Those guys from The Flower Kings are at it again. Not content to merely record and occasionally tour with their main band, bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Zoltan Csörsz have teamed up with ex-Majestic keyboardist Richard Andersson (who plays
synths like Malmsteen plays guitar) for Space Odyssey — a progressive/neoclassical-metal project that also includes Dio-like singer Patrik Johansson, guitarist Magnus Nilsson and former Malmsteen bassist Marcel Jacob. Malmsteen's name is coming up a lot here, so it stands to reason that a decent reference point for Space Odyssey's debut disc Embrace the Galaxy might be Symphony X meets Yngwie.
(To be fair, Reingold's involvement doesn't extend past that of co-producer, but his presence on this and last year's Karmakanic, Opus Atlantica and Time Requiem projects — all also involving one or more Flower Kings — is noteworthy. Incidentally, Andersson is the core of Time Requiem, reportedly wrapping up a new album as I type.)
Despite its cheesy title by a band with a cheesy name, Embrace the Galaxy soars into hyperspace with hyperfast symphonic arrangements that sound almost celestial. The only time Space Odyssey actually slows things down is for the mid-tempo "Requiem for a Dream" and the instrumental closer "A Perfect Day." And call me crazy, but opener "Despair and Pain" includes a pre-chorus passage that reminds me of (gasp!) ABBA's "Voulez-Vous."
Because of its relentless pace, Embrace the Galaxy's nine songs tend to sound similar for the first several listens, which may detract from this album's overall appeal to some listeners. Nevertheless, given their diverse backgrounds, I can't help but admire the sheer musical flexibility of these players, making Space Odyssey a solid entry in a crowded genre.