Sweden has been the home to some of the most incredible progressive rock bands and artists through the late 20th Century, Hansson & Karlsson, Änglagård, Anekdoten, Kaipa, Opeth and Trettioåriga Kriget to name but a few. However, lurking within the forests of the genre is something completely unexpected, and that something is a band called All Traps On Earth, led by Änglagård’s Johan Brand, along with Thomas Johnson, Erik Hammastrom and Johan’s daughter, Miranda.
The band name for this project was chosen by Johan and reflects the five years it has taken him to bring this painstaking music to life. Released via AMS Records, A Drop of Light is a combination of the surreal with sonic nightmarish tones and epic film scores, culminating in some unbelievable crossover music.
Listening to this debut album, and looking at the incredible album cover by Santiago Caruso, A Drop of Light invokes the styles of the golden-era of the ’70s Giallo cinema and brings the essence of the film making styles of Dario Argento, George A. Romero and Alejandro Jodorowsky to life, with their own take of an alternate score which hangs menacingly between the horror, surreal and Gothic genres.
The opening title-track features Miranda Brand’s operatic voice, along with Oldfield-esque keyboards, which as the piece unfolds create an escalating and foreboding picture. Then everything breaks loose in a chaotic free-for-all, with an intensity which conflates King Crimson’s Lizard-era, the Rock In Opposition movement, Steven Wilson’s Insurgentes and Gentle Giant. These mind-blowing crossovers suggest Johan as the conductor, giving the musicians directions on where to come in and where to leave. The track is awash with intensive time signatures, that can be off the wall at times, but always creating tension and power. The last four and a half minutes or so are a climatic run with Moogs creating images in a score that could be for Leiji Matsumoto’s 1979 anime classic Galaxy Express 999.
On the aptly titled Magmatic Warning, Johan references the Zeuhl legends who started it all. Now I wouldn’t say that this is a tribute to Magma, but the music is imaginative and heads in similar directions. Johan employs distorted bass to add power before piano walks us into another room, the setting for another gruesome scene – your imagination is left to fathom what has happened. Trumpet, nightmarish synths, growling fuzz tone bass, and giant swell-like drums offer a suitable climax. It is left to Miranda’s voice to bring tranquillity to the proceedings, although there’s no chance of bringing peace.
On Omen Johan shows more of his appreciation for the RIO movement, briefly channelling the twists and turns of Kavus Torabi and Knifeworld. With Mellotron brass, mournful organs, booming percussion and Miranda’s voice honouring both ZAO’s Mauricia Platon and Pierrot Lunaire’s Jacqueline Darby. Gong-esque structures, circa the 7-minute mark, take us in yet another direction, with some intensive flute playing from Magnus Båge.
The atonal composition First Step is introduced with piano, and as the flute and Mellotron emerge we head into the heart of the forest, where nobody wants to go, with a Goblin like arrangement that makes you feel something crawling up your spine.
The album closes with Bortglömda Gårdar (‘Forgotten Farms’), and as I listen I hear a surreal collaboration between Fabio Frizzi, Goblin and the legendary Ennio Morricone, like an ominous end credit sequence, right out of the fog of ’80s classic, The Beyond. With mariachi trumpets, harpsichord, flute, and vocals, it uses a chaotic time signature to open the doors to a tidal wave that unexpectedly hits you hard like a gigantic battering ram.
A Drop of Light is an absorbing, dark voyage, filled with disturbing twists and chilling dynamics. Not for the faint of heart, however this is an incredible journey and one you will be compelled to take.
01. All Traps On Earth (18:18)
02. Magmatic Warning (16:12)
03. Omen (13:02)
04. First Step (2:06)
05. Bortglömda Gårdar (14:01)
Total Time – 63:43
Johan Brand – Guitar, Percussion, Keyboards, Vocals
Thomas Johnson – Keyboards
Erik Hammastrom – Drums, Percussion
Miranda Brand – Vocals
Phil Mercy – Organic Guitars
Magnus Båge – Concert Flute
Matthias Bååth – Bass & Concert Flute, Tenor & Alto Recorder
Karl Olandersson – Trumpet, Flugelhorn
Fredrik Lindborg – Baritone, Tenor, Alto & Soprano Saxophones, Bass Clarinet
Record Label: AMS Records
Catalogue#: AMS 300 CD
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 16th November 2018