Originally feted for release in November 2021, the second full length release from the Swedish Prog Rock project Jonas Lindbergh & The Other Side is now being released by InsideOut on February 18th.
This album has been in my possession for a very long time now so I have time to really get into it at every level and I feel I have really got to know it like a friend so feel eminently qualified to write this review. First, however, some history…
This Progressive rock project from Stockholm, Sweden was founded in 2012 by bass player, songwriter and producer Jonas Lindberg.
It all originates back to 2008 when the EP ‘In Secret Pace’ was recorded as an exam-project at the Music Academy in Piteå, Sweden. But, as term, ended Jonas moved to Stockholm to pursue a career as a freelance musician and the idea got put on hold. In 2012 ‘In Secret Pace’ was finally released on digital platforms as Jonas started to work on new material.
This time the lineup featured a 5 piece band and the second EP ‘The Other Side’ was finished and released in 2013. The project was named Jonas Lindberg & The Other Side from the title track of the album after its release. Jonas contributes bass, backing vocals, keyboards and guitars, Jonas Sundqvist (lead vocals), Jonathan Lundberg (drums), Calle Stålenbring (guitars) and Michael Ottosson (keyboards). Two more musicians, Nicklas Thelin (guitar) and Jenny Storm (vocal) later joined for the live shows.
In 2015 the band began working on their first full length album and released “Pathfinder” in 2016 to great reviews. Jonas immediately began writing new material in the following months. But due to heavy touring with lots of other commitments the project got put on hold until 2019, when the band finally started recording a follow-up album.
The new album features the same lineup as on previous albums along with a few more guest musicians. Returning on a few tracks is Simon Wilhelmsson (drums) who some may remember from the first EP, as well as Jonas’s brother Joel and Roine Stolt on lead guitars. Missing is the band’s keyboard player Michael Ottosson who sadly passed away in the summer of 2020, leading up to Jonas taking on full keyboard duties for the album.
So now you know the history of the band, let me tell you why you just have to buy this album…
‘Miles From Nowhere’ is one of those albums that just puts a huge smile on your face, there’s symphonic prog in the vein of Spock’s Beard, Transatlantic and The Flower Kings in absolute spades but it is all grounded on some seriously good hard rock foundations with guitars that Richie Sambora would be proud of and keyboards that just ooze quality like John Lord at his absolute best. It is a triumph of pomp and circumstance, overblown and bloody brilliant!
Staccato guitars open the seriously catchy Secret Motive Man and you first hear the elegant vocals of Jonas Sundqvist. A funky, folky song about a man who’s intentions aren’t entirely clear, odd time signatures combine with some seriously good drumming and harmonised vocals to die for. As opening album tracks go, this one is of the highest quality and the keyboards and guitars work beautifully in tandem. Short (in prog rock terms) but very sweet, Little Man is a refined slice of music with a rarefied air as it begins but it soon opens up with Jonas’ soaring vocal (harmonised to perfection, naturally) on the chorus and the tastefully strummed guitar just adds to the feel. There’s a brief lull punctuated by keyboards before the guitar rises up in a stunning 80’s hair metal solo that just blows you away, a fantastic track.
The second longest piece on the album, Summer Queen is an epic based on the four seasons, originally written in 2003 by classmates Jonas Lindberg and Joakim Wiklund. This song is an exciting thrill ride of peaks and troughs that never lets up and is graced by the wonderful lead vocals of Jenny Storm. A slow burning opening never hints at the headlong rush to come as Jenny’s ethereal voice is first heard, it’s jaunty and wistful but the energy is building up, bursting to get out and the fantastic keys finally let loose with vibrancy and intensity. What follows is pure brilliance, a song that leads you on a mysterious, primeval journey through nature with ardent guitars and mesmerising keyboards leading the dance. Oceans Of Time has an almost medieval feel to the opening keyboard strains before the music bursts out in a torrent of keyboards, drums and thunderous guitars. This compelling and potent track is highlighted by stunning guitar solos from Calle Stålenbring, which punctuate it with moments of pure intensity, and keyboards that just seem to have a life of their own. It’s a track about an ending of a relationship in the form of a ship on a stormy ocean and you feel drawn into the story as if you’re really there.
The simple, rarefied opening notes of Astral Journey lend a polished aura to the song, a relatively concise instrumental which is almost like a moment in calm after the marvellous maelstrom of the previous tracks. Restless, skittish keyboards then take over, aided and abetted by an edgy, restive guitar before the two blend together seamlessly to bring things to a close. Why I’m Here is the closest we get to mainstream track on the album and is a short progressive song in 7/8 time about stalking, sung by Lindberg. This song features lead guitar from Jonas’s brother Joel and its jaunty feel belies the subject nature. Fast paced and sprightly, it passes by in no time at all, leaving a wry smile on your face and has another blinding guitar solo that leaves you slack jawed in admiration.
While the first six tracks are exceptional in their own right, they lead us up to the utterly amazing final, title track. A twenty-five minute epic of such utter majesty, full of intricate instrumental progressive pieces in odd time signatures, intense rock in the style of Deep Purple, fusion inspired choruses, insane guitar solos and vocals that just have to be heard to be believed. The first near-seven minutes is an instrumental section where it seems everyone has just been told to go and enjoy themselves and just deliver some exceptional and impassioned music and, boy, do they ever! Part two sees Jonas Sundqvist’s voice centre stage and is more melodic, almost Beatles-esque section, more subtle, with some elegant guitar playing from Nicklas Thelin which adds to the more cultured mood. Not had enough harder edged rock for your money? Well hold on to your hats, part three sees us off and running with John Lord smiling over us as the keys provide the backdrop to some ridiculously good guitar playing (Calle Stålenbring take a bow please) and amazingly harmonised choruses. Lindberg himself steps forward to deliver an emotionally strung ballad, A sort of reflection upon what has happened lately in life, in part four and plays all the instruments, supported by Maria Olsson on percussion. The final course is to come and you are not left wanting, overtures, majestic anthems, memorable melodies and hooks abound everywhere. The build up to the finale leaves you bursting with anticipation, it’s done so well and then Jonas’ delivers his final coup de grace and probably the vocal performance of his life, the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, it is really that good! Then, just when you think things surely can’t get any better, you are treated to an epic guitar solo from the ‘Flower King’ himself, Mr. Roine Stolt and the song just goes orbital. Holy cow! what a bloody fantastic and amazing finish, I’m left mentally exhausted and spent as what has been one of the best musical experiences I’ve ever had comes to a satisfying close.
I have listened to this album so many times that I have actually lost count, it is the best example of symphonic progressive rock you are likely to hear in a very long time. I like it that much I have ordered the vinyl and the best compliment I can give is to say that, while I am not a musician and never will be, if I could have only ever made one album, I really wish it could have been this!
Released 18th February, 2022
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