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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Änglagård: Buried Alive


1) Prolog; 2) Jordrök; 3) Höstsejd; 4) Ifrån Klarhet Til Klarhet; 5) Vandringar I Vilsenhet; 6) Sista Somrar; 7) Kung Bore.

A prog band just ain't a true prog band without an eighty-minute live LP under its belt; and even if Buried Alive was released as an afterthought, with the band already defunct for two years (the actual performance is from 1994's Progfest in Los Angeles), that does not make it any less of a «destiny fulfilled» symbol for the Swedish revivalists.

The track list is unmercifully stern: they reproduce all of Hybris, most of Epilog, and none of the cover tunes from their idols they occasionally allowed themselves to perform live (such as Ge­nesis' 'Musical Box', for in­stance) — come to think of it, that must have been a wise decision, be­cause the band's singing sucks even worse live than it does in the studio (this particular version of 'Klarhet' features some of the lamest off-key notes I've ever heard on any prog rock record, peri­od), and the sooner the world forgets about Tord Lindman's impersonation of Peter Gabriel, the better. Buried Alive sticks to its own guns, and let it stay that way.

Of course, it also means that, like all traditional prog bands leaning over to the symphonic rather than free-style ideology, the sole point of Buried Alive as an album is to prove that Änglagård's complexity can be and has been reproduced in a live setting with the exact same precision as it showed in the studio. The sound quality, I believe, could be slightly better — volume levels are not always properly adjusted, some instruments sometimes come out muffled, etc. — but overall, the quibbling is minor, so if your CD copy of Hybris ever rots down, rest assured that Buried Alive will still give you the same satisfaction.

On a sidenote, it is hard to refrain from noting that the «Progfest» in question, judging from the volume of the applause, must have been delighting an immense army of music lovers — no less than twenty, I'd say, and perhaps even all of a whoppin' fifty. Considering that, according to pub­licity descriptions, the LA Progfest draws progressive rock lovers from all over the world, I would guess that, be it «neo-prog», «retro-prog», or «prog-o'-the-prog», all of these new-fangled bands put together still would not match the popularity of a single classic Yes, Genesis, or Jethro Tull album — that most music lovers today would rather relisten to their stiff, preserved copies of Fragiles and Foxtrots than pay money to witness the living, breathing sounds of Echolyn, Anek­doten, and Minimum Vital. Which, as far as I'm concerned, should not make anyone sad — on the contrary, the more it stays this way, the more it helps ensure the status of Fragiles and Fox­trots as the stone cold classics they are, and I, for one, am a hopeless sucker for stone cold clas­sics. And what about Änglagård? They're all right, for about sixty minutes per year.

Check "Buried Alive" (CD) on Amazon


  1. Hey, Anek­doten are a decent (-ish) band. They are way worse yet semi-popular neo-prog acts out there. The Flower Kings for example. And don't even get me started on Dream Theater (though if you did I'd have lots to say since they're so easy to rip on).

  2. Well, Mars Volta and Porcupine Tree can be a good example of a bands popular enough and innovative enough at the same time. Who knows, maybe some of their key records will be considered Fragiles and Fox­trots of the 00's in a 20 years from now. Anyway, that's not the case with Änglagård's or Echolyn's of the world - as nice as they may be, they are too much retro-prog-minded, methinks. You know, you've got to try to push those boundaries, as early Floyd and Crimson tried at their times...

  3. The only reason MV are considered a good band is cus they managed to put out deloused before they went completely off the deep end. If TMV started with frances the mute they'd have a small cult-like following but would largely be considerd an oddity. They were very much a case of too much too soon.
    Porcupine Tree are pretty great. though I fear that their slick metal leanings are very much the wrong direction for them in the long term. In Absentia is certainly a fantastic record.

    the main reason that those bands are more likely to be enshrined as "classics" is cus they've been able to get significantly popular, and part of that popularity can be attributed to lesser known bands from before them slowly making prog acceptible again.

    Echolyn are lame Kansas/american prog wannabies, they suck. Friggin Spock's Beard are better than them. Anglagard may be derivative as all get out but at least the music they make is actually pretty good. I don't have any problem with unoriginality as long as the take on the music is quality.

  4. Ken, I tend to disagree on some stuff from your latest post. Mars Volta considered good because ... well, they are just good. But the question that you probably meant to touch is the question of their wide popularity. See, it has far more objective reasons, than just a popularity of that De-loused album. Here just a couple:
    1). They didn't came out of nowhere - their previous "At The Drive-In" band already had a significant amount of fans and followers, both from a hardcore kids camp, and from experimental rock lovers camp. 2). Whatever the odd stuff their albums may contain, they always care to put a couple of radio friendly potential hit singles on each of their studio albums. Remember "Widow"(2005) or "Wax Simulacra"(2008) songs ? Those got a good airplay and helped their albums reach the top 5 at Billboard Charts each. 3). It can be good to have a useful friends from a major rock stars caliber. You know, when Flee and Fruciante sometimes play on your records (as personal friends), and you go on big tours with Chili Peppers or SOAD , that's sure a huge promotion for your act to a mainstream wide rock audience, no matter how progressively fucked up your music is. 4). As odd and complicated as Volta may sound, their live gigs are sure energetic and wild enough even for MTV hardcore kids to pay attention and follow. And at the same time it has enough in it, to attract those old geezers raised on early 70's Zepp, Yes, Crimson, Santana and Can stuff.
    Saying all that i personally rate FRANCIS album higher in my book, then De-loused.

