25 June 2009

CD REVIEW: Trettioåriga Kriget, War Years (Mellotronen, 2008)




I’m not sure, but I think I may have caused a few people to think I was tripping on some pretty heavy lysergics during NEARfest.


You see, a lot of people ask me about the bands that are playing, especially if they are unfamiliar with them. So when people come up to me and asked “Bill, tell me…what is this band Trettioåriga Kriget like, really,” (only they’d never really say that, since they were probably stammering over the first word, and in the end possibly getting so frustrated that they’d end up saying in exasperation “That older Swedish band that’s gonna play) I’d reply with the following:

“Well, at their hardest, they’re like what Rush would sound like if they were really a prog band.”


Said questioner would walk off all smiles and excited…only to catch up with me after their performance and say, incredulity on their faces “That didn’t sound like Rush at all.” To which I’d have to reply “No, I said they sound like what Rush would sound like if they were really a prog band…not that they sound like rush.” And I stand behind this to this point…a good mix of heavy and light, lyrics that satirise the state of humanity, and then satirise the people doing the satirising…I think there’s a good degree of connection there. Yes, it’s fair to say that TK is far more symphonic than a band like Rush could ever be; it’d also be fair to say that they are jazzier as well. And perhaps Geddy Lee sounded better in the higher vocal registers than TK’s falsetto singer, but that’s splitting hairs.


People who continue to offer disbelief at my analogy would do well to pick up War Years, the recently released 2 CD live set from the band, available on Mellotronen Records (the same label who has handled all of the band’s reissues and new releases to date). Across the 2 discs in this package, one gets a very good primer on what made this band such a mainstay of many old school progger’s LP and CD collections over the years.


The first disc comprises recordings of the band during their first lifetime, from 1971-1980. Here we have a band hungry for success and acclaim, and pouring it all out on stage. There’s plenty of highlights here…the lengthy guitar and bass excursions on “En kväll hos X,” the dramatic “Krigssång,” and the heaviness and almost punky attitude of “Mot alla odds” or “Dåliga nerver” are just a few of them. The band is full of energy and fire, and it comes across clearly despite the occasionally advanced age of the source material. For those of you who didn’t believe me at NEARfest, this is the disc to hear. You may still not think they’re prog (I maintain that they are), but you can’t deny that they have and had energy and rocked out.


Disc two is made up primarily of material recorded at their first ever (I think) US show, from Progday in 2004. This is perhaps closer in tone to the stuff heard on stage at Lehigh University this past weekend. After an introduction track, we’re greeted with one of my favourite TK tunes ever, “Lång historia.” Driving bass and drums, excellent guitar work, tight composition…this is why I dig Kriget as much as I do. Most of the band’s Progday set is included here (including a smoking take on "
Om Kriget kommer"), along with a liberal sprinkling of material recorded in Nacka, Sweden in 2007. The voices may have aged somewhat, but the passion behind those voices hasn’t dimmed a bit. I think it might have been nice had the band included a bit more of what was then their most recent album, but that’s an artistic decision that I can’t really speak for other than to express this desire.

Sound Quality: Throughout the release, sound quality is very good to excellent. Some of the earliest tapes feel a bit hot to me, and there may be a bit of slight crackle around the edges (“Confusions,” filled with overdriven harmonica, seems to suffer the worst of all), but the recordings never become unlistenable. Obviously the 2004 and 2007 recordings feature modern digital clarity, but even here there’s a bit of warmth and roundness in the mix. The material is mastered at a good level…not too loud, not so soft that one must crank up the stereo to get a listenable volume. Finally, the band is mixed quite well, with space for each instrumentalist to be heard.


War Years is packaged in a tri-fold digipak, which sounds nice in theory. Sadly, the first disc is not placed in a tray; instead, it’s slipped into the booklet and held in a pocket on the first fold. I anxiously anticipate that the disc will end up getting scratched over time. I’d have happily paid a little extra for a second plastic tray to mount the Past disc in. Otherwise, the liner notes offer some historical perspective over the band’s history, giving a nice little potted Trettioåriga Kriget biography. Some great historical photos feature as well, placing everything into perspective.


I recommend War Years pretty highly; I think people who were borderline about the band this past weekend may find themselves pushed closer to fandom after a listen or two. Longtime fans will of course love it, and I think people who were disappointed with the performance may find themselves appreciating it a bit more after listening.



CD 1 – PAST:

Introduction Tippen

Confusions - Live 1971

Perspektiv - Live 1974

Handlingens skugga - Live 1974

Krigssång - Live 1977

False start - Live 1976

Krigssång II - Live 1976

En kväll hos X - Live 1977

Den stora kliniken - Live 1977

Mot alla odds - Live 1979

Dåliga nerver - Live 1979

Blues - Live 1981

Som förut - Live 1981

Errolito - Live 1980


CD 2 – PRESENT:

Introduction

Lång historia - Live 2004

Mina löjen - Live 2004

Om Kriget kommer - Live 2004

Andra sidan - Live 2004

Jag och jag och jag - Live 2007

Moln på marken - Live 2004

I början och slutet - Live 2007

Krigssång - Live 2004

Gnistor - Live 2004

Ur djupen - Live 2004

Dagspress - Live 2004

Kaledoniska orogenesen - Live 2007



Musicians:

Stefan Fredin: bass, rhythm guitar, vocals

Dag Lundquist: drums, violin, percussion, vocals

Christer Åkerberg: electric and acoustic guitars

Robert Zima: vocals, guitar

Mats Lindberg: keyboards, saxophone

Olle Thörnvall: lyrics, harmonica on CD 1, track 2


Find out more at:

http://www.trettioarigakriget.com/

1 comment:

Lars Patrik Stigsson said...

Hi Bill!

Being Swedish it made me glad to see your post on TK - one of my favourite prog-bands. I would like to link to that post from my own blog (written in Swedish).

I saw them in the 70-ites after their debut album was released in a small venue in my hometown and I still remember that concert clearly. Then I saw the reunion concert 2005. I never thought they would play together again. To be able to comeback after all these years with an album as strong as Elden av År is close to a miracle. And the concert was awesome.

I do not consider all of their music prog, though. I think the first album is a prog-masterpiece, and Elden av År also, but they tried a more commercial approach towards the end of their first lifetime, and I can´t really say that´s prog...

"...they’re like what Rush would sound like if they were really a prog band.” That´s a good one!