People who are checking the progVisions website on a regular basis will know that Sweden’s premier chamber-rock ensemble Isildurs Bane is back n business and it seems that they are on top of a wave of inspiration. For a reviewer it is always nice to see excerpts of your reviews on the information sheet that is accompanying a new album. This is the case with the new studio album “In Amazonia”, an album that the ensemble made together with one of my heroes and one of the best singers in the scene ... Peter Hammill. On the information sheet I read some words of praise I wrote for the albums “Off The Radar” and “Colours Not Found In Nature”, the album the ensemble made in collaboration with Marillion singer Steve Hogarth. Both remarkable albums of high quality and full of intriguing music. The seeds of the collaboration with the legendary Van Der Graaf Generator singer and acclaimed solo artist happened when Hammill guested at the band’s annual IB Expo in 2017. An event where artists from all around the world are invited to come and work together for a week and then present a special one-off concert. The collaboration with Peter Hammill who sings throughout the album is a bold statement and shows Isildurs Bane’s reputation for imaginative risk-taking music composed by keyboardist Mats Johansson. “In Amazonia” was commissioned by the Gouveia Art Rock festival and Municipio de Gouveia.
Katerine Amsler - keyboards & electronics: Klas Assarsson - marimba, vibes & percussion; Luca Calabrese - trumpet; Axel Crone - bass & bass clarinet; Samuel Hallkvist - guitars; Mats Johansson - synthesizers & treatments; Liesbeth Lambrecht - violin & viola; Jan Severinsson - live sound; Kjell Severinsson - drums & percussion
Peter Hammill - vocals
John Anderberg - backing vocals; Xerxes Andren - drums, percussion; Karin Nakagawa - koto & voice; Adam Sass - trumpet; Zhazira Ukeyeva - violin; Pat Mastelotto - electronic drums & percussion; Mette Gerdle - violin
The album is divided into the two parts “Side A” and “Side B” which each has three songs on it. Yes the album is also available on vinyl. The first song “Before You Know It” opens with the mysterious sounds of the Japanese Koto. Besides the typical sound of the marimba which is a kind of trademark for the band the song is full of synths, electronics, percussion, guitars, trumpet, bass clarinet and saxophone. And on top of this sometimes complex but always intriguing sound you will find Hammill’s vocals that are filled with drama and emotion. If you want a passionate vocal performance, Peter Hammill is your man. The next song “Under The Current” has a delicate opening with some Japanese influences. The vocal parts of Peter Hammill are more melodic than the parts in the fantastic opener which is a piece true progressive music. This makes the music more accessible. To a lesser extent this also applies to the last song of “Side A”. You can find some nice vocal melodies in “Aguirre”. The koto and the Japanese voice of Karin Nakagawa are beautifully integrated in the music. Intriguing music that is difficult to describe. A kind of mix of jazzy, electronic and classical atmospheres. King Crimson’s drummer Pat Mastelotto is responsible for the electronic drums and percussion.
“Side B” opens with ten minutes of progressive rock bliss. After some African percussion and the first vocal parts of Hammill the next uptempo instrumental part is typical Isildurs Bane music. Great Marimba melodies on top of broad keyboard layers, lovely percussion, intriguing and freaky guitars parts. Love the keyboard strings and the passionate singing. This piece gave the title “In Amazonia” to the album. Absolutely one of the highlights of this remarkable album. This is followed by another personal favorite of mine the song “The Day Is Done”. It has a beautiful classical piano opening with amazing vocals. This opening comes close to the output of Hammill as a solo performer and singer of Van Der Graaf Generator. The piece has a classical atmosphere and you can find the most beautiful vocal melodies in this song. For me this is the highlight of the album. Peter Hammill shows once more that he is a world class singer and performer. Instead of the other highlights “Before You Know It” and “This Is Where?” the music is not so densely filled with instruments. It is open and transparent to give room to the wonderful performance of Mr. Hammill. The album ends with “This Bird Has Flown”. An atmospheric piece with electronics and percussion that slowly builds up in intensity with a lovely bass and broad keyboard strings.
Well Isildurs Bane has done it again. Your reviewer is completely flabbergasted after the first spin of “In Amazonia” in my CD player. Wanted to hear it again immediately. An album that only reveals it’s true beauty after several listening sessions. The music of Isildurs Bane (Mats Johansson) is adventurous, original and progressive in the true sense of the word. The ensemble has a broad instrumental spectrum to fill in all the colors. For once I will repeat myself “It is remarkable how all those electronic, jazzy and classical atmospheres are melted into strong multilayered compositions”. To combine this with a first class vocalist and writer of the lyrics is like opening a treasure chest. Open your mind to embrace this wonderful album. Nothing more to say than to recommend this album to all of you.