Thursday 9 May 2024

Rydholm/Säfsund - Kaleidoscope (2024)

Country: Sweden
Style: Melodic Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 12 Apr 2024
Sites: Facebook | YouTube

For all the wild guitar that opens up Now and Forever and thus the album itself, presumably from Kristian Larsen, who's credited here for guitar solos, this is not heavy music. In fact, this may well be the poppiest album I've reviewed thus far at Apocalypse Later. I've gone with melodic rock as a label, which is fair and is where Rydholm and Säfsund tend to play in bands like Grand Illusion and Work of Art respectively, hence the name of their previous collaboration, Art of Illusion. However, this is a little different from that, I believe, hence the new band name.

I haven't heard Art of Illusion so I can't really speak to why this is different but I believe it's due to it being very firmly at the softer end of melodic rock, veering occasionally into prog rock and jazz but with just as much pop music here as there is rock, much of it funky in nature. Many songs, like the two openers, Now and Forever and Hey You, are often reminiscent of soft rock bands like Toto and the commercial extreme of prog rock like the Alan Parsons Project. I caught moments where commercial era Yes came to mind too, especially in the changes, but Hey You honestly owes just as much to Michael Jackson as any of the names you were more likely expecting to hear.

What that means is that I get to bring up Into the Music for the first time. I've talked in occasional reviews about the Friday Rock Show, a BBC radio radio show which was mandatory listening for any UK fans of rock and metal during the eighties. Well, Tommy Vance, the presenter of that show, did a year of presenting a second show, Into the Music, that focused on the lighter end of rock music. If that was running now, I'd be utterly sure that producer Tony Wilson would dialling Stockholm to see if Rydholm/Säfsund would be in London at any point and, if so, if they'd want to pop over to the Maida Vale studios to record a session.

That's because their core sound is in between those two openers, as highlighted by the next bunch of tracks, if not all of them over the fifty minutes taken up by the remaining ten songs.

What's Not to Love and Seven Signs of Love are bouncy and rooted in melodic rock, but they drift into pop frequently. There are guitar solos here, courtesy of Kristian Larsen on this pair, but with others guesting here and there on later tracks. Some are very tasty and I'm particularly fond of the ones on Seven Signs of Love and 4th of July, the latter performed by Tim Pierce, but crucially they never seem out of place, even with what I'm going to add in the next paragraph.

And that's the horn sections, which are even more obvious on Don't Make Me Do It and 4th of July. There are two here, one introducing this aspect to the band's sound on Now and Forever while the other takes over for the rest of the album. That means that Tom Walsh is a huge part of Rydholm/Säfsund's sound, maybe not as much as Rydholm or Säfsund but easily up there with Larsen. What matters is that he isn't soloing on an electric guitar but delivering lead trumpet and fluegelhorn. I've heard saxophones on extreme metal albums lately, so I won't suggest that the mere presence of fluegelhorn makes this pop music but it kinda helps.

Certainly, songs like The Bet, that sounds like a cross between Toto and Queen, and Sara's Dream and Bucket List, which are more like the former without the latter, would sound even more so, if there was less trumpet and more guitar. At points on the latter two, I started to imagine that this was a Toto covers album performed by Postmodern Jukebox, merely with only one singer in Lars Säfsund rather than a string of different guests. Just to highlight how these halves of the sound work together, Bucket List features both an excellent saxophone solo from Wojtek Goral and an excellent guitar solo from Larsen.

What this all ends up as is something very easy to listen to. It's often the sound of summer, which isn't necessarily a good thing because it makes me want to go outside and I live in Phoenix rather than Stockholm, where the sun is a fiery ball of death in the sky that wants to kill me. I'll settle for sitting in my office feeling happier because of the sheer perkiness of this material. My favourite track is surely Now and Forever, which is also probably the most rock song here, but I'm very fond of The Plains of Marathon, another Toto-esque song in the grand sweep after the openers. All of these do the perky thing, though, and it's a generous album at almost an hour, enough to make anyone happy.

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