Tom Hayes 20-Aug-2006 The Voyage - A Trip to Elsewhere

1992’s The Voyage – A Trip to Elsewhere represents Isildurs Bane’s 6th album and by far their most ambitious work up to that point in their career. Previous outings included more traditional prog rock fare (similar to Camel, Genesis) and slick 1980s fusion. The preceding album, Cheval, would hint at what was in store for their future, given the strong chamber element present on that recording. Originally released in an elaborate vinyl cardboard suitcase, with an oversized, glossy and detailed booklet, Isildurs Bane spared no expense on the packaging or in the studio. Apparently the recording was also sponsored somewhat by the Swedish government, helping in the financial aid department. This whopper of a 2 CD set is based on the works of a fin-de-siecle Art Brut Swiss artist named Adolf Wölfli. Near impossible to categorize musically, as every composition is as unique as the artist himself. Anything from heavy progressive rock with driving guitars, to Pink Floydish atmospheric rock, to chamber music (performed by the Zorn Trio on violin, cello and grand piano), to church choir with flute accompanyment, to smoky late night lounge jazz. Also of note is the presence of Swedish flute legend Bjorn J:Son Lindh, which is a definite plus for this type of music. Though the opening pieces of each CD have a strong rock element, much of the album is introspective in nature, and is better suited for lazy Sunday afternoons. For my tastes, I wish they had rocked out more, as the contrast to the mellow pieces are quite striking (as demonstrated on the closing track ‘Magnificent Giant Battles’). Also, I feel a single CD would’ve sufficed to get across their point, as repetition of theme and style become more apparent as the recording rolls on. In conclusion, it’s overlong and a bit tedious, but still a triumph of experimentalism and sheer creativity. For those whose musical tastes are more avant leaning, this is a must pickup. Just like the artist the album is based on, this one’s for “outsiders”.

Dan Casey    15-Jul-2001 Lost Eggs

Although they take their name directly from the Tolkien novels, don't be too quick to write this band off. Lost Eggs is a compilation of material recorded from '76 to '93, spanning the history of this Swedish ensemble. While the lineup has certainly gone through many changes, keyboardist Mats Johansson's writing remains the driving force in the band throughout all these years. Stylistically, this is quite a mixed bag, as to be expected of a band whose history has been inconsistent to begin with. The opener, "Second Step", is a poppy and accessible instrumental which clearly defines the goals this band had in the late '80's. The earlier material ('78-'79) is much more in a symphonic/Genesis vein but it works extremely well (and actually predates their first full album by a few years). In particular, "Kungens Musketorer" features a ripping Hammond solo that is sure to please most all fans of this genre. In general, the keyboard work on all tracks is far above average, and maintains the interest in even the (potentially) dullest tracks. While vocals are rarely used, they are in Swedish and vary in their effectiveness. The earlier '80s tracks represent the band moving into realms of jazz and fusion, with plenty of key and guitar solos, and even a few surprises like a well-done bass solo on "Delfinernas Tradgard". While not masters at the jazz/fusion realm, these are effective tracks that recall bands like Edhels and Minimum Vital.

While overall this is a very solid package, it is probably not the best place to start for people new to this band, but it is highly recommended to collectors. Beginners should seek out the first two albums by this band, "Sagan Om Den Irlandska Algen" and "Sagan Om Ringen", which are available on a single CD.

(Originally appeared in Expose issue 7, edited for Gnosis 7/15/01).

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