If you know The Flower Kings, you also know Hasse Fröberg. A fine hard rock singer and guitarist in the 80s, the man ended up in one of the biggest progressive rock acts of the 21st century – and together with four equally skilled musicians, he even has found the time to release a new (by now the third one) album under the name Hasse Fröbergs Musical Companion.
An album with a slightly uninspired title (HFMC), but after listening to it on and off for 6 weeks, I can only conclude that the inspiration has instead gone into the music. Music that is introduced by a ticking clock on Seconds, which is soon replaced by a short keyboard piece by Kjell Haraldsson that flows seamlessly into the whirling keyboard and guitar opening of Can’t Stop the Clock. This is the first real song on the album and it starts full of energy, reminding of Images & Words era Dream Theater and 2015 Franck Carducci at the same time. This track is varied in style, as well as in tempo and key (which the band already announced on their web site when it was released as a preview video. It contains metal and hard rock, but also mellower parts – in short, it rocks.
Less varied, and totally different is the the follow up Everything Can Change, which has a jazzy feel to it in various places, when the piano is the lead instrument, but in other places it also feels like a 60s rock song with synths and guitar added to make it more complex. On this one, Hasse Fröberg’s slightly hoarse voice really works very well.
With Pages, we move into longer songs, over 10 minutes. The opening is a quick crescendo of guitar and keyboards, followed by a more melodic keyboard piece. In a way, the music reminds of Yes, and later on also Genesis, but never too strongly. The vocals of Hasse remind me of a more emotional version of Grobschnitt’s Wildschwein. The highlight of this song is a guitar solo by Anton Linsjö, which I put in my review notes as “it’s not Gilmour, it’s not Stolt, it’s that guy from HFMC’. After this solo, a well done vocal part (with piano and acoustic guitar) leads into an outro that is as bombastic as the intro. Circle closed.
With Genius, a more ballad like track, the listener gets some rest before moving into the net long track, In the Warmth of the Evening. A varied track, like Can’t Stop the Clock, but 4 minutes longer and without the strong metal influences – although in the second half the keys become really bombastic, before a closing guitar solo with a lot of feeling in it – like some great blues guitarists also could, but here no blues is involved.
On Something Worth Dying For, the band moves slightly into Hasse’s past as a hard rock musician. This one has guitar leads, and riffs accompanied by a strong drum work (lots of cymbals too) by drummer Ola Strandberg, and matching bass work by Thomas Thomsson.
The last track of the album Someone Else’s Fault brings us back to the world of symphonic rock, with vocal choirs and keyboards that remind of Yes and Genesis. But when Hasse sings alone, over a dancing keyboard tune, it becomes almost soulful, something Jon Anderson never did. Half way, the music changes into bluesy hard rock, with yet another very well executed guitar solo – before going back to symphonic land at the end. I put the words ‘soulful‘, ‘bluesy hardrock‘ and ‘Yes’ in my review notes – only to find out later that apparently Hasse Fröberg described this track as a mix between Yes, Stevie Wonder and AC/DC. Well – I guess he got that more or less right.
After this, all that remains is the ticking of a clock, on Minutes, which makes the album go full circle. And full circle it may go – as some other albums that I reviewed, I have no problem putting this one on repeat. In the second half of 2015, the band will be playing gigs in various countries, and I already spotted my chance to see them in The Netherlands. Get your chance as well, or just get the album, or do both… you catch my drift.