I still haven’t learned to read or write in Swedish. It’s on my “to do” list. Why? Coz’, man . . . one of the coolest bands in all the world hails from the sleepy resort town of Saltsjobaden, just outside of Stockholm. And, all of their lyrics are sung in Swedish. I can guess at what they’re trying to tell me through verse and chorus, but I’m only taking a stab in the dark. Though it does help that chief lyricist Olle Thornvall explains (in English) the theme of the album in the liner notes, I still feel like I’m not grasping the full experience of the music. Hence . . . I need to learn to read and write in Swedish. Saviche? Mmm mmm, good.
Anyway . . . let’s put that little tidbit aside for the time being. As important as it is to what sets Trettioariga Kriget apart from the rest of the European prog rock acts, singing the lyrics in their native tongue is not what defines them. What truly defines this band is the sprawling epics that they pen, full of seamless time and mood changes, instrumental virtuosity, and elaborate soundscapes. In short, they’re a thinking man’s band that touches the soul.
In the early seventies, the members of Trettioariga Kriget got together and recorded several albums before playing their last show in 1981. Years later, the guys realized that a fire for creating music still flowed through them. Remember, these are musicians that we’re talking about. Those creative juices don’t just dry up and disappear. That longing to create is as addictive as loving that girl that you know is all sorts of bad for you. Long story short, TK got back together and released a new album in 2004. Translated as “The Fire of Years”, Elden Av Ar loosely tells the tale of the members of Trettioariga Kriget returning to their creative breeding ground of youth and exploring what made them musicians in the first place.
Bassist, Stefan Fredin, and drummer, Dag Lundquist, introduce us to “Ljuset.” Guitarist Christer Akerberg enters the tune by strategically dropping chords over the rhythm before shifting to an awesome clean picked run. Softly and subtly, keyboardist Mats Lindberg begins to co-mingle with the others. By this time, one can tell that these guys have known each other for a long time by the way they weave around each other without getting in the way of music. The instruments build on top of one another until the song drops into the main theme of the tune. Eventually, we have the opportunity to greet vocalist Robert Zima. His crisp and hearty voice croons over a quieted verse before soaring through the chorus. Shadows of light and dark drift across the landscape of “Ljuset.” One moment rocking out, the next, an acoustic passage brimming with melody. The vocal harmonies at the break are a great touch, as is the clean toned guitar outro.
The third track, “Lang Historia,” follows a similar formula as the disc opener. Always looking to do things a little out of the ordinary, TK aren’t afraid to throw in eyebrow raising effects and instruments. Note Stefan’s use of the wah pedal on his bass, primarily during the intro. It’s an ear catching attack on the four string and compliments the other instruments impeccably. The way this sucker builds is monumental, but more impressive is how it flows into this almost somber melody. And, that’s one of those amazing qualities that these guys bring to their brand of songwriting. Seamless transitions. Almost effortlessly shifting from one mood to another as if it were just another day in the office. Lovin’ it!
The use of acoustic guitars was something that I forgot about until I revisited this disc. They’re all over the place, and they work brilliantly to capture the moodiness of the various tracks. Listen to Christer’s attack on “Night Flight” and his strumming rhythm of “Lang Historia.” Both songs highlight a different approach to the instrument with differing results. “Night Flight” is a much more light hearted sounding tune, while “Lang Historia” is a much more brooding epic. In the vein of the acoustic guitars, “Mote” and “Molnbudet” show even more stylistic variance. “Molnbudet” is a beautiful ballad with just Robert singing at his passionate best, and Christer making me jealous with those mad six string skills. He quite possibly is one of my favorite guitarists to listen to. He brings such class to the instrument and his phrasing is understated. Yeah . . . he’s a hero.
The title track is a solid rocker. With it’s quiet build up, it lulls the listener to a state of complacency before bursting with a rich array of cosmic sounds. Though not as proggy as “Ljuset” or “Lang Historia”, “Elden Av Ar” still adheres to the characteristics of the genre by offering up a non-standard approach to the songwriting. The piano in the second verse is just one of the nuances that TK bring to forefront of this tune. I can’t tell who brings more passion to their performance on this track. One moment we have Robert belting out the vocals as if his life depended on this performance. Then we have Dag again, doing that which Dag does. Stefan . . . Christer . . . I can’t decide. I defer to you, Waverider.
The album closes with another stunning tune in “Gnistor.” Much like “Elden Av Ar,” every member of the band shines with this performance. And damn, what a moving tune. The melody kills me every time I hear it. Yeah . . . I definitely gotta’ learn this language. I know I’m missing something very important here! I mean, nobody can put together such an emotionally evocative performance without having something important going on. I gotta’ go check if the Learning Annex has a crash course on foreign languages that I can enroll in tonight! - Pope JTE