Greg Northrup    26-August-2001 Blå Vardag

Blå Vardag, the only album that I know of from Swedish symphonic proggers Atlas, is certainly one of the strongest traditional symphonic albums I've heard from the late 70s. The music is all instrumental and thankfully, aside from some digital synths here and there, there's nary a trace of the impending neo-progressive sound of the 80s. Admittedly, the music here is pretty typical, nothing groundbreakingly original and even a tad cliched at points. Still, if passionate performances, great playing and stunning compositions are what matter to you, then Atlas should do it. The band takes its cue from the instrumental portions of Yes and Genesis: jaunty, melodic, and if not downright "happy" sounding, then at least optimistic. The emphasis is certainly on melody, taking the listener from one memorable theme to another throughout the album, but with an energetic complex approach. Often, the band takes a turn towards quieter jazzy territory, changing pace before returning to some overwhelming melodic assault. A number of times throughout, the keyboard pyrotechnics and compositional emphasis on powerful developed melodies reminded me of Anglagard's brighter less morose moments. Various synthesizers are the primary weapons of choice, as the band features two keyboard players, though the guitar playing is very good and often comes to the fore. Mellotron and flute are also occasionally present, and there is always an active melody line to follow, which keeps things exciting for the duration of the album.

The second cut "Pe Gata" is an absolute monster. 14-plus minutes of utter symphonic splendor, addictive melodies and beautiful playing. The other tracks are all strong, in the same basic style, with a number of twists and turns within them. The other highlight for me is probably "Den Vita Tranans Vdg", which closes out the album proper and leans on a slightly heavier guitar/organ theme which really kills. Still, the album maintains a consistently high quality throughout, and though it lets down a tad in the three lengthy bonus tracks, they were still a nice surprise. Discerning fans of instrumental prog with a symphonic flair will find a lot to like about Blå Vardag.

Sjef Oellers 3-Mar-2001 Blå Vardag

Beautiful symphonic rock with a fusion slant. Focus and Genesis seem the obvious musical influences. The music is largely instrumental. Lots of inspired passages with emphasis on guitar and dual keyboard interplay. Essential listening for symphonic rock afficionados.

Links for further information