It looks great on paper: a new group from Sweden, home of Anglagard, Anekdoten, and Kaipa; a keyboardist who plays piano, Hammond, Mellotron, Orchestron, Rhodes,
Minimoog, Korg Mono/Poly, Solina String Ensemble; not one, but three members of the quartet who sing lead vocals; and (drum roll, please) a thirty-minute “epic.” Ah, the euphoric anticipation as Brighteye Brison’s CD debut on Rivel Records is set into place on the carousel…
…will remain partially unfulfilled. There is some serious talent present on this outing…serious talent. Guitarist Johan Öijen exudes quite a bit of Brian May’s influence, and drummer Daniel Kåse doesn’t sound too far removed from Phil Collins during his glory days with Genesis, up through Wind & Wuthering. The musicians don’t seem to come up short through any exhibitions of skill, per sé—rather, it is the songs, themselves. Save two tracks, lyrics & melodies are penned by keyboardist-saxophonist-lead vocalist, Linus Kåse, the younger sibling of Daniel and nine years his junior. Linus’ writing style is consistent—undeviating—to a static degree. For every moment of artistic beauty, there are many more lent to threadbare formula.
The thirty-minute title suite, “One Year Alone,” contains the disc’s best moments—most of them, anyway. Linus sings with great clarity and not much of an accent; he’s easy to understand and his English is very good, though his lyrics suffer in spots. He sticks to piano quite a bit, and it would have been nice if he attacked his Minimoog, Mellotron and Orchestron more often, or if the Hammond were more up-front in the mix, as the other instruments, even sax, tend to overpower the keyboard passages (this applies to the entire album, not just the suite). The long track in “One Year Alone,” III—Music Of The City is the album’s strongest: slightly discordant piano chords add a nice contrast to Linus’ sax. The tempo gauge rises, and the band rocks out fashionably in 5/4 and 7/4; a slightly Latin feel is even attained for a spell. Mellotron or Orchestron strings can be detected, briefly, in a quieter interval. Fine sax and guitar soloing is not absent before the transition to the suite's finale.
Right up there with Music Of The City is “Take Good Care Of My Heart,” a 70s-styled pomp-rocker which takes shelter beneath Queen’s umbrella: Daniel takes the lead vocal, and while his voice is not unlike his brother’s, his is the better of the two—characteristically close to Freddie’s, though he can’t hit those high notes. Linus pencils in a tenuous Minimoog solo between Johan’s gratuitous wailing. Again, one of the best tracks on the album. Too bad Daniel didn't sing the next track...
...as the album begins a sharp nose-dive in the last quarter. Bassist Kristofer Eng should stick to bass—it’s his turn to sing on “In Disguise,” and some of the sung verses could be enough to drive someone beneath their desk, subjectively speaking. This is a tedious song, and Eng’s lyrics are horrifically bland. The music does not make up for the words, either, and the Brison recipe is leaning toward tiresome. Linus returns to lead vocals and lyrics on “A Car,” which holds rank as the second worst track. The lyrics are cringe-inducing, if laughable—here is a taste: You used to call me schmuck/Now you wish me luck/I know you’re lying I can tell/Back to the roots/Now I’m the one with boots/Kicking mud into your eyes. Johan’s guitar solo is its only saving grace, and Daniel, thankfully, hasn’t lost any of his fervor. It’s another twelve-minute track, and the last three minutes nearly redeem the first nine.
The next great Swedish symphonic group? Nope. Not yet, anyway.