Album Reviews

Issue 2011-046: Karmakanic - In A Perfect World - Round Table Review

Round Table Review

Karmakanic - In A Perfect World

Karmakanic - In A Perfect World
Karmakanic - In A Perfect World
Country of Origin:Sweden
Record Label:InsideOut Music
Catalogue #:0505568
Year of Release:2011
Samples:Click here

Tracklist: 1969 (14:40), Turn It Up (6:53), The World Is Caving In (8:58), Can’t Take It With You (5:42), There’s Nothing Wrong With The World (7:22), Bite The Grit (4:57), When Fear Came To Town (9:54)

Bonus: Turn It Up [radio edit] (4:41), Send A Message From The Heart (22:34)

Jez Rowden's Review

Jonas Reingold has been right at the top of the bass playing tree for me since I first heard him on The Flower Kings’ Space Revolver album in 2000 and subsequent appearances with Kaipa, The Tangent and a multitude of other projects have only underlined his prowess. He has also produced some great work with his own band, Karmakanic, In A Perfect World being the fourth album released under that banner since Entering The Spectra in 2002. Jonas has stated that with Karmakanic he does not feel compelled to stick to any particular genre and can utilise whatever style happens to take his fancy at the time which gives the albums a great deal of variety and each has moved on in style from the one before.

The band has never completely settled on stable line-up but the playing, it goes without saying, is always superb. There are usually a number of guests but not on this album although the core has been expanded with the addition of second keyboardist and vocalist Nils Erikson whilst long-time drummer Zoltan Csörsz has been replaced by another ex-Flower King, Marcus Liliequist. The remaining members all remain from 2008’s excellent Who’s The Boss In The Factory. Erikson’s contributions are noteworthy and give In A Perfect World a new facet raising sections of, in particular, 1969 and The World Is Caving In to a new level. His voice contrasts nicely with main vocalist Göran Edman while his piano is one of the key features here and adds an organic quality that is quite different to the previous albums, overall his addition is an inspired choice for the band.

There has always been a high bias towards Flower Kings alumni as either full members or guests and Karmakanic often stay close to their trademark sound, this album being no exception with the album’s epic, 1969, kicking things off and building from a quiet start with Jonas’ jazzy bass immediately recognisable. Krister Jonsson’s guitar channels Roine Stolt and there are hints of Yes in the vocal harmonies and keys that bring Awaken to mind, Karmakanic also referencing themselves with a quote from their own Where The Earth Meets The Sky. Lyrically the track takes its inspiration from a key year in the evolution of rock music and the modern world in general and hats off to Erikson and Edman for great vocals. The instrumental sections are exquisitely played, Lalle Larsson’s impressive keys counterbalanced by Erikson’s piano with both crucial to the success of the track which is wide-angled and symphonic as it flows through sections that mix bombast and calm whilst hanging together nicely as a whole. Karmakanic has always been more of a band than a solo project despite its changing membership as is evident here, 1969 standing tall with the band’s previous work. In A Perfect World strays further from symphonic prog than the band usually do, the only other track that entirely fits that mould being There’s Nothing Wrong With The World, a great track that sees Erikson’s stark piano introduction bursting into a gallop with Jonsson flying as the band lock in. Larsson is again inspirational with some fine work and a real mix of textures in a song that features many Flower Kings elements.

Elsewhere the album turns down a number of unexpected alleys, some more successfully than others. Turn It Up moves towards a straighter sound, rhythmic introduction giving way to an up-tempo and melodic track with a catchy chorus. This is a good pop rock number but it feels quite light after 1969 and where the opening track strives to attain a classic ‘70s sound this one is certainly born in the new millennium with hints of recent Spock’s Beard and Saga. Good but perhaps too smooth and lacking the complexity that the band is known for, apparently it is available in a Radio Edit version so Jonas clearly sees some potential crossover popularity.

After a lovely a cappella introduction from Erikson which builds on a hymn-like piano chorus The World Is Caving In bursts open with a hard rock sound that does not really do it justice. Again, it is good and well played with harmony vocals during the chorus, but it feels like two quite different tracks welded together not entirely successfully. Larsson, Jonsson and Reingold all add nice solos but the piece does not entirely hold together and the power of the opening and the chorus is diminished as a result. On the plus side the track soars to its conclusion in a very positive way.

