MARTIN PRAHL – River Ocean Wide

Martin Prahl - River Ocean WideSpending time on music forums can be quite entertaining at times. If there is any place that you can (cyber) meet different (as in DIFFERENT!!!) kinds of people, it’s on forums. Also, there are times when you get a PM asking for a review. I like those PM’s. Because when it comes to checking out new music, I’m still that kid that sat in front of the telly Sundays at midnight to catch another episode of Headbanger’s Ball just to see if they played any cool videos or better yet, some new cool bands that I could lay my paws on. Today, there is no more Headbanger’s Ball and MTV doesn’t even play music, so thank God for PM’s on music forums (in this case Sweden Rock Festival’s) and e-mails from record company people and agents. When I got the PM from Martin Prahl, I recognized his name, both as one of the people from the music board, but I also had heard of him and his band Skelter Wheel (bloody awesome name!), but I had never heard a note by this guy before. So what to say about Prahl then? Well, he hails from Malmö in Southern Sweden and he has made two critically acclaimed albums prior to this, Through The Dark (2011) and Martin Prahl’s Skelter Wheel (2012) and that he and his band has been playing the Swedish club circuit quite regularly and they have also managed to go out on a successful Scandinavian tour. Add a bunch of festivals to that, where Sweden Rock Festival must be seen as the biggest of them, but also a British festival called Beautiful Day. With his new album, however, Prahl decided to go solo again, but Skelter Wheel will be back with him when the tour starts. So what can we expect Prahl to treat us with on his new album, then? Well, I didn’t really expect anything as I wasn’t familiar with his music before I received the album (ok, so I cheated and watched the video for “Heading For A Fall”, but more of that later). But I still had no clue what to expect because I couldn’t be sure if the song represented the rest of the album style wise. But I put on my headphones with the expectation that this would at least rock, good or bad.

A big, pompous intro called “Beyond Good And Evil” starts the album and it almost stipulates that we’re in for a Nightwish / Within Temptation treat next because that’s the way this intro builds up to, very orchestral, but instead it goes right into the first video / single “Heading For A Fall”, a dramatic rocker that includes a nice dose of pop that builds momentum all through the song – very cool. And very, very good! “What You Don’t Understand” is a mellow rock track that holds traces of singer / songwriter kind of music, but I also hear influences from (very) early Magnum, but maybe that’s just me. Lyrically, it’s spot on with its “it’s so easy to hate what you don’t understand, you’re so afraid of the unknown” lyric which speaks volumes in a day and age where racist parties pops up everywhere – and gets votes. Brilliant song, brilliant lyrics. Both the title track and “In Change” comes with a folk vibe and at times I think of Blackmore’s Night when it comes to some of the melodies. The title track has a really nice groove whereas the latter is a ballad, both are great. “American Dream”, a steady rocker, is plain awesome and a hard kick in the nuts at the American way of life – or rather, the American society where the American dream really should be called the American nightmare. “Take For Granted” comes with an amazing groove and some cool Ken Hensley / Uriah Heep influences. In “Ad Astra” we get an instrumental, two-minute long and it almost feels like an intro more than an actual song. Too bad, as the song is on the heavier side and in my opinion, it should have been longer and vocals would have improved it even more. At least, I guess it would have. As for now it feels more like a taster and a bit of a waste of a great song to be. I really like rhythm and and the melody on it. The album closes with “All We Have Is Now”, a ballad based on acoustic guitars and I’m getting a 70’s Bowie vibe from it and lyrically, it’s a reminder to not waste time and focus on what’s important in life – fantastic stuff!

I must admit that I am impressed. Not that I had imagined this album would be bad by any means, but this is not just good, it’s damn bloody great! My biggest problem here is how to categorise this album – I hear rock, pop, country, folk, blues, hard rock, you name it, on this album, in a totally unpredictable mix and you can have worse problems than that with an album. This is not for the narrow-minded or insular people, if you don’t have a reasonably broad taste, there’s a chance that you’ll find this album confusing or even schizophrenic. But for the rest of us, this is interesting and intriguing as hell. The fact that you don’t have a clue of what comes next when you’re listening to an album makes the experience so much more fun. Some might call this pretentious, but I would beg to differ on that one. I think quite the opposite, actually. You can feel the true love for music here and it’s like the songs just comes gushing out and if it’s good then it’s good and then it ends up on the record. I applaud that. A truly great album and if anyones misses out on this one, the loss will be on them. I highly recommend this. Note to self: check out Prahl’s earlier records!

Jon Wilmenius (9/10)

Tracklist:

1. Beyond Good And Evil
2. Heading For  A Fall
3. River Ocean Wide
4. In Change
5. Beautiful Night
6. American Dream
7. Evelina
8. Take For Granted
9. Take For Granted
10. All We Have Is Now

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