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Mattsson, Lars Eric: Sand And Blood

Lars Eric Mattsson, the guitarist, song writer and founder of Lion Music, returns with Sand And Blood, his first solo album for some four years. Known as a guitar virtuoso originally from the Mike Varney school of shred, it would be fair to suggest that when LEM releases an album, you pretty much know what you're going to get. Or do you? With previous releases displaying a neo-classical attack and others a more fusion approach, that Sand And Blood heads down a more melodic rock road is a little bit of a surprise, albeit a not unwelcome one. As you'd expect this slight change of direction is married to stunning guitar work and solos of real invention. That there's also a huge amount of detail and intricacy bubbling underneath the verse-chorus structure, adds to the intrigue. While for those longing for a more guitar focused approach, that some of the areas you might expect to hear a vocal dominated stance are instead taken up by excellent little fret flicks and tricks, also proves a clever diversion. So while the underlying themes here may be more melodically inclined, the best overall description could maybe be progressive-symphonic melodic rock.

Where things don't stack up quite so well is through the oddly synthesized, treated vocals, Mattsson manning the mic when a singer with a stronger, wider and more natural range would have made a better impression. As they are there's a strangely otherworldly feel to them, an almost electro-voiced vibe created. To be fair, they do actually fit with the music itself, but they can cause a remoteness that you might not expect and one that does need some time to break down. If, like me, you can overcome this aspect of Sand And Blood, there's a lot to like, "Snow Queen" an insistent and catchy example of Mattsson's killer lead lines, while "I'll be Your Light" is a strong illustration of the more overtly brooding, technical, neo-classical approach you might have anticipated.

Adrienn Antal shows up to provide a well executed change of vocal focus on "Still Here Waiting", her patient, heartfelt delivery bringing a real sense of drama to a poised piece, while the best of Mattsson's vocals arrive on the bright neo-classical-MHR opener, "Rock Your World". The album's most overtly upbeat piece exactly the sort of album introduction you crave through its stinging six string explosion, which is all you need to know that LEM is still firing on all six cylinders.

In the end Sand And Blood is something of a mixed bag, the vocal issues outweighed by the tight song writing and masterful guitar work. It does take a little time to truly get under its skin, but once you do you'll find an honest album that's delivered with real belief and passion.

Track Listing
1. Rock Your World
2. Snow Queen
3. You
4. Queen of Love
5. Helena of Troy
6. Stand Up and Shout
7. Bleed for You
8. I'll be Your Light
9. If Loving You is a Sin
10. Can't Go On Without Your Love (2017)
11. Still Here Waiting (feat. Adrienn Antal)

Added: November 19th 2017
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Sand And Blood at Lion Music
Hits: 970
Language: english

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