Review – Kaipa – Urskog – by John Wenlock-Smith

‘Urskog’ is the latest, and fourteenth album of the folk/fusion progressive rock group, Kaipa. The band was, in earlier times, home to Roine Stolt of The Flower Kings and it’s easy to see just how he was able to be a part of this band’s heritage and sound.

This album is Stolt free but, nonetheless, it is a very accomplished and epic sounding release and takes you on an aural journey through the forests of the Swedish wilderness and its changing seasons. It is all remarkable considering the album only has six tracks, two epics of fifteen plus minutes, one ten minute track, a nine minute instrumental and one, shorter, six minute song. Yet, within its grooves, you will discover a fabulous world of invention and wonder, at least I did.

I could find touches of Yes in the bass work of Jonas Reingold and the fine, fluid guitar of Per Nilsson, not to mention the epic, and often orchestral, keyboards of Hans Lundin, and that’s before we mention the excellent vocals from Patrick Lundstrom and Aleena Gibson. Along with the powerhouse of drummer Darby Todd, they really create a lush and rich, symphonic sound.

Opener The Frozen Dead Of The Night sets the scene for much of what follows, initially gentle before a stirring synth line from Hans is introduced to favorable effect and the music takes a more rhythmic approach. The drums are then brought into play, this opener is quite keyboard heavy in parts but this works well for the song. The next part of the song leads us towards spring and to the excellent fretwork of Per, who really let’s fly on this section. He has a lovely tone and fleet fingers that fly across the fretboard wonderfully, and highly melodically too.

In A World of Pines takes us deep into the forest and into a sensory experience of mindfulness, even as we learn to appreciate the pine forests and the peace that they offer us. There’s lots happening musically in this song too, lots of lovely keyboard sounds and textures. Next is title track Urskog which has a broody tone to its, almost menacing really. Being sung in Swedish reinforces this and without any translation of the lyrics, it doesn’t help, although there are lots of soaring synths on offer herein. There is also a good bass / drum interaction going on throughout which is highly effective in nature, if only I knew what they were on about!

Far Better for me is Wilderness Excursion which features lots of energetic soloing from keyboard player Hans, guitarist Per and bassist Jonas, who channels his inner Chris Squire to pronounced effect. All of this is surrounded by the busy, yet effective, drum work of Darby. With the song being fully instrumental, everyone gets their moment to shine but it is collectively that they really make a point. This is not mere showing off per se, instead it is collectively highlighting their skills together as an ensemble within the track that works so well. This blistering track really shows how well they get together as a unit and can show that on record too.

The Wastelands of My Mind is hinged on a gloriously uplifting violin melody by Elina Rubensztein which, when coupled with a fabulous vocal from Aleena Gibson, really shines and evokes memories of Kansas’ Robbie Steinhardt. Yes, it really is that good and it makes this definitely one of the album’s finest tracks. Final track The Bitter Setting Sun is also a great with another epic setting and keyboard sounds to match and with lot going on in its fifteen plus minutes running time. The song moves between sections excellently with each part being marked by the different sounds that make it run smoothly.

This album is full of life, you can sense how the seasons change and how life develops as a result. The whole record is very life affirming and an absolute joy to listen to. I heartily recommend it to all prog fans, it’s not that folk oriented but does have a fair element of fusion type embellishments. However it’s all excellently overseen and thoroughly enjoyable as a result.

Released 29th April, 2022.

Order here:

Urskog (burningshed.com)

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