December 8, 2010

Agents of Mercy-Dramarama Review

Roine Stolt spends a lot of time writing music and playing guitar. If he is not trotting around the globe with his beloved Flower Kings he is either performing solo work, cranking out solos for supergroup Transatlantic or even jamming in a jazz fusion band called 3RD World Electric (check out Kilimanjaro Secret Brew for a taste), which really is not a stretch for a guitar genius like Stolt. In 2009 to add to the ever growing list, he started another project called Agents of Mercy.  An acoustic experiment with vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) turned into a full blown band. They would subsequently release a solid debut titled The Fading Ghosts of Twilight. It was a fine slice of prog rock and you had to wonder what was around the corner for the versatile Mr. Stolt.

What I appreciate most about Stolt is that he is always ready to push the boundaries and take a chance in whatever band configuration he happens to be in at the time, and good luck keeping tabs on that movement by the way.

So along comes 2010 and now we have a brilliant sophomore release from Agents of Mercy to enjoy called Dramarama. Lead singer Sylvan sounds like a cross between Gabriel and Fish, he certainly has a unique and pleasing vocal style that seems to fit quite well with temperaments and atmospheres provided by Stolt and company. Flower Kings and 3rd World Electric bandmate Jonas Reingold join the proceedings on bass while Lalle Larsson (keys) and Walle Wahigren (drums. percussion) fill out the rest of the positions in the band. Note that Stolt in addition to providing vocals and lead guitar contributes with additional keys, ukulele, and lap steel.

In the 12 tracks comprising this CD I would find it difficult to single out any tracks as the best as they all were top shelf prog rock compositions. To be fair I would have to say I did have my favorites like the lead off track “The Duke of Sadness”, which was the most prolific lyrically and musically for these ears. “Last Few Grains of Hope” and “Conspiracy” were as equally dark and emotional with some tremendous musicianship providing the highlights. Roine’s guitar playing is once again exemplary on every account and the vocals are a superb compliment to the message in the lyrics and the music that push them all along so effortlessly.

I have listened to this album countless times and have not tired one bit from what it has to offer and there always seem to be something that catches my ear or touches me on an emotional level that didn’t the previous time I gave it a spin. That is what prog rock is supposed to do, capture your imagination, create imagery in your mind’s eye and challenge your psyche.

This band does not reach the level of a powerhouse like Transatlantic, it is a different kind of prog, but they certainly match up well with the Flower Kings after putting this release out. This is a band that is fully matured now with an exciting future ahead if it stays together.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Duke Of Sadness, Last Few Grains Of Hope, Conspiracy

Keith “MuzikMan” Hannaleck

December 7, 2010

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