Jonas Lindberg may well be an unfamiliar name to many of you (it was to me), but that should change very soon, because his talent as displayed on this latest album Miles From Nowhere is undeniable. In fact, Jonas Lindberg and The Other Side have been in existence for ten years, but this is only their second full-length album. What an album it is though, so let’s dive in.
Jonas Lindberg comes from Stockholm, and so it’s perhaps unsurprising that hailing from a progressive rock stronghold like Sweden, he is steeped in that tradition. What is more surprising is that this young man is such a talented multi-instrumentalist and composer, and until recently, I’d never heard of him. Now that I’m more familiar with his music, I can say with confidence that he will definitely become better known in progressive rock circles on the strength of this masterpiece. It is accessible melodic symphonic Prog of the highest order, simple as that. It’s not new, it’s not edgy, it unapologetically treads a familiar path, but it manages with consummate skill to take these recognisable elements and make them sound fresh, full of energy and excitement. The landscape here is looking a lot like Neal Morse Band territory, where top class musical ability meets emotional soaring vocals, muscular delivery, long epic tracks, but choc full of hooks. They’re the kind of hooks you don’t realise are hooks until they are so embedded it’s too late to do anything about it, and why would you want to? The band have three excellent vocalists, a great solid drummer, two talented guitarists, and Lindberg on bass and ’70s sounding keys. It’s a gloriously big sound, over the top delivery, and should be massive.
The record starts with a crunchy riff-led song, with odd time signatures to keep up the interest, but such devices are never clever for the sake of it. No Dream Theater show-boating here, as simplicity is the name of the game. Lindberg does manage through excellent production techniques, however, to make the straightforward more interesting and ear-catching. Secret Motive Man is the title, and it appears to be about an individual hiding their true intentions, perhaps referring to an internet troll? I really don’t know, but it’s an excellent start, the gritty guitars contrasting the smooth vocals and layered keyboards to give a strident opening number.
Little Man follows, and it’s altogether a more commercial track, which reminds me of Kansas with the excellent full-blooded vocals, folky verses and catchy singalong chorus. It’s a lovely slice of pop-Prog, and provides a good change of pace before a couple of epic pieces. The first of these is Summer Queen, a lengthy suite based on the four seasons. Again, this might not sound especially original, but this is possibly the highlight of the album, showcasing the different vocal talents within The Other Side. It comes in on a swell of symphonic keys introducing the main theme, which then give way to a folky acoustic guitar and the vocal talents of Jenny Storm, bringing a delicate and whimsical Jon Anderson-like feel of youthful innocence to the opening section. This piece reminds me of Roine Stolt’s I Am The Sun, part 2, and has that same delightful quirky feel. Electric guitar and synthesiser join the theme which becomes heavier, vocals shared with Jonas Sundqvist on the next part, with an NMB style construction. The whole piece is characterised by a series of peaks and troughs, strident powerful sections yielding to gentler moments. At one point, a short musical box and acoustic guitar break heralds an electric guitar motif echoing Rush’s Xanadu, but its brevity suggests a mere nod of respect rather than plagiarism, and we are soon reaching a climax with guitarists Nicklas Thelin and Calle Stålenbring shining especially before we return to the folky intro, then an epic ending returning to the main theme; an ending which The Flower Kings would be proud of, with plenty of bass pedal action. This track has everything, with mood and tempo changes aplenty, but with an overall flow which simply works.
Well after that epic, we have… another one! Well, it’s more straight ahead to be fair, it just happens to be quite long! I should mention at this point that Jonas Lindberg, apart from playing bass and some guitar, is also the band’s third lead singer, and he picks up most of the vocals on Oceans of Time – and he is no slouch in that department either, putting in an intense performance, aided by Jenny Storm in the mid-section. He also plays all the keyboards, as sadly Michael Ottosson, their previous keyboardist, passed away in 2020. Again, he does a great job, but something will have to give when they return to live performance! Calle Stålenbring provides some superb guitar breaks before we move to a segment which sounds very like Haken, with a Jennings inspired few moments of quirkiness which made me smile. Guest drummer Simon Wilhelmsson also stars on this song with some rock hard stick work.
Astral Journey is an instrumental, starting as a folky piece of whimsy, and building through acoustic guitars, synth and percussion into a heavier Tull-like workout which just keeps building. Why I’m Here is a stalking song, short but catchy and a memorable song, where the almost jaunty feel belies the subject matter, as our stalker seems unaware that they’re doing anything wrong. This brings us to the closing track, and it’s the longest clocking in at 25-minutes and split, as is traditional, into several parts which obviously all segue into each other seamlessly. It charts the regret of a failing relationship, a similar theme to Oceans of Time as it happens. We begin with an overture, so we are back to the Neal Morse comparison, as starting an epic with an overture introducing themes that will resurface later in the piece is a favourite device of his. It may well be a nod to him, I don’t know. Well, however many times this has been done before, and it’s quite a few as you all know, Jonas Lindberg clearly knows how to construct an overture, because it does the job very well, and the themes and melodies we are introduced to sound good, so let’s roll with it. We move to a regretful ballad titled Don’t Walk Away, sung in a Styx manner with lovely yearning vocals before the heavier up tempo I Don’t Know Where You Are, which has a desperate searching urgency. Memories is a wistful interlude with acoustic guitar and flute (which might be played on keys!) and lovely percussion from Maria Olsson leading to the concluding title track, Miles From Nowhere. This brings the track, and the album as a whole to a very satisfying conclusion. It builds again through hopeful and uplifting moments with stratospheric vocals to a guitar solo from guest Roine Stolt which is fittingly epic, inventive, and unmistakably Stolt. It’s the sort of climactic solo you just bask in and enjoy – just glorious stuff, and as epic an end as you could get.
So there we are, an album for which I had no real expectations turns out to be one of the best and most accomplished works from someone unknown to me as I’ve heard in ages. Of course, it’s not for everyone. The Morse and Transatlantic haters will have gathered from my words that this isn’t going to be their cup of tea, but there are many like me who appreciate the class they bring to releases, and this album is up there with the masters of the craft. Thoroughly recommended, and will be in many end of year lists for sure.
01. Secret Motive Man (7:26)
02. Little Man (5:49)
03. Summer Queen (15:52)
04. Oceans Of Time (11:37)
05. Astral Journey (5:50)
06. Why I’m Here (4:26)
07. Miles From Nowhere (25:32)
– Pt. I: Overture (6:54)
– Pt. II: Don’t Walk Away (4:18)
– Pt. III: I Don’t Know Where You Are (4:39)
– Pt. IV: Memories (3:00)
– Pt. V: Miles From Nowhere (6:42)
Total Time – 76:32
Jonas Lindberg – Bass, Keyboards, Guitars, Lead & Backing Vocals
Jonas Sundqvist – Lead Vocals
Jenny Storm – Lead & Backing Vocals
Jonathan Lundberg – Drums
Simon Wilhelmsson – Drums (tracks 2 & 4)
Calle Stålenbring – Guitars
Nicklas Thelin – Guitars
Maria Olsson – Percussion
Joel Lindberg – Lead Guitar (track 6)
Roine Stolt – Lead Guitar (track 7, pt. V)
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 18th February 2022