    Now, speaking of Porcupine - i do think it's good for them to add some heavy elements in order to refresh and enrich their sound. They do it the right way. Personally i'm regarding "Fear of blank planet" album much stronger then "In Absentia", and "Anesthesize" epic is being their magnum opus for me.

    Finally, my remark on Änglagård was just from the "popularity" point of few, cause that was the point originally touched by George here. It hasn't much to do with my personal ability to enjoy their stuff. After all, all of us here agree on considering them being really nice band (even if not much innovative/original one).

  5. Ah I completely forgot about at the Drive in. the Mars Volta did have a built in audience to begin with (to a degree anyway since the two bands don't have that much in common). Having famous friends certainly helps with the popularity too. For the record though, I haven't heard much of their recent stuff. Francis was decent, but Amputechture didnt do if for me at all and I havent listened to them much since. I'll probably rectify that eventually, but it's not too high on my priority list since I was never really in love with them to begin with.

    One thing that bugs me about recent PT is that they haven't figured out how to really make properly formed long songs. Anesthesize is a fine song to be sure but it's pretty much just three songs with some instrumental stuff in-between, and since the rest of the album flows together seamlessly there doesn't really seem to be much of a point having those particular songs be grouped together. (They almost pulled the same trick on In Absentia with the 16 minute Strip the Soul but they wisely realized that the different sections worked better as separate songs.) Same goes for The Incident. had they not promoted as "omg 50 minute song guys!" people would have just heard it as a bunch of separate tracks that flow together, which isn't that uncommon for a lot of albums.

  6. The last "At The Drive-In" studio album (from year 2000) is pretty much the introduction to the early Mars Volta world, a pre-taste of a things and developments to come next. "Amputechture" is pretty decent, imho. Actually it's like a "Francis The Mute" part II (Esp. like the Tetrogrammaton track on it). The next one - "Bedlam in Goliath" is really great stuff for me - more wild, energetic and more focused than the previous record. Finally, "Octachedron" comes as really mellow, poppy MV-lite record, that i tend to like much less, than other albums of them. But that might be the starting point for anyone who find the other records too much hard and odd to take.

    I don't have a problem with "Anesthetize" being a three part-song, as long as all of those parts are well written and do click with me. And... they really do. As for "The Incident" - i look at it as a collection of a separate tracks, grouped under some evolving concept. As long as my media player divide them into a separate ones, and gives each one of them a title, i don't care that much about any kind of "one 50-minute song" promotion gimmick. :)

  7. Well it's not really a problem for me per se, but it's an example of the kind of little nit-picky thing that makes me consider Porcupine Tree merely a "very good band" rather than a "great" band.

    We can both agree that The Flower Kings are terrible though, right? ;)

  8. They don't let you sleep well at nights, those damn Flower Kings, uh ? :))
    Well, i didn't listen to them that much for a long time to think i'm competent enough. They aren't really my cup of tea, but as much as i remember, their first couple of albums were quite ok-ish retro/neo prog, partly nice, partly boring. If they would continue it with more original vibe, and filtering the ideas more effectively (no need to make every album around 80 minutes or a double cd, really), i might be interested in them a bit more.

  9. Lol no, I had just recently pulled one of their albums out to see if they were as bad as I remembered. And yep they were.
    Spock's Beard sound similar to them but are much better overall (though still very far from good). Do you know them? They fall into the 30-minute-song-wannabe-kansas/styx-cheese-fest trap often but they come up with a decent pop song on occasion. Unlike with tFK I could maybe make an OK single disk comp out of SB's stuff.

    I really know far far too much about awful neo-prog bands then I should. It's shameful really. There really are better ways to spend my time.

  10. Yep. Why be bothered with negative, i say. :)
    I'm positive today. What do you think of a bands like "Sleepytime Gorilla Museum" or "Cardiacs" ? I consider them fucked up in such an unique way, it's bordering on a genius. Speaking of those Cardiacs, if there's any evidence on Earth that 1980's were actually a great music decade (yeah, George is probably would like to kill me for using "80's" and "great" in the same sentence:) ), it would be that Cardiacs "A Little Man and a House" record for me. That's my Sergent Pepper, i'm sorry.

  11. The 80s were a fine decade, just not for washed up 60s and 70s artists thats all. I'm not familiar with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, so I can't comment on them. I actually haven't heard an entire Cardiacs album but that songs I have heard I quite liked, they're firmly on my (long) list of bands to check out more in depth.

  12. Yeah, Ken, go for IT. Not an easy listening in spots, kinda challenging your comfort zone (or maybe not), but might be very rewarding at the end. And God bless Youtube:

    It's also worth reading on each one of them on WIKI, just to get the whole picture right.
    Those are the bands of a hidden treasure kind, that world needs to know more about, even if it's not really for everybody (but hey, so was Gentle Giant or... eeh.. Mr. Bungle, and they are still known much more).

  13. Oh all right, you've convinced me to move them up the queue. I just snatched "A Little Man And A House And The Whole World Window". I hope you're happy. ;)

  14. Hey Ken, you don't have to trust me, i might just be a dumb flea. But you might wanna trust him, he knows his geniuses well, cause he is kinda suspected to be one of them too:!/photo.php?pid=353110&fbid=155903797763224&id=114657261887878

    "I chose Tim Smith of Cardiacs as my "Unsung Guitar Hero" in this month's edition of UK magazine guitarist. Also here's another genius clip of him rehearsing the band in 2008: "
    (c) Steven Wilson

    On this point i've got to state that Wilson's favorite is "Sing to God" - another fine Cardiacs album (1996).

  15. I feel it's worth pointing out here, that since this above chat took place I have become a big Cardiacs fan. Yay!

  16. Cardiacs are one of my favorite bands.