Now we get to the real head-scratcher. Can’t Take It With You starts with spider-like Keith Tippett/Gentle Giant piano which quickly takes a salsa turn, Edman’s vocals mixing with gorilla-like interjections and kettle drums. There are heavy sections, the piano still in place, with Jonsson shredding as if his life depends on it. This is certainly an experiment but, again, a not entirely successful one despite fine performances. It’s quite fun but I’m sure that many listeners will just hate it.

Bite The Grit is, on the face of it, another smooth number but with a very interesting sound broken up by a thrashing and catchy as hell instrumental chorus. Piano returns to add lyrical support to the vocal and it gets quite bluesy at times which continues into the acoustic intro of When Fear Came To Town, a track Reingold wrote in response to a suicide bombing in Sweden. With Reingold’s bass at its most melodic this is a quiet epic that flows on past Edman’s beautiful, earthy vocal filled with humanity and a sense of loss. In an extraordinary move for a band that has built its reputation with pyrotechnics the song drifts into an electronic sweep that oozes melancholy, piano picking out a delicate theme in a cool jazz style, ethereal guitar joining to recapitulate the 1969 theme. Hauntingly beautiful and not what you would expect, this is a fine way to end the album and a sure sign that the band has matured.

This is without doubt a class album from a massively talented group of players, Göran Edman's vocals throughout are wonderful and the contributions of Jonsson, Erikson and Larsson simply stunning with the widespread use of piano instead of over utilised synths giving the album a warm quality that is its real trump card. Jonas’ song writing has developed over the years and his growing confidence is evidenced in When Fear Came To Town where the additional time spent on lyrics has reaped rewards. Reingold now has a project with which he can do whatever he likes and a band to be more than proud of but despite this there seems to be something missing compared to the previous albums. There are truly wonderful moments but it doesn’t quite hang together as a whole, some of the songs seem slightly weak in places and get lost in the desire to be different leading to a feeling of inconsistency. The album has certainly grown on me but not enough to class it as an unqualified success and almost feels like a slight backward step in some departments despite the positives. That said most bands would die to sound this disappointing!

This is a quieter (sometimes) and more mature album than might have been expected but the curve balls sometimes knock it off balance. Nonetheless this is a work about which Jonas can be mightily pleased with himself. It may be seen in the future as a transitional album on the road towards this band's true potential. Certainly flawed with moments of beauty and intense dexterity, if this album is a signpost towards what they might produce next time I can’t wait to hear it.

Gert Hulshof's Review

The side project of Flower Kings' bass player Jonas Reingold has grown up with their fourth studio album In A Perfect World. In the seven tracks provided we are given a treat of how music sounds like In A Perfect World, according Karmakanic.

This release sees, apart from Jonas Reingold, Lalle Larson on keys, Göran Edman on vocals, Krister Jonsson on guitar, Nils Erikson on keys and Marcus Liliequist on drums. Since their last album the line up has once again undergone a change and the new faces this time are Nils Erikson and Marcus Liliequist. The latter of the two of course not an unfamiliar face to fans of the Flower Kings, as Marcus played drums for the Flower Kings on Paradox Hotel.

