Agents of Mercy
The Black Forest (Foxtrot Records, 2011)
The Black Forest is a concept album by Agents of Mercy, which is one of the many musical projects that guitarist Roine Stolt is involved with. The first two pieces on the album, the title track “The Black Forest’ and ‘A quiet Little Town’ will please progressive rock fans with its powerful and lush guitar and keyboard work and outstanding vocals by Nad Sylvan. Keyboardist Lalle Larsson’s work is truly remarkable, using a wide variety of keyboards to produce fascinating solos and atmospheres.
Things go downhill on ‘Black Sunday.’ For some reason, the band decided to heavy metal on this piece. There are surely many ways to musically illustrate a dark atmosphere and drama without having to resort to heavy metal.
“The music this time is a more rock oriented path we’ve taken,” says guitarist and band leader Roine Stolt, “for good reasons – we are a rock ‘n’ roll band at the core, but we sprinkle bits of symphonic, world, jazz, medieval and folk. Guitars and drums have moved forward in the soundscapes, but the gnarly moogs and mellotrons are still present, this time a bit more haunting and angular. The songs are longer and more elaborate, but sometimes with an iron fist of raw power riffage that resembles Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or early King Crimson rather than Yes or Genesis. Don’t fret – in this 56-minute journey there is plenty of symphonic bombardment too. In fact, we think there is even more than on previous albums!”
‘Elegy’ is an anthemic ballad that returns to the realm of fine progressive rock. This is followed by another hard rocker titled ‘Citadel,’ with a Led Zeppelinesque feel and practically no trace of progressive rock.
One of the best cuts on the album is ‘Between Sun and Moon,’ an ear-catching piece that brings the best of progressive rock with majestic synths and mellotron, soaring guitar and engaging vocals that could easily be destined to be a sing-along classic.
The epic ‘Freak of Life’ combines high energy drama and tranquil moments and has some of the best vocal work in the album, with various types of overdubbed voices and choruses that recall the golden age of Peter Gabriel-era progressive rock. Roine Stolt and Lalle Larsson treat the listener with a series of superb guitar and keyboard solos and melodies.
The final track ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a spectacular grand finale with more state of the art progressive rock with layers of mellotron and outstanding guitar solos.
“We laid down the basic tracks on 24-track analog tape in a lovely studio in the middle of Sweden’s countryside in April,” says Roine, “a place called Varnhem (very dark age). The studio is a top notch, super hi tech, newly built million dollar sanctuary – to our ears it sounds bigger than pure digital; modern but yet fat analog.”
Agents of Mercy are Nad Sylvan on lead vocals and keyboards, Roine Stolt on guitars and vocals, Lalle Larsson on keyboards and vocals, and the terrific rhythm section formed by Jonas Reingold on bass and bass pedals, and Walle Wahlgren on drums and percussion.
The Black Forest is an impressive work by some of the finest progressive rock musicians in the northern European scene although the overall result could have been even better without the heavy metal pieces.
Buy the CD from www.flowerkings.se and the digital download from: