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Agents of Mercy: DramaRama

Another Solid Prog Album From Sweden

After releasing their debut album last year, Swedish supergroup Agents of Mercy makes a pretty strong follow-up with DramaRama. Although this is an album that most symphonic prog veterans have essentially heard before, this is still another high-quality release from Roine Stolt and company. If you liked the first album from Agents of Mercy, this should be another pleasant surprise for you. There's definitely no shortage of quality musicianship and songwriting to be found here. With that said, I still can't help but feel slightly disappointed when comparing DramaRama to some of the masterpieces that Stolt has participated with in The Flower Kings or Transatlantic. When compared to works of genius like Adam & Eve, Bridge Across Forever, or The Sum of No Evil, DramaRama simply falls a bit short. Still, if you're looking for a reliable and high quality progressive rock album, this is worth an acquisition.

The music played here is symphonic progressive rock, but different from that of The Flower Kings. Unlike TFK's work, there's not very much soloing on DramaRama, which can be a good or a bad thing, pending on your opinion of the band. There are plenty of times where I think The Flower Kings go a bit "overboard" with the soloing until it gets a bit tiring, so the general lack of solos may be a plus for some people. The melodic sections with vocal harmonies and instrumental simplicity give DramaRama a distinct Beatles influence. As a whole, if I were to describe this album, I would say it's a mix of The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, and some influence from Roine Stolt's other projects (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic, The Tangent, etc.) as well. Thus, if you like symphonic prog on the more happy and melodic side, this album should be right up your alley.

As you can imagine from the likes of Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Lalle Larsson, and Walle Wahlgren, the level of musicianship is very high. These guys are some of the most talented prog musicians from Sweden, and it shows on DramaRama. The vocals from Nad Sylvan took some time for me to appreciate because of his unique tone, but once they're given some time to sink in, I realized that he's quite a talented vocalist. The production is terrific. It showcases the modern amenities in production while maintaining a vintage seventies sound. This is the perfect sound for the album.

Conclusion:

DramaRama is a really good album from Agents of Mercy, but it still stands as one of the weaker releases that these prolific musicians have participated in over the years. If you like Beatles-esque symphonic prog with a heavy emphasis on melody and harmony, DramaRama is an album worth getting. The songwriting, musicianship, and production are all very strong, so the least I can give this album is 3.5 stars.


Track Listing
1. The Duke Of Sadness
2. Last Few Grains Of Hope
3. Peace United
4. Journey
5. Gratitude
6. Meet Johnnie Walker
7. Cinnamon Tree
8. The Ballad Of Mary Chilton
9. Roger The Tailor
10. Conspiracy
11. We Have Been Freed
12. Time

Added: December 8th 2010
Reviewer: Jeff B
Score:
Related Link: Band Myspace Page
Hits: 2493
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Agents of Mercy: DramaRama
Posted by Keith Hannaleck, SoT Staff Writer on 2010-12-08 08:03:32
My Score:

Roine Stolt spends a lot of time writing music and playing guitar. If he is not trotting around the globe with his beloved Flower Kings he is either performing solo work, cranking out solos for supergroup Transatlantic or even jamming in a jazz fusion band called 3RD World Electric (check out Kilimanjaro Secret Brew for a taste), which really is not a stretch for a guitar genius like Stolt. In 2009 to add to the ever growing list, he started another project called Agents of Mercy. An acoustic experiment with vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) turned into a full blown band. They would subsequently release a solid debut titled The Fading Ghosts of Twilight. It was a fine slice of prog rock and you had to wonder what was around the corner for the versatile Mr. Stolt.

What I appreciate most about Stolt is that he is always ready to push the boundaries and take a chance in whatever band configuration he happens to be in at the time, and good luck keeping tabs on that movement by the way.

So along comes 2010 and now we have a brilliant sophomore release from Agents of Mercy to enjoy called Dramarama. Lead singer Sylvan sounds like a cross between Gabriel and Fish, he certainly has a unique and pleasing vocal style that seems to fit quite well with temperaments and atmospheres provided by Stolt and company. Flower Kings and 3rd World Electric bandmate Jonas Reingold join the proceedings on bass while Lalle Larsson (keys) and Walle Wahigren (drums. percussion) fill out the rest of the positions in the band. Note that Stolt in addition to providing vocals and lead guitar contributes with additional keys, ukulele, and lap steel.

In the 12 tracks comprising this CD I would find it difficult to single out any tracks as the best as they all were top shelf prog rock compositions. To be fair I would have to say I did have my favorites like the lead off track "The Duke of Sadness", which was the most prolific lyrically and musically for these ears. "Last Few Grains of Hope" and "Conspiracy" were as equally dark and emotional with some tremendous musicianship providing the highlights. Roine's guitar playing is once again exemplary on every account and the vocals are a superb compliment to the message in the lyrics and the music that push them all along so effortlessly.

I have listened to this album countless times and have not tired one bit from what it has to offer and there always seem to be something that catches my ear or touches me on an emotional level that didn't the previous time I gave it a spin. That is what prog rock is supposed to do, capture your imagination, create imagery in your mind's eye and challenge your psyche.

This band does not reach the level of a powerhouse like Transatlantic, it is a different kind of prog, but they certainly match up well with the Flower Kings after putting this release out. This is a band that is fully matured now with an exciting future ahead if it stays together.



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