Sweden, home of many exports musically since the late sixties, “ABBA” being the biggest name that comes to mind commercially but also a bounty of other big names in both Prog and Pop culture. Pop Bands like; “Ace of Base“, “Roxette“, “The Cardigans” and Prog bands like; “Opeth“, “Beardfish“, “Moon Safari” and “The Flower Kings” to name just a few. Then we have “Anglagard” the giant symphonic stirrers of Stockholm whose epic songs and massive sound bring back the days of the seventies when bands ruled the stage with orchestrated might and lengthy musical masterpieces. Nothing short of a Tolstoy type novel at length but very full of beautiful passages and grand scale creations, this band has immersed themselves in Prog world of traditionalism to the umpteenth degree and with all the right ingredients and standards required.
Formed in the summer of 1991 by Tord Lindman and Johan Hogberg they placed ads looking for others like them to form a band of grand proportions. Thomas Johnson and Jonas Engdegard replied and were in quickly forming a bond with Tord and Johan then after acquiring classically trained drummer Mattias Olsson and flutist Anna Holmgren the band was ready to rehearse and record. With a history very much like that of UK Proggers King Crimson, Anglagard had their start and stop periods throughout their career, 1994, 2002, 2011 2013 etc. Also several line up changes along the way as well added to their Crimsonesque motif with Erik Hammarstrom and Linus Kase in 2013 changing out drums and keyboards with them now on board. Currently the band is on tour with other Scandinavians, “Airbag” on the “Cruise to the Edge” boat cruise sharing their Prog charisma around the stage with all the other Prog greats also on the bill. Anglagard has been one of those bands that carried the symphonic torch when no one else wanted it and still kept it lit throughout their albums. Their American shows were primarily festival gigs like; PROGfest in ’93 and NEARfest ’03 although a gig in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the Marx Inn throws you off the pitch a bit! A lot of festival gigs have paved the way for larger audiences to absorb the band’s musical and artistic reflections on a grand scale which for a band like Anglagard it’s key to have a big audience for a big sound as well as a smaller venue would definitely would be a very well received performance and a much more intimate environment as many Prog bands have hailed as some of their best times and gigs played in their concert history but they seem to have great reception in festival settings.
This album is only four songs but not a single one is less than twelve minutes long making it a grand listen and every song epically transports you all over the fantasy world in an entirely instrumental record. “Ur Vilande” is the opening track and enters in with calm serenity of flute and keys with the classic drum and cymbal roll ins making a grand appearance of some dignitary or royalty figure. This track is of Machiavellian breadth and scope. One imagines; forbidden forests, dusty trails and wee beasties that crawl around in the night in search of someone or something. The keyboards reminisce of the mellotron from “In the Court of the Crimson King” to which this band truly plays to a King’s court. The German Mittlemarkt bands like Corvus Corax and Schandmaul incorporate this medieval concept well instrumentally and exploit it giving the audience the forgetfulness of being in the 21st century and whisking them away to some far off world like Hybrasil(it does exist dammit!) or more evidently, Hobbiton. I know that’s not what the band is going for but one cannot help but think of these images at times.
“Sormantel” follows up with the quiet entrance of sound leading in to a fluidity of swirls and magical passageways. Time and tempo changes are clearly evident throughout the song and album but you can still tap your foot to it provided you’re following along! The band evolves around the flute being one of the main “voices” in the group and a prominent forefront vehicle for their sagas. The shortest track on the record at 12:06 minutes it and changes time signatures enough in it to make an interesting song to listen to. “Snardom” the third and longest track on the album clocking in at sixteen and a quarter minutes almost rivaling songs like Pink Floyd’s “A Saucerful of Secrets” and Yes’ “Tales From Topographical Oceans” double Lp. “Viljans Oga” could easily be a double album if put on to vinyl with the length of the songs here, thank the techno-makers for the compact disc although this would be stellar to hear on vinyl Lp! The songs on this album take you deeper in to the origins of Prog and the genre than most bands do only because they are heavily in to the symphonic aspect of the genre and create epic and grand scale songs which most Prog bands do a few but never as many on their albums as Anglagard has. “Langtans Klocka” finishes off the album with the same panache and recipe formula as its predecessors and closes the record off with a taste for more and a fulfillment of sensory overload. With tempo, time and timbre changes it completes the journey started almost an hour ago and does not have you asking for more as you are pleasantly full by this point. When the band does sing it is in their native Sweden but have been known to do a cover of the Genesis track, “The Musical Box” which they sing in English. So they are capable of singing in both languages which is good for audiences and even if they only did the vocals in Swedish it wouldn’t matter any as it’s all part of the Anglagard collected experience.
This band is for more hardcore symphonic Prog fans and I would recommend it as such as they do have songs that go well past the ten minute mark and are full of time, tempo and timbre changes that for the lighter Prog fan may be too much for them to get through and/or have the patience for. They are not for everyone but for the the fan who really loves that extended and very deeply thought out piece of music that comes across as a composer’s wet dream then this band is absolutely worth checking out. Below is their full performance from “NightofProg Festival” held yearly in Lorely, West Germany, and this set does contain a couple of songs form the album we just went through so sit back, absorb and enjoy Swedish Prog at its biggest and most intense with Anglagard.