There remains an organic authenticity in the music of Trettioåriga Kriget. Formed in 1970, in the resort town on Saltsjöbaden near Stockholm, there were a couple of early line-up changes, but the majority of the band as it remains today was in place by 1972 (‘new boy’ keyboardist Mats Lindberg joining in 1977). In addition, two original members stayed on in closely linked roles, harmonica player Olle Thörnvall as lyricist, and drummer Johan Gullberg covering artwork and design.
In 1970 the band’s choice of name, meaning ‘Thirty Years War’, would no doubt have seemed an appropriately significant period of time. I wonder what they feel about it now, having recently passed the milestone of their fiftieth anniversary? Their self-titled debut album appeared in 1974, followed by the classic Krigssång in 1975 with a couple more albums appearing before the band split in 1981. After two brief reunions in the ’90s, they reconvened full-time in 2003 and Till horisonten (‘To the Horizon’) is the fifth in a fine run of reformation release, and their tenth studio album overall in a catalogue that has earnt them critical acclaim whilst influencing numerous other Scandinavian artists.
After a switch to English lyrics for Seaside Air in 2016, Till horisonten sees TK revert to their traditionally Swedish words, and I think the album is all the better for that.
The melodic ’70s influenced ‘heavy progressive’ sound is not wilfully retro, more a reflection of the band doing what they do – and doing it very well. Without becoming rooted in the past, TK’s sound is true to what it has always been whilst seeking new ways to remain relevant as times and tastes change, retaining that recognisably strong Swedish feel. The recent releases have seen sparkling iterations of the band’s sound, with a vigour and excitement that bands half their age would struggle to maintain, and this album is no different, a ringing endorsement of friendship and a shared vision.
A key part of the sound is the upfront bass and strong vocals of main composer Stefan Fredin, the singing shared with the rich warmth of Robert Zima. The two complement each other beautifully and the switches between vocalists from track to track do not jar in any way. This album sees a particularly strong showing from guitarist Christer Åkerberg, with the intricate rhythms of drummer Dag Lundquist and Lindberg’s sweeping keys keeping things moving.
After a brief intro, we’re off into the initially ’60s sounding In Memoriam, Åkerberg’s slashing guitar giving it an almost punk energy, accentuated by a cathartic falsetto that almost suggests Frankie Valli. When the chorus arrives, it’s just glorious, Fredin’s gorgeously supported vocal riding the bassline. It’s a fine opening gambit, fizzing with urgency, which slides effortlessly into the pensive Tidigt, sung by Zima, speaking of “well-known things and surroundings that are still changing, that still appear new, that still carry promises”, Åkerberg’s bending solo breaking the tension.
Staden really shakes things up, thundering in like early King Crimson before settling into a prowling rhythm. The chorus sees Fredin’s voice rising on a pillow of Mellotron as it all heads for the stratosphere on skittering drums. Bloody marvellous! This is a band that knows how to work together, and they clearly love doing so, unleashing the power as and when required, but so easily bringing things back to its emotional core, as with the organ, guitar and quiet rhythm of the melancholic Till en vän (‘For a Friend’), Thörnvall’s moving message to a departed acquaintance, beautifully followed by the brief, largely acoustic En gång, Åkerberg adding keening accents in the background, and Lundquist’s thumping Brevet, Zima handling the vocal twists and turns with ease, accompanied by Dag’s violin and another wonderfully exuberant solo from Åkerberg.
The last two tracks are the expansive instrumental Vägen till horisonten (‘The Road to the Horizon’) and the title track itself. Starting with languid harmonics, Vägen till horisonten becomes more rocking and intense with an upbeat melody built on guitar. The improvising that initially helped to shape it gives a distinctly live feel, driven by Lundquist, with plenty of room for Åkerberg to solo freely, often in a psychedelic vein. Lindberg adds excellent support as it eases to nothing on Mellotron flutes, returning with a lovely early ’70s vibe that takes off in an uplifting flight of keys and unrestrained guitars. Finally, the stately title track reiterates themes from In Memoriam and does just what I want TK to do, the organic depth to the swooning Mellotron and vocals drawing me in deeper – even though I have no idea what is being said.
As it ebbs away on a slow drum pattern and background chatter, I realise what a lovely and homogenous album this is, one that is sure to stand proudly in the illustrious Trettioåriga Kriget canon. It’s just what I needed at the moment; thoughtful, powerful and uplifting yet laid-back where it needs to be. Expertly put together with energy and drive, it’s guaranteed to disperse those lockdown blues and I’ve had it on constant rotation for weeks. Trettioåriga Kriget seem to have eased into a five-year release cycle. I hope we don’t have to wait that long for more from this wonderful band.
01. Intro (0:49)
02. In Memoriam (7:38)
03. Tidigt (‘Early’) (4:35)
04. Staden (‘The City’) (6:38)
05. Till en vän (‘For a Friend’) (3:51)
06. En gång (‘Once’) (1:30)
07. Brevet (‘The Letter’) (2:44)
08. Vägen till horisonten (‘The Road to the Horizon’) (13:54)
09. Till horisonten (‘To the Horizon’) (5:07)
Total time – 46:46
Stefan Fredin – Bass Guitar, Vocals (Lead on tracks 2,4 & 9), Rhythm Guitar
Dag Lundquist – Drums, Backing Vocals, Violin
Robert Zima – Vocals (Lead on tracks 1,3,5,6 & 7)
Christer Åkerberg – Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Mats Lindberg – Keyboards
Olle Thörnvall – Lyrics
Johan Gullberg – Cover Art & Design
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 26th March 2021