Tomas Jonson – mellotron, Hammond organ, solina, clavinet, pianet, korg mono poly, piano, church organ
Jonas Engdegård – electric guitars, nylon and steel acoustic guitars
Tord Lindman – vocals, electric guitars, nylon and steel acoustic guitars
Johan Högberg – bass, bass pedals, mellotron effects
Anna Holmgren – flute
Mattias Olsson – all percussion, and effect-flute
Okay, here is the long awaited (at least by me) Änglagård review.
To those deep into the progressive scene, Änglagård is legendary. For most others the response is… “Who?” So here is a bit of history. By the end of the ’80s, prog seemed to be on its death bead. Genesis and Yes had gone pop, Rush was more “New Wave,” King Crimson was missing in action, and Fish had just parted company with Marillion (who had been the standard bearers of prog since 1983). To many of us it seemed as if progressive rock might go the way of disco. Then at the dawn of the ’90s, in far off Sweden, the Renaissance began.
In 1991 Keyboardist Pär Lindh formed the Swedish Art Rock Society, along with Anekdoten and Landberk, but none of them alone had the impact of Änglagård, and their 1992 debut album, “Hybris.” The whole idea was to get back to the original concept of progressive rock (or art rock as I always heard it referred to back in the day), and specifically the symphonic style. Not only was Änglagård up to the challenge, they practically schooled the original masters in the process. Regardless of the historical significance, this album is just extremely good.
“Hybris” is a return to late ’60s / early ’70s instrumentation and styling, but with the energy and intensity of the times (think grunge). Technically these musicians are second to none, and the compositional skills are equally impressive. True symphonic rock was brought back in all of its glory, and given a new flavor. If the attempt had been made in Great Britain, or North America, it might not have sounded so fresh. This music is definitely Nordic. The fact that I can’t understand the lyrics doesn’t bother me in the least (though I am curious). It’s just that good.
“Jordrök” opens with some beautiful grand piano, the likes of which haven’t been heard since Tony Banks in his prime. It then goes into highly disciplined King Crimson dissonance. Then we are treated to gentle flute, and acoustic guitar, and then pipe organ. There is no one place to settle here. “Vandrigar i Vilsenhet” is pretty firmly in classic Genesis territory. “Apocalypse in 9/8” should definitely come to mind. The other pieces have some aspects of Camel and even Jethro Tull. However, there is no mistaking a signature sound, and it is pure Änglagård. So, there really is no point in making any further comparisons.
As I said, “Hybris” has been hailed as a masterpiece in prog circles for a long time now. After this, symphonic progressive rock got a fresh start. The main problem has been that Änglagård albums have been out of print. On the rare occasion someone wanted to part with it, you may have been lucky enough to find one on eBay for a nominal sum. I happened to land into a situation where I was essentially a music critic, and had other avenues to pursue. After many years of waiting, they have finally released a re-master of Hybris. Epilog (their second, and only other studio album) will follow soon. The copy I had wasn’t bad, but the re-master sounds incredible. There is also a bonus track (I think that is mandatory now on all re-masters).
Whether you care about the significance of “Hybris ‘ or not, it is essential listening. This is some of the best, most challenging music ever recorded. Now that it is available again, get a copy. Knowing this enigmatic group, they could pull the plug once more.
Here is a review submitted my my dear friend Ivan Melgar-Morey, from Progressive Archives
I remember having bought “Hybris” “LP” in the 90’s (Very expensive), but as most arrogant and pompous Progressive Rock followers from the 70’s (well, I’m the second generation, started listening Prog at the age of 12 in the late 70’s) thought that the genre had died in 1978, so never gave the album a chance.
A few years ago, I went to a lecture about ÄNGLAGÅRD here in Lima-Perú, and had the chance to see a video recorded in Progfest 1 where they even played “The Musical Box”, and was incredibly surprised, their music and sound was simply perfect, better than most 70’s bands.
ÄNGLAGÅRD (Garden of Angels), has the peculiarity tat despite being from the 90’s, they refused to use instruments that didn’t existed in the 70’s, I even heard they spent a lot of money in mellotrons. Plethoric of magnificent Keyboards and Mellotrons, is hard not to place ÄNGLAGÅRD CD’s in the same section of the greatest bands of the 70’s like GENESIS, YES or ELP.
Even when most people love “Hybris”, many criticize their approach as derivative and “Retro Prog” (A tem I despise), that’s absurd, they play outstanding music, with great skills, they don’t clone any band, and from my perspective they are absolutely original, because nobody sounds as ÄNGLAGÅRD……………..What else can we ask?
It’s clear that “Hybris” has influence from Yes, Genesis but specially from King Crimson and even from Focus, but ÄNGLAGÅRD took this influence and worked with it in their own unique way, avoiding to do simpler works as the Neo Prog Bands or cloning some great tracks. You can notice the influence of the mentioned bands but is almost impossible to affirm they are copying a determined song, they did their own original stuff, inspired in classic Prog’ bands.
Jördrok (Earthsmoke) starts with an unbelievably beautiful piano section, totally dark and melancholic, but also haunting and scary, almost as announcing the Crimsonian explosion that will follow, precise flute touches, lots of Mellotron and Baroque Organ sections by the excellent Thomas Johnson (Who was born long after the invention of the Mellotron but plays it with great ability) complete this incredible opener, but I don’t continue, because words only offend the perfection of the track.
“Vandringar I Vilsenhet” (Wanderings in Confusion) epic that starts with a soft flute followed by a dark organ reminiscent of Bach, again hard passages softened by the sweet flute of Anna Holmgren. This is the first song with lyrics in Swedish, which of course are impossible for me to understand, but who cares about lyrics and words when music talks so loud and clear, Tord Lindman’s voice is delicate and acute but absolutely unique and appropriate for the music.
“Ifrån Klarhet Till Klarhet” (From Strength to Strength) starts with a circus tune, again followed by a shocking crimsonian section and Tord Lindman’s voice, this time lower and less feminine than in “Vandringar I Vilsenhet”. For the first time I can listen a passage clearly reminiscent of early Genesis with a flute that sounds almost as in Musical Box, great versatility of Anna Holmgren who has a style closer to This Van Leer than to Peter Gabriel, but easily adapts her style according to the needs of the song also must mention Johan Högberg who does a terrific job with his bass.
“Kung Bore” (King Winter) is the closer of the album, starts with an a acoustic guitar section followed by keyboards and the whole band using a style that I can hardly identify with any main ÄNGLAGÅRD influence, has a bit of Crimson, Focus, Yes and Gabriel Genesis but none of them specifically, and that my friends is what influence should be, only inspiration but not a simple and cheap copy. In this track Tord Lindman proves what a versatile vocalist he is, using different ranges, the whole band is again perfect and I won’t try to describe all this track because it’s an impossible task, I can only say is that it’s less dark but more nostalgic than all the previous and almost perfect.
In my version of 2000 (almost sure), you can also listen “Gånglåt från Knapptibble” (Marching tune from Knapptibble) as bonus track, and it’s a paradox, most King Crimson sounds as Sanskrit to me due to their extreme complexity, and this song is at least as complex as any “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic” track, but I love it, maybe because despite the absolutely ultra elaborate complexity, there’s some sort of warmth strange for a technical Swedish band.
Until a few months ago I could only say try to get a cheap old copy at E-Bay or ask a friend to lend you one because it doesn’t exist anymore, but today you can find a magnificent remastered copy…………………….BUY IT…..Would be a crime not to do it.
Iván Melgar Morey