31 May 2015

Thobbe Englund - From The Wilderness

Random cover time again (but another that somehow has been requested at the same time) - this time it is for the album from guitarist, producer, composer and sound engineer Thobbe Englund. Hailing from Lulea in Sweden, Mr Englund has been in many bands over the years - Winterlong, Star Queen, Mistheria and most recently Sabton.  To say that the man is busy is an understatement, but here we are with his second solo album and his first since "Influences".  Now I would be lying if I said I was a fan of the man's work beforehand; until I saw the cover (and got an email request a few days later), I had no idea who Mr Englund was - that cover is a beautiful piece of art.  Let us see if the music matches the glory of the cover.....

Starting off the album is "Wildborn" and from the beginning you are introduced to a technical exercise in guitar soloing, it goes at a frantic place and with a bucket load of keyboard and guitar solos running at the same time; I have a feeling this song should be included in the latest version of the returning 'Guitar Hero' computer game as it is an air guitar classic in the waiting.  I would also like to point out, upon hearing this song you will have a rough idea what the rest of the album is going to be about and you will also have made up your mind straight away - but you should at least give the rest of the tracks a go as well.  Like the second song "Stormy Nights" is another great example of the man's talent and not every solo is a billion notes being all played at once; sure it does have those shredding moments (and you cannot say the man does not have a gift with the guitar), but the main riffs of the song are just as impressive as well.  The piano introduction to "A Lonely Hunter" takes things back a bit, this is a more soul searching and inward looking song; it also has one of the best solos on the album as well and the music reminds me of the instrumental parts of the film Highlander in places, it is a great piece that has a slight 1980's feel to the work at the same time as feeling very modern and contemporary as well.

The fourth track is called "Life from Death" and you can feel the influence of Tangerine Dream on this number (even if it was not felt by Mr Englund), the instrumental styling, the way the keyboards have their own time to sign, the powerful and effective drumming - the whole song has a feel of a metal version of "We Were Set Up" but obviously without copying that song - I want to make that very plain, these are two completely different songs, they just give me the same vibe and feeling; this is another great number for this album.  Coming after this is "Justice of Nature" which is a song that brought another smile to my face, as well as a million notes to my ears in places.  From the beginning, everything is brought up to 10 in terms of volume and energy and it gives Dream Theatre a run for its money in the prog metal department (in terms of style, it is over very quickly in terms of prog music being only two minutes and forty three seconds long); it is number that is simple in nature and complicated in execution, it is also a very marmite song (you will either love it or hate it) - for me it gets the thumbs up.  "Hunting under a Blood Red Moon" however takes a more metal route and this is a song for any fan of power metal.  The way it loops around the listener and the riffs are really well played and it sounds well-polished; it is not a style of music that works for me, but it is still a decent number.

Seventh track is "Surviving" is back to the 1980's-esque guitar solo that would make fans of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai jump up in rapture and sing the praises of Mr Englund.  The solo is very aggressive and has the necessary drama about it to keep the audience interested up to the fade out towards the end.  The penultimate track of the album is called "Eternal Struggle" and the album is slowed down to a very dramatic and emotions number which suits the title well; it is a number that does sort of drift over me a bit, but I can once again see the craftsmanship of the song that will very popular to fans of Mr Englund.  Ending the album is “Vargens Öde and whilst it is not as energetic as a lot of the numbers on this album, it does what "Eternal Struggle" failed to do for me and that is bring a sense of drama to the proceedings and gauge my interest once more.  There is more keyboards and strings in this number and the epic nature of the work does feel as if it could have been from a film score, it is a great ending track for the album and certainly gets under the skin with a tremendous performance.  However, there is also a bonus track called "Fingerspitzengefühl" which is the only track with vocals on this album, it is a song that sounds like a mixture of Judas Priest and Nightwish, but without the lady singer and with someone in full Halford mode; the guitars are on form, the backing band are on fire and it is a really good way to end the album.

Thobbe Englund is a very good, maybe even great guitarist - there can be no doubt about that as the precision on this record is beyond debate.  The man can make the guitar sing to demons and angels and have them both looking on in wonder.  The thing we have here though, is like all other metal guitar solo albums, there is only so much of this type of music that some people can take in one sitting.  It is like the Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Marty Friedman and other axe hero albums of old - once your past the first few numbers, you really do know how you will view the rest of the album (rightly or wrongly).  For me, I really like this record and it is well produced and played; but it is one that is for fans of the genre and of the man himself.  It has made me interest enough to check out his other work and to see what Sabton sound like as well, but this album is one that will be hailed and vilified in equal measure due to the nature of the record itself.  Either way, for me it is still a good record that matches the cover perfectly.

7 out of ten - This is good and well worth a check

Top track - Life from Death

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

There is no Thobbe Englund website or page on Facebook - but there is one to his hair....here is a link

You can follow the activities of his main band Sabton on Facebook here

You can stream the album on Spotify here

You can stream the album on Deezer here

You can stream the album on Tidal here

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