  • In A Perfect World starts with 1969 and if this title is referring to the year 1969 is not quite clear, but if you listen to the song it opens with a Flower Kings' like tune and slowly develops into an amazing piece of music. The song comes across as sort of a homage to the '70s progressive rock era, mixing the influences in music of bands such as Yes, Genesis and Kaipa. At the end we are treated to a choir sounding like the Yes song All Good People. An epic song like it is supposed to sound In A Perfect World.
  • The second track on the album starts off with rhythmic drums and Marcus Liliequist shows all of us the drummer that he is. Turn It Up is an up-tempo pop-rock song with symphonic markers in the veins of Asia and Styx. A great rocking song that immediately gets going and catches you and never letting you go again. I found myself singing along all the time whilst listening to it. It is nothing that we have not heard somewhere before, but it is nevertheless a smashing composition.
  • The World Is Caving In has Göran Edman singing a cappella, like he was singing an epitaph, before the song turns into an epic prog song with some outstanding keyboard wizardry by Lalle and Nils. It is always fascinating to listen to music played in such great fashion, with so much emotion and passion and is a song that would not have misplaced on a Flower Kings album. Krister plays the guitar in a Roine Stolt fashion.
  • Can’t Take It With You is the next treatment we get, and what do we get into this time? Well the piano playing the song starts off with reminds me a bit of ragtime tunes that always were played during the silent movies from the beginning of the 20th century. When the track really takes off the Swedish guys show all the world that they sure know what a rhythm is. With the haunting vocals on top of salsa and ballroom-type rhythms. The dark voices singing la-la-la and likewise play of the guitar. Also the vocal lines are completely different from anything that has gone before, with twists and turns throughout. Awesome hearing the salsa played with the additional music like in this song.
  • There’s Nothing Wrong With The World at first reminded me very much of a song I once heard being sung by Queen drummer Roger Taylor. I cannot remember the title of the song but the first lines in There’s Nothing Wrong With The World have the same type of vocal lines. At just a bit over the minute mark the song develops into a song sounding like the Flower Kings. It might be the bass playing by Jonas that does the trick here I don’t know.
  • Bite The Grit has yet another change in musical rhythm as it is a tad bit more funky with jazz influences, great keyboard playing and grandiose vocal lines. With just one song left on this album I can say wholeheartedly that I really like the way Göran Edman sings. He is capable of singing different styles and making them his own. It leaves no doubt that Karmakanic has evolved from just a side project into a full blown band - with everything that comes with it.
  • When Fear Came To Town finds Göran singing over an acoustic guitar in a way often heard by Neal Morse singing his worship songs, or the more ballad like songs on other albums. At around the three minute mark Jonas comes in with his fretless bass to play additional sounds. To finish off the song Lalle and Nils lay down a soundscape of keyboard sounds giving the song an even more eclectic intonation especially when the piano kicks in.

If this is how music should sound In A Perfect World is for all of us to decide ourselves, but Karmakanic have taken a head start to show us how they feel it should be. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this is a great album - with many many different styles of music, not a concept in a compositional way maybe, but I believe it is a view on how all of us, all the people in this great big world can become one with music. As long as there is something for everyone to believe in.

I have here the limited edition of the album - it is the deluxe digi-pack with a nice booklet - to top that off a coupon for a free InsideOut sampler. Great to check out more progressive works on the label. With the limited edition you also get an enhanced CD, with a video that has been shot in the studio during a rehearsal or recording session of Send A Message From The Heart - the epic track from Who’s The Boss In The Factory. Also in the film, short interviews can be seen with a few of the band members at that time.

Also a bonus to this edition is the radio edit of Turn It Up, a slightly different mix of that song made ready for radio play. Nice to have these additions to an otherwise already great album.

This album comes with a giant recommendation from my side, but it is of course up to you if you like it or not.

John O'Boyle's Review

Touching on my raw musical instincts Karmakanic’ In A Perfect World their latest studio album, studio album number four, an album that features Jonas Reingold (fretted and fretless bass and backing vocals), Marcus Liliequist (drums), Göran Edman (vocals), Lalle Larsson (keyboards and backing vocals), Nils Erikson (vocals and keyboards) and Krister Jonsson (guitars). It is an album that ticks all the right boxes, being for me another great release from the band that has a more commercial feel to it than their last releases. It sees the band taking a slightly different musical direction, a direction that has been well thought out and executed, but there again from the participating musicians you just wouldn't expect anything less.

This for me is their strongest release, that presents various musical styles maturely ranging from the essential symphonic opening 1969 which for all intense and purpose could have been just lifted off any Flower Kings album with its glorious presentation that just exudes style to the Latin flavoured Can't Take It With You and the country/jazz/blues tinged When Fear Comes To Town. Now I bet you weren’t expecting that?

