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Mattsson: Power Games

This album was reviewed favorably on this site all the way back in April 2003, but since it received a remastering and rerelease this year, we’re bringing it back to your attention in case you want to check it out. The new stuff on this version includes a bonus track called “Season to Change” that was originally written in 1995 for Lars Eric Mattsson’s “Astral Groove” project. There’s also a new opening track, a short acoustic piece called “Preludes.” The heart of the album, the 17+ minute “Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1)” is also split up into six acts to make listening a bit easier. It’s definitely worth hearing, but it is nice to be able to hear it in stages.

For those unfamiliar with Mattsson, this is one of Lars Eric Mattsson’s many musical projects. A multi-instrumentalist, Mattsson plays everything on this album except for the drums which are played by Eddie Sledgehammer (who plays more elegantly than his name might suggest). The vocals are performed by Lance King (Balance of Power, Empire, and Defyance), a talented singer who has frequently been compared to James LaBrie�"and for good reason. When this album first appeared, King also drew comparisons to Geoff Tate, but I don’t think it’s right to see King as a clone of one or another better-known singer. He has a powerful voice that definitely suits the kind of progressive rock Mattsson is playing here.

Given that Lars Eric Mattsson is a virtuoso guitar player, this album mostly caught my attention for his playing alone. I suspect that many listeners (especially those my age) will make connections to Yngwie Malmsteen, but I found Mattsson to be a more sensitive player than Malmsteen. I’m sure he is just as fast and as flashy, but he understands the power of interesting melodic passages that hearers can actually follow. If you haven’t heard Mattsson play before, it’s definitely worth checking out all of “Beyond the Horizon” so you can hear how ambitious and how beautiful his playing can be.

The rest of the album is okay, but nothing really hits home the way “Beyond the Horizon” does. The main exception was definitey “Safely Through the Fight,” a fun and proggy romp that is heavier than some of the other tracks. I also liked some of the groove on tracks like “Season to Change” and “Lead Me On My Way,” but I honestly just kept going back to “Beyond the Horizon.” That is definitely the highlight on this one.

Track Listing:
1. Preludes
2. Open the Gate
3. Victim of Freedom
4. Blind Faith
5. Chained to My Pain
6. Bridge to the Past
7. Into Safety
8. Safely Through the Fight
9. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act I
10. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act II
11. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act III
12. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act IV
13. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act V
14. Beyond the Horizon (Guitar Concerto no. 1) Act VI
15. Lead Me On My Way
16. Season to Change (Bonus Track)

Added: December 15th 2020
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Score:
Related Link: Artist Website
Hits: 280
Language: english

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Mattsson: Power Games
Posted by Steven Reid, SoT Staff Writer on 2020-12-15 22:22:22
My Score:

The reissuing and remastering of Lars Eric Mattsson’s catalogue continues apace with a new lease of life now afforded his collaboration with renowned solo artist, and ex-Balance Of Power singer Lance King under the monicker Mattsson. Power Games was the second of five (so far) albums from this outfit, with the line-up at this stage being that of King, drummer Eddie Sledgehammer and Mattsson, who played pretty much everything else. And good though the keyboards and bass work are here, primarily, LEM is a guitarist of no little repute and that’s something blatantly apparent on an album that takes his shredding intents and presents them convincingly in the garb of progressive metal.

With a new, and rather pointless, intro added, the first track proper is now the second piece on show, “Open The Gates” lifting the wraps on a sound that pretty much carries on through the opening six real cuts on Power Games. Bright, forceful and full of six-string histrionics that are keenly matched by King’s elastic-fantastic vocals, if you like the more melodic side of prog-metal, then settle in for a supercharged ride. Yes, in fairness, with King at this stage of his career - this album saw the light of day initially in 2003 - happy to strike the balance (of power?) between James LaBrie and Geoff Tate, that the results fall into the realms of a more accessible Dream Theater should be pretty much as expected. The more dramatic “Blind Faith” does add a darker and less in your face breather, where the instrumental trade-offs are more about adding light and shade than simply stopping you in your tracks. Whereas the short “Into Safety” is used as an intro into the outro of the first ‘chapter’ of this album, “Safety Through The Fight” a truly memorable burst of technical, but hook laden melodic metal.

From here the six-part “Beyond The Horizon” veers off in another direction where King is sidelined in favour of thought provoking but still shred infused instrumental fare. It does make for something of a disjointed feel as you take in Power Games and yet, even though I’m a big King fan, arguably this section is where Mattsson’s prowess and (no pun intended) power really shines through. To his credit however, that doesn’t mean that the frets are set to inferno for the duration with a reserved and poised position taken up by the guitarist, although he does let fly on more than one or two occasions. I’d maybe even go as far as to suggest that this is one of his strongest ‘suites’ on any of the many albums he’s put out.

Therefore it’s something of a surprise when King suddenly appears on what was the mid-paced closing track on this album, “Lead Me On My Way”, which wouldn’t be out of place on an Alcatrazz record. Added to this reissue alongside (on my digital promo anyway) a full unbroken 17 minute “Beyond The Horizon”, comes “Season To Change”, a much funkier and footloose moment than anywhere else on Power Games. It’s Mattsson on vocals here and while it’s always good to have extra tracks on any reissue, to me it’s clear that this song has nothing to do with the album it now becomes a part of.

Mattsson, to me, has always been one of the most invigorating project/bands that the guitarist himself has been involved in, with Power Games being no acceptation. Anyone unaware of this multi-talented musician could do much worse than give this album a spin to understand why Lars Eric Mattsson is now well into his fourth decade of a long and fruitful career.



2004 Sea Of Tranquility
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