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Kaipa

Keyholder

Review by Josh Turner

I was really curious to hear this album. At best, I digested the previous release, Notes from the Past, which left me with a little heartburn. I thought that one was a little disjointed and unrefined. The vocals got a bit on my nerves at times. The buzz around Keyholder was that it was better, and that the group took a more melodic approach. After getting a run through, I felt the fun factor went up quite a few notches while still maintaining that Kaipa uniqueness. Hans Lundin takes over the role of keyboardist and Patrick Lundstrum and Aleena take on the lead vocals. Morgen Agren is the drummer. The album yet again features the busiest men in the progressive rock scene, The Flower Kings. In this case, it is boiled down just two: Roine Stolt & Jonas Reingold. Obviously, with Roine on board he gets into singing a few, okay many, bars. His voice is so distinct and adds so many dimensions to the music; it is nice to hear him trading off in his many different projects with other vocalists. While his greatest strength is displayed with axe in hand, you have to admit this guy can sing quite well. His contributions to the project are astounding and the cast around him adds quite a bit of spice and seasoning. Not to mention, Jonas is more than your typical bassist. He plays the instrument like a lead instrument at times quite a bit like the legendary Chris Squire.

On the whole, Keyholder exceeded my expectations. It is not the sort of album that could easily tire a progressive rock fan. If anything, the concoctions are complicated and it would take dozens of listens to get it straight in ones minds. The music is not entirely song-oriented, because it will take you one way and then venture down another path never to return to where it has come. It is hard to wrap your mind around the music, but it is great for someone suffering from attention deficit disorder.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lifetime of a Journey
This might be something you will hear or read from others who have heard the song (since it is so obvious), but the opening is a bit like a Queen song with Roine playing the part of Brian May on guitar. Patrick Lundstrum begins the journey with some pleasant lyrics. I must attest that I have not enjoyed his vocals on the recent Ritual disc, Think Like A Mountain, nor did I really appreciate much of his vocals on the previous Kaipa disc. However, here he is in true form. The dance between the guitar and keys on this track is tantalizing. This is only the beginning.
A Complex Work of Art
The beat is stepped up. After a beautiful instrumental opening with some great keys, Aleena jumps literally out of nowhere. Her voice takes us up into the clouds and we are flying high. The song takes a few different directions with Hans and Roine trading off between solos, Jonas backing each instrument, and Morgan providing the rhythm. Aleena's vocals on this one are really quite incredible with a truly remarkable finish.
The Weed of All Mankind
I really like this one. For those of you who do not really care for Patrik, this is one worthy of his highlight reel. Midway through it gets weird with a Vincent Price monologue setting a dark tone, but soon after we are brought back to some instrumentals where the retro-psychedelic juices really flow. Suddenly the environment around you begins to shift in an out of focus and sway to and fro. The colors become a blur while the endorphins trickle through your brain. The end is amusing by escalating to utter bliss and then Vincent Price returns to summon the demon back into the song.
Sonic Pearls
Half of the song is a slow build up with a subtle Egyptian feel. After the guitar and keys walk hand in hand, Patrik's voice comes into the mix. There is some soft harmony behind his voice as he enunciates Sonic Pearls. This track is nice and ends early with a quality beat before getting anywhere. Its life is short-lived, but an acceptable interlude into the following epic.
End of the Rope
This might be the highlight of the album. The bass is a slippery snake swishing in the mud, and again we are delighted with some great vocals from Patrik. The strong point of the song is that it is smooth and easy to follow, but throws in some switch ups, changes in beat, and allows for some quick solo work without getting too far away from the structure. It starts and ends in a similar fashion featuring Patrik's vocal work, harmony from the others, an active bass, and a finish the way only Roine can deliver on guitar. A lot of playfulness can be found at the center of the storm thus giving what might have been a simple tune a lot of girth, hence the length.
Across the Big Uncertain
No time is wasted starting a new theme. Rose petals are laid upon the ground by Han's keys and Patrick's voice for the re-introduction of Aleena. She comes into the mix and adds a lemon twist to the brew, giving you a sweet and sour flavor in your mouth. As with the other songs, this uses many different patterns to build a complete composition. While a lot to absorb as the landscape is littered with many bridges ,and the water is laden with a vast number of hooks, I think this is the real strength to the album. This cut has a lot of unpredictability built into it, which makes it stimulating to a well-rested listener who is giving it his or her complete and undivided attention. It has so many ingredients that it really feels longer than its actual timestamp. In a few words, Aleena provides the final sweet helping. In the end, it leaves you nourished with a full stomach and no room for dessert.
Distant Voices
The vocals are busy in the introduction with several members from the cast in a strange harmony. Their voices are each unique, even more so when heard together. As we make it into the core of the number, Patrick takes leads with Aleena providing support just a few ticks down in volume. About a third in, Morgan, Hans, and Jonas pick up the pace with a powerful jam again. Before you know it we are changing stride back and forth between a cocky strut, an all out sprint, and a fast walk. We are even treated to some funk jazz. It is hard to say who is the star in this one, but the instrumentals here are quite stellar.
Otherworldy Brights
We have reached the last one, and we are yet to be disappointed. This song feels like a lecture and a pep talk. It also gives some of the feel found on Notes from the Past, but does not get too off track with those overly long pauses and the ridiculously slow climbing keyboards found there. Instead, this song is a nightcap, the cherry on top, and it rejoices in finishing a busy ordeal. As our runner hits the final stretch and coasts into finish at the lead, there is a second or two to catch a breath before being raised upon the shoulders of the many admirers. Here the film takes one final snapshot with the winners hands raised in the air. We finish on a good note.
 
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