Gazpacho – Demon (Kscope)

Gazpacho – Demon (Kscope)

Whether due to the severities of terrain and climate it experiences or even because the region lies at the extremes of European civilization, Scandinavian countries have long held a place in the history of what for many is still viewed as the dinosaur idiom of modern music, progressive rock. A line can be drawn from the early ‘70s and the Swedish prog-pioneer triumvirate of Parson Sound, Samla Mannas Manna and Bo Hansson right through to more contemporary disciples of this dark art in the form of The Flower Kings, Kataya and Fruitcake to illustrate Scandinavia’s place on the map of progressive rock music.

Over the years, what has become a much broader church of progressive rock has mutated into many different sub-genres, ranging from the overblown complex bombast of its earliest form to a far more melodic take on neo-progressive metal. It is at this end of the progressive spectrum that Norway’s Gazpacho lie, having aligned themselves much more closely with British bands such as Anathema, Porcupine Tree and Marillion (with whom they have had a long-standing association) rather than the majority of their Nordic counterparts.

To the nucleus of singer Jan-Henrik Ohme, guitarist Jon-Arne Vilbo and keyboardist Thomas Andersen – the head, hips and beating heart of the band since its genesis in 1996 – have since been added Mikael Krømer, Kristian Torp and Lars Erik Asp on violin, bass and drums respectively. Together these six men have produced the band’s ninth studio album, Demon.

In keeping with a number of its predecessors as well as many a prog rock recording over the years – and something that is almost guaranteed to strike abject fear into the very heart of the casual listener – Demon is what might loosely be described as being a concept album. Part myth, part legend, and perhaps leaning more towards conventional storytelling than abstract ideation, the Demon’s tale is told over four musical parts.  

And just as the phantasmagoria of its narrative might suggest, the music in which the fable is wrapped is by almost equal dimension epic and illusory. Shrouded in both mystery and melancholy, the plaintive voice, guitars, keys and violin swoop and soar. The rugged contours of their collective sound and the sheer sense of wide open spaces that they manage to convey appear at times to mimic the topography of their native land. Whilst it does occasionally buckle under the weight of its over-inflated grandeur, such moments on Demon are more than counterbalanced by other passages of almost tender, symphonic beauty and yet for all of its passing lapses into pomposity, in the ever expanding pantheon of modern progressive music this still remains a record worthy of strong consideration.

Demon was released on 17th March 2014 via Kscope

Rating: ★★★½☆

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