Veteran proggers return to their source and sculpt a time warp for an earworm.
Stalwarts of Scandinavian symphonic rock, this band’s spiritual closet might hide plenty of ghosts – otherwise, there would be no reason to try and resurrect its original line-up with a telling “da capo” tag, while another version of the band is still active out there. The addition to the name alluding to an attempt to create alternative history, there’s a little surprise the sonic landscape of “Dårskapens Monotoni” is deliberately retro from the epic title track on; what’s surprising, though, are many references to those who influenced the ensemble – possibly a result of Roine Stolt’s touring with Steve Hackett – that make for a trip down memory lane to the accompaniment of new music.
The keys to the album will be revealed in “Spår Av Vår Tid” which means “Traces Of Our Time”: the most concise piece here, it’s the album’s emotional core – an acoustically driven, if cosmic-minded, transparent song challenging its own sadness. Elsewhere, with Tomas Eriksson and Ingemar Bergman anchoring the flight of fantasy, Michael Stolt’s gruff voice may ground instrumental soaring sometimes, yet the vocals fit Swedish lyrics perfectly, giving “När Jag Var En Pojk” a good amount of gloom before Hammond and handclaps envelope the piece in hymnal, folk-tinctured petals. But while “Vi Lever Här” is destined to keep the listener in the Topographic Ocean’s waters that majestically link the record to here and now, the 17-minute “Tonerna” paradoxically holds the album’s loosest, rocking moments alongside theatrical, choral solemnity to reflect the band’s on-stage perspective and their psychedelic sense of humor.
That’s the album’s genuine grace, and if it returns the veterans to their early days, they’ve been worth revisiting.