that feeds on the energy of three thousand supernovas, can prevent? Stay tuned!