1. Oblivion Pt. 1
2. Under haunted skies
3. Magnetic Force
5. River oaks
8. Oblivion Pt. 2
Is there any other life in the universe?
Sweden’s Johnny Engstrom Band released now a 75 minute progressive conceptalbum called „Magnetic Fore“ that, if we can trust the promo flyer, deals with delusion, departure, profound mysteries, alien abduction and the horrofying events of one man’s journey through time and space.
The first thing that impresses is the album cover of Magnetic Force. A man in the woods who is beamed by a light up to clouds of outer space. Great artwork, I have to ask Johnny who did it.
The album is mainly surrounded by two parts called „Oblivion Pt.1“ and „Oblivion Pt. 2“ with six songs in between.
So the concept starts with the 16 minutes longtrack „Oblivion Pt. 2“. You here first a car riding playing its radio. The car stops, someone leaves it, owls can be heard. Seems that someone is heading into a magnetic fields. Sounds mystical and fearful. Thats the musical intonation of the album cover, nice. After that a hard guitar part appears, played a little dirty, before the warm vocals of Johnny Engstrom himself brings us an unbelievable journey. I knew Johnny’s vocals before very near to Geddy Lee of Rush. Here the vibes can be found also, but it is more near now to progmetal acts like Vanden Plas. Good refrain, cool spacy keyboard sequences and some voice call interruptions make this song a real science fiction epic. For me the guitars are mixed too dirty. Cleaner would be more fitting to the song, I think. This track tells the story of the man’s start into the journey to outer space and the music makes the perfect noise for that. Different strange sound sequences split the song. For example in the middle a dreamful but strange keyboard and canon vocal part. I think the man is now entering a place between heaven and hell….After that a part similar to Porcupine Tree comes up. The band is able to mix wonderful melodies with strange elements. For example the „tear my soul apart“ part after 14 minutes. Craziness meets Angels.
Or is it Aliens not Angels? Anyway…the song is rounded up by the opening guitar part and refrain as in the beginning. I can say that this song is a real progressive masterpiece, never boring, with interesting song structure and partly hymn character. Shows the big composing quality of Johnny Engstrom and his band. Only, as I told before, the guitars could be a bit better.
Normally now I have to lean back and think about the impressions that I caught from the first song. So many things to explore and learn. But, I am only the reviewer who has to work and so we continue now….
….with „Under hauted skies“. A scream in the back starts it. Another harder guitar riffing. The vocals remembers me here sometimes to Saga. The voice of Johnny is amazing. We arrived now in other spheres. Lots of harmonies and vocal choirs in this song that is ever pushed by guitars, bass and drums. A life between reality and ficiton. Later some tribal like drums and silent clean guitars let the song fade out. More a straight song, sometimes, like in the refrain in the line of older Dream Theater.
Some noise of magnetic impulses lead over to the title track. Fast guitars and drums before a mystical key sequence appears. Johnny performs more evil here but ever clear. Does it mean we are now on the side of the aliens? Or is it more that our person stays now in between magnetic fields. „It never happens to me, it never happens to you“….the song tells us. So…are we only in a dream?
Short guitar solo, spoken words and keys are the bow of excitement. The instrumental middle sequence remembers a lot to older Rush. The main theme of the songs appears again in the end. Mystical and, as i said, with a little evil touch. We met the force of gravity…
A clock comes up..is it late ? Acoustic guitars and warm vocals makes us feeling better. This is kind of a ballad. Wonderful vocals, great refrain. The force will last forever. „Endlessly“ is good to take a new breath now. We urgently need that cause of the lots of informations we got before to get our brains fresh. Wonderful guitar part in the middle supported by symphonic keys. The great refrain together with best harmonies ends it. Not a cheap ballad as we know it. It is a song for dreaming and flying through spheres with your thoughts.
Happy tunes open „River Oaks“. Typical Rush atmosphere. Some la-la-la in the refrain. Light guitars and drums. Passing the river oaks must create a nice feeling. Cause this song sounds like freedom, wishes that come true and other things that cause fun. Easy listening in the refrain also with a little Michael Sadler / Saga touch. Is this a 7 minutes soundtrack of paradise ?
….and „Paradise“ to follow. But first we are going „Wounded“