HFMC - Eternal Snapshots

HFMC – Eternal Snapshots

Hasse Fröberg is back with his Musical Companions, and that alone is something worth celebrating, given their track record. Funnily enough, on highlight track Blind Dog, the protagonist states “My track record leaves a whole lot to be desired, how can I turn things around, I’m so awfully tired…”, but that sentiment certainly doesn’t apply to Hasse and Co, because they sound anything but tired, and their catalogue to date is full of classic prog of the highest order. I’m happy to report that their latest album, soon to be released, is very possibly their best yet.

It’s loosely conceptual, but it’s more a case of songs thematically linked rather than a story as such. It’s probably Hasse’s most personal album to date, and explores how life unfolds in unexpected ways, affected by such things as childhood and upbringing, and asks questions around chance and destiny. In a 46-minute album, one can hardly expect answers to such fundamental questions, and Hasse doesn’t really offer any, but he certainly raises issues worth thinking about, and they really condense down to one basic question: what makes us who we are? It’s a massively complex issue, and we just scratch the surface here, but it’s a whole lot more interesting and thought provoking than some sort of fantasy nonsense. Musically, the sound is more organic than ever before, and there is more reliance on song structures, vocal arrangements, and acoustic instruments. Don’t worry though; mellotrons and bass pedal action is never too far away, so we haven’t lost the signature HFMC sound!

All I Wanted To Be (pt 1) opens proceedings with a rather Genesis-sounding overture, before the guitar riff fades in, and as keys, bass and drums join the fray, this is unmistakably HFMC sounding vibrant and colourful. The words are reflective, looking back on a life that wasn’t as happy as it might have been.

A few happy years when roses were red
Turned into fear – the reason I fled
And now it breaks my heart to see where it led.

Deserve To Be Happy continues the theme, as one of our central characters struggles to turn his life around. Hasse is in fine vocal form, as he almost pleads the chorus of

I….deserve to be……deserve to
I…deserve to be….deserve to be….happy

It’s an infectious song with a brilliantly imaginative vocal arrangement over some wonderfully bubbly synth. As the piece builds, Anton Lindsjö plays some blindingly good lead guitar which gradually winds down from its climax as the whole song deconstructs to its conclusion.

Wherever You May Go appears to introduce a second character, one who has had an idyllic childhood with all the breaks. What could possibly go wrong? The song builds from an acoustic intro into a sumptuous widescreen summery song, oozing positivity and happy vibes. Kjell Haraldsson joins in with a jaunty synth solo as Hasse builds layers of gorgeous backing vocals.

No Messiah is the longest track at just over seven minutes, emphasising the reliance on songs this time around, but so much is packed into the song that prog quality is assured. We have a tricky time signature, lashings of Hammond organ and a touch of mellotron, and another tour de force vocal display from Fröberg. The whole band is powerfully propelled by Ola Strandberg behind the drum kit. His style is forceful, but with subtlety and nuance when required. He’s also a decent writer, and is responsible for the music on this track, and it’s a definite highlight.

Once In A Lifetime follows, and is the most commercially appealing song, which is destined to lodge itself in your head on first listen. The chorus is utterly memorable and will have you singing along unless you are determined not to enjoy yourself.

Once in a lifetime, finally the right time,
Once in a lifetime, I’m slowly getting there

Again, it’s another upbeat and hopeful song, and although much of the album is dealing with painful subject matter, there is always a shining hopeful light leading us on through the album. The song slips into a short Vaudeville inspired few bars, and they cleverly slip just as easily back into the song proper with Queen-like aplomb. The video is a fun watch too.

Only For Me is another Ola Strandberg song, a short ballad this time, and he is allowed to sing it himself, and makes a pretty decent job of it! Bassist Sampo Axelsson plays some lovely pedal steel embellishment. This is one talented band, that’s for sure. He also writes the next two songs; the first a very brief bass driven instrumental romp, and the second a creditable track which fits well lyrically with the general concept.

I float around in a twisted world
Agitators spread their words
I look around and all I see
Is a world gone insane, still I’m searching for the dark

Clearly Sampo has been watching the same news as the rest of us, and it can seem unremittingly depressing. Kjell then delivers a very short Hammond organ solo spot, before launching into the Hammond riff of Blind Dog. This really is a fabulous song, full of passion both musically and vocally. Every member of the band excels on this album climax. It’s not so much prog as a heavy blues really, but it’s wonderful.

Why am I going off the rails, why am I a series of epic fails?

Hasse literally inhabits the character as he slowly falls apart. The fabulous instrumental section builds on a bass and drum pulse, as Anton reels off a brilliant solo punctuated with Kjell’s organ stabs. The song swells back into the chorus in epic fashion before a restrained verse with some classical grand piano accompaniment which is very reminiscent of Procol Harum, but only for a few moments!

As an epilogue, we have part two of the opening track All I Wanted To Be, the two parts bookending the record beautifully. Lyrically, we have journeyed through the lives of our characters, and reached the end. There is a rather sad and poignant ending, which reminded me of Floyd’s Goodbye Cruel World, although not quite as stark as Waters would have it. It does mean we end on a melancholy note, but reflecting on the whole album experience, it is full of highs, and overall is a positive and thought-provoking listen. It is one of the few albums I’ve listened to so far this year which leaves me wanting more and has me replaying it as soon as it has ended. The band never sounded better, the songwriting is sophisticated, and the human element is very much the lifeblood of this album. Hasse sings his heart out, with a passion I’ve not heard for some time. This record clearly means a lot to him. I would heartily recommend Eternal Snapshots to anyone willing to listen. It’s a release which might easily appeal to rock fans who aren’t necessarily dyed in the wool progheads. It will certainly be a contender in the inevitable end of year album lists, of that I’m sure. Now, can the band come over to the UK for some live shows please? Pretty please?

01. All I Wanted To Be (pt 1) (4:13)
02. Deserve To Be Happy (5:45)
03. Wherever You May Go (6:18)
04. No Messiah (7:17)
05. Once In A Lifetime (5:14)
06. Only For Me (2:39)
07. The Yard (1:46)
08. Searching For The Dark (4:04)
09. A Sorrowful Mariner (1:10)
10. Blind Dog (6:07)
11. All I Wanted To Be (pt 2) (2:46)

Total Time – 47:19

Hasse Fröberg – Vocals, Electric & Acoustic Guitars
Sampo Axelsson – Bass, Bass Pedals, Keyboards (8), Pedal Steel (6)
Kjell Haraldsson – Fender Rhodes, Grand Piano, Hammond Organ, Mellotron, Synthesiser
Anton Lindsjö – Guitars, Backing Vocals
Ola Strandberg – Drums, Backing Vocals; Lead Vocals & Acoustic Guitar (4 & 6)
~ With:
Alf Strandberg – Piano, Synth Pad (6)

Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Sweden
Date of Release: 6th June 2024

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