The Swedish Brother Ape returns with their second album entitled Shangri-La. Now pared down to a trio after the departure of lead vocalist Peter Dahlstrom, Brother Ape continue to blend an accessible mix of neoprog, arena rock and even a touch of fusion. Guitarist Stefan Damicolas now exclusively handles the lead vocals and his light airy voice is the focal point of the CD.
Opening with the richly melodic "New Shangri-La", a track very much influenced by Steve Hackett, Brother Ape quickly establish their winning formula of sweet melodies and tight musicianship. "Lunatic King" features an interesting arrangement in which a jazzy passage alternates with arena rock style power chords before Damicolas' voice enters the mix about three minutes into the piece. The band are not afraid to get heavy as demonstrated by "Inside You" with a powerful riff that recalls Led Zeppelin's "The Wanton Song". Elsewhere we have the excellent "I'll Be Going" and a very short but credible fusion instrumental called "Tweak Head".
As strong as Shangri-La is, it is not without its weaknesses. "Meatball Tour", a track about the ugly side of the music biz, is potentially the best cut on the album. The arrangement is quite superb and a neat instrumental break at the halfway mark brings Hatfield and the North to mind. But Damicolas' voice somehow doesn't convey the bitterness inherent in the lyrics, making the emotions seem false. The spacey "Monasteries of Meteora" is a curiously out of place instrumental and while it isn't bad, its lackadaisical arrangement makes it feel like filler. Likewise, the short and saccharine acoustic ballads on Shangri-La ("Umbrellas" and "A Reason to Wake") are completely unnecessary and tend to interrupt the flow of the album.
Brother Ape is surely a band to watch. Here's hoping they bring out more adventurous material on their next effort because it is their fusion-tinged underpinnings that make them stand out a bit from the neoprog pack.
- New Shangri-La (6:03)
- Lunatic Kingdom (6:01)
- Umbrellas (2:13)
- Inside You (5:11)
- Beams (6:38)
- Monasteries of Meteora (4:32)
- I'll be Going (5:48)
- Tweak Head (2:05)
- A Reason to Wake (3:11)
- Meatball Tour (5:43)
- Timeless for the Time Being (7:45)
- Shangri-La (2:35)