- Gets stuck in your head, in a GOOD way
Hasse Froberg has been lending his powerful voice and guitar skills to Swedish proggers The Flower Kings for many years now. That’s where I had my first introduction to him and I’d imagine the same goes for most of you out there. I’ve always loved the work he did with TFK, delivering many unforgettable vocals album after album. Naturally, I was excited to hear what Hasse would bring to the table on a solo album.
Once I popped in my copy of Powerplay it didn’t take long at all to sell me. This is a monster of a record! Hasse states that he wrote all the melodies with his voice and acoustic guitar, in order to avoid the possibility of hiding a weak line behind a really cool sound. Regardless of his methods, he sure did something right, because the vocal lines are marvelously memorable. With just one listen to the album I felt like I could easily identify vocal lines, choruses, and even instrumental parts, which is something that does not happen every time you throw on a new disc.
I would divide this album into two halves: the prog half and the rock half, kicking it off with “My River to Cross,” which ends up being the perfect way to open up this album. Huge sound, soaring melodies that get stuck in your head, and lots of proggy goodness categorize this fine piece. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of headbanging riffs that this tune provides, making fantastic use of unison guitars, bass, and drums, with the Hammond filling in the background nicely. Kjell Haraldsson executes dazzling synth and Hammond solos, after which Mr. Froberg wraps it up with a nice, big chorus. As the next track came on I instantly knew this wouldn’t be a boring or repetitive album. “The World keeps turning adds an accessible appeal with catchy hooks, something that usually scares me away, but not in this case. Once again, Hasse shows us what a fine band he has put together, with gorgeous virtuoso soloing on from Kjell and Anton. As “The Final Hour” gears up, we enter prog mode full on with fantastic arpeggiator and some really musical vocal harmonies and techniques, creating some moments that I would like to say are very distinctively Hasse Froberg. On the other hand, this song has some of the most Flower Kings’ moments on the album, especial the guitar solo section, which made me think a bit of Mr. Stolt mixed with some Steve Vai-like phrasing. If you aren’t sold yet, just wait ‘til you hit the eight minute mark where you’ll hear some gorgeous piano and Mellotron flute. Yup, that’s it, “The Final Hour” is a progalicious piece, landing the spot of my favorite track of the album.
The next half of the album is pretty straightforward; Hasse’s mission is to provide solid rock ‘n roll with beautiful prog influences and a great band that constantly reminds us that there’s a team effort going on here, and it’s a winning team, might I add. “Waves” brings a bit of a relaxing atmosphere to the album with its steady drumbeat, ballad-esque melodies, and nostalgic lyrics, backed by the gentle textures of guitar and Hammond. “Venice CA,” on the other hand, is the party song on the album, a straightforward rocker with some pretty heavy 80’s influences. At this point the album has taken a more straightforward edge, following up “Venice” with “Is it Ever Going to Happen,” a heavy blues rocker (on the verse), with gritty vocals and a few surprises; after the really rocking parts it transitions smoothly into more jazz influenced territory with nice use of Rhodes, then pulls out the tron briefly before entering into a heavy section, and even a little bit of reggae style guitar and then brings the chorus back. All of a sudden it gets heavy again and we get a major shred guitar solo from Anton Lindsjö, full of tremolo picking, pinch harmonics and the works. Following “Is it Ever Going to Happen” we get “White Butterfly,” a short acoustic guitar/vocal piece (that I wasn’t too thrilled about) before moving on to “The Chosen Ones.” Overall this is one of the weaker pieces, not really offering much that other tracks haven’t already done for us up to this point, except some very high quality fusion solos on guitar and keyboard which help this piece finish off strong. Closing out the album is “Godsong,” delivering first class on the positive lyrics, in The Flower Kings spirit, accompanied by uplifting and memorable melodies.
To sum it up, Powerplay is an album you won’t want to miss. This is NOT just something to fill in your time as you wait for the next Flower Kings release. Honestly, I listened to this and Banks of Eden right next to each other, and I’m not going to lie, I was every bit as impressed with this album as I was with the new Flower Kings; and that’s saying a lot. Hasse Froberg, through this album, has thoroughly proven to me that he is a force to be reckoned with, not just a strong member of a first class band, but a true leader who has the compositional ability it takes to turn heads.