Stockholm helmsemen of cosmic steamboats take a trip into familiar unknown and bring back tuneful reports.
For years, this Swedish collective ploughed a psych-inspired hard-rock furrow, with 2017’s “A Dream of Lasting Peace” a seeming pinnacle of their infectious ascent, yet “The Secret Of Our Time” marks a change in the ensemble’s method that avoids coming down from the top by aiming for the stars. Not a radical change of direction per se, their freshly mapped progressive route may alienate some of the band’s old aficionados, while there’s no denying the allure of such a development, as the ever-catchy riffs reach for a larger space in terms of both aural landscape and emotional outlook.
Even though synthesizers somewhat dilute the punch of “Final Stand” which opens the group’s seventh studio offering, they also provide a nice contrast to the double-guitar assault and the return of female vocals that help these instantly memorable pieces get off the ground and soar beyond the stratosphere. The results border on clever pop, as the simple beat and call-and-response in “Organic Intelligence” illustrate, baring the band’s supple dynamics, but, with Sam Riffer’s four strings propelling motorik groove along the lane of cosmic ecstasy and Erik Petersson’s ivories anchoring the drift, the likes of “In Your Head” reveal the combo’s rhythm-and-blues link in all its improv-prone glory.
If Lisa Lystam and Zubaida Solid’s voices dip “The Mender” into lyricism, such balladry is quite deceptive, because heavy hooks are always on hand here, rendering choruses and solos of “When A Fool Wears The Crown” simply irresistible. Still, it’s the raga-tinged “Daughter Of The Mountains” that marries mellifluous melody to mesmeric spirituality and lets this uplift unfold and elevate the listener to the twine of Matte Gustavsson and Johan Borgström’s licks, and it’s the finale of the folk-infused “Imaginary Borders” that connects heaven and earth as the epic shifts from acoustic delicacy to the hefty ramming-home of the album’s fantasy flight.
Whether the record’s concept has cracked the titular mystery is anyone’s guess, but the road to solving the enigma couldn’t be more pleasant.