Straight from the word go the band hold your attention and such is the strength of the songs I can honestly say that there isn’t one song I like more than another. There has not been one wasted second of creativity; the whole thing just fits together like a perfect jigsaw. Their last release may have been full of memorable epics, In A Perfect World confidently stands beside it holding its head up high and not only that you can actually feel the band just having fun creating this.

Lyrically Jonas has used some good observance; I mean to open the album with Göran singing,

“Half a million strong, headed for love. They dance in the pastures of lightning, thunder and mud. Primitive chanting, sounds from the wooden drum. Songs about love and how we shall overcome. Our world was changing right before our eyes. 1969 revolution”

A seminal year for music and social change, the band capturing the essence of that period perfectly or on Turn It Up

“They're giving me the right to pull the strings and make you think its fine". "Turn it up, turn it down. Call it a crisis. Make it look random. I should have told you more, how we done it before" or “The greater the need, the greater the greed".

or The World Is Caving In:

“All we’ve got in life is time, too many people spending mine; I’ve played the game a bit to long, lost my sense of right and wrong. I hit the ground running, tried to re-invent the wheel, even climb the highest mountain to find the truth it would reveal”

I could really carry on with this line of approach all day long just jumping into any of the seven songs here, but I think you’re getting the picture. The deep emotive lyrics that are presented really add a depth that enrich and reward both the music and the listener.

This is all matched with absolute musical nirvana, melodic heaven, powerful punctuations that any concerning prog fan will absolutely adore. Even procurers of good music will find these dalliances to their taste too. Turn It Up is another prime example of this with a subject matter that is close to most peoples hearts at this moment in time; powerful drumming starts the experience, but it’s not long before those killer keyboard passages enter the fray, all being aligned with an absolute killer hook, commerciality at its best.

The World Is Caving In opens up with an a cappella; it’s not long before the whole song arrives at its destination, achieving its goal. The bass and keyboards keep the momentum going as Jonsson gives the piece a slightly harder edge pushing the musical boundaries to a climax before it drops into a peaceful and sedate completion. Can't Take It With You musically couldn’t be more diverse than The World Is Caving In, its Latin soundstage, yes Latin soundstage that is complemented by some very intriguing bass and guitar work, that sounds detuned in places, tones that shouldn’t work on the grander scale of things, but seriously do, offering an anarchic wall of sonics that is more than enjoyable. The band has certainly not chosen a passive route to entertain their fans.

The beautiful and elegantly approached There's Nothing Wrong With The World, a piece that is more in the vein of the album opener 1969, its convoluted and powerful approach with the band really grooving with a myriad of keyboard sounds, jazzy, funky bass lines, whilst Edman poetically builds the scenes vocally. This is just a perfect complementation of musicians that have found their inner mojo who play it out for all its worth. It is this sort of musicianship that separates the men from boys, creating classic, memorable and passionate albums.

Bite The Grit’s driving guitar work onslaughts the listener which is encapsulated by keyboards, flourishes that Lalle, Nils and Edman manage to create repeatedly that are so infectious, memorable, that can be physically felt. Even the acoustic led When Fear Comes To Town is just so perfect in its placing, an exacting and fitting closure to the album seeing Jonsson and Edman work in harmony whilst Reingold weaves his pitch perfect tonal bass passages throughout. When the whole band participates it really becomes manna from heaven, allowing the stark beauty of the music in conjunction with the vocal presentation to make a fitting statement, a statement that confirms how well these guys work together. Marcus Liliequist is for me a bit of an unsung hero here, his contributions are just fitting, contributions that can be overshadowed at times by everything else that is going around the songs, but yet he still manages to perfectly hold it all together.

Musically this band of brothers in one way shape or form never rest on their laurels, musicians that always have their fingers in several pies. We see a new live Flower Kings release coming up, a new Agents Of Mercy release in the pipeline and this release too which makes it an exciting time. The deliverance and execution is near perfect. What more could one ask for?

This album is just mesmerizing, a master class on how music should be executed. Musically 2011 is really hotting up now.

JEZ ROWDEN - 8 out of 10
GERT HULSHOF - 8.5 out of 10
JOHN O’BOYLE - 9 out of 10

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