Lars Eric Mattsson is one of Finland's best guitar players who has been active in the music business since 1985 playing on lots of albums and releasing solo discs as well. He goes by his full name when he puts out solo releases, and uses just the Mattsson handle when he combines the services of vocalists in his recordings. His solo albums are more on the instrumental spectrum utilising lots of technically advanced guitar solos with complex harmonies, whereas with Mattsson he explores a more defined and unique style of music. His guitar playing shows restraint, allowing the vocalists to deliver the lyrics effectively.
War is Lars Eric Mattsson's third album under the Mattsson moniker and it combines plenty of different vocalists' impressive work. This is a strictly "non-fictional vocal opera" featuring Lance King (ex-Balance of Power, Pyramaze), Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Ring of Fire), Irene Jansen (Star One, Ayreon), Andre Vuurboom (ex-Sun Caged), and Bjorn Jansson (Tears of Anger, Imaginery). The only guest musician on the album is Vitalij Kuprij adding in some exceptional keyboard solos on half of the tracks. Lars Eric Mattsson, on the other hand, plays all guitars, bass, and keyboards (except the solos recorded by Kuprij) with impressive results. Special mention goes to his keyboard work: Mattsson employs samples, genuine sounding orchestral synths (though there is also a real orchestra on one track) as well as a multitude of quirky sounds to add more atmosphere to the songs. Eddie Sledgehammer and Yoshi Watanabe provide the drum and percussion rhythms through the album.
As the title reveals, the album is about the shortcomings and atrocities of war with references to the crisis in the Middle East. In this respect, it could be likened to Kamelot's The Black Halo, as it also shares a similar lyrical theme. Mattsson's lyrics are deep and thought-provoking. There are some haunting lines that will stick to your mind right on the first listen, such as "In this war no one wins!" or "Open your eyes and take a look around/ They are feeding you with lies" on the tracks "This is the End" and "Requiem" respectively. On the musical front, this could be Mattson's most ambitious work in his recording career. It is intensely heavy and dramatically emotional. The album encompasses a wide array of influences, such as the Native American chanting vocals in the intro of "Where's Our Chance" sung by Irene Jansen of Ayreon's The Human Equation fame. The song finds Jansen offering a rather aggressive vocal performance, only resembling her gripping singing during the chorus. The other track with Jansen is completely different. It's one of the two ballads on the album with an emotionally charged guitar solo that exudes a melodious stream of riffing and phrasing.
Lance King, with whom Mattsson worked before, appears on "Your Dream". Though not the strongest piece on the album, Vitalij Kuprij's keyboard solo is breathtaking. Kuprij once again explores a million sounds and his work often collides with Mattsson's elaborate guitar solos through the album. Also pay attention to the sitar in the intro of this song. I'd like King to cut loose a bit, but maybe the song's context wouldn't let him. He sings in a rather monotone style. Knowing his abilities in Balance of Power and Pyramaze, I'd have loved a more aggressive vocal delivery regardless. The relatively shorter cut "Deep in the Shadows" has Mark Boals behind the mic with Mattsson's daugher Mikaela backing him up.
Without doubt, the album's highpoint is the 10+ minute dark masterpiece "Smoke & Mirrors" sung by none other than former Sun Caged singer Andre Vuurboom. This must be his first recording since his departure from Sun Caged and what a voice! This song is utterly dark, rhythmically complex and technically astounding. From Vuurboom's killer voice to Kuprij's keyboard work to the unison instrumental firework at the end, it stands head and shoulders above the other tracks, and 90% of any other prog song I've heard all year. Lars Eric Mattsson should consider writing a whole album with Vuurboom's voice in mind. The two of them could really take the prog community by storm. However, we shouldn't forget the longest song "War Suite Concerto" which is the most original track on the album. The Astral Chamber Orchestra is behind Mattsson when he plays a nifty classical piece over beautiful female soprano vocals in the first half of the track. Things then morph into a glorious melodic metal fury as Mattsson cuts through the song with a thunderous rhythm guitar attack that soon melts into an impressive instrumental break. Mattsson also sings a few melodies here. Granted he isn't as great a singer as a guitarist, but the lyrics he sings are really effective. The mix and production are crisp and the songwriting is tight. This will appeal to progheads who like melodically rich music with a wide variety of singers as well as to fans of power metal bands such as Kamelot, Angra, and Rage.
- Where's Our Chance
- Your Dream
- Deep in the Shadows
- Smoke & Mirrors
- Dreamer's Lullaby
- This Is the End
- War Suite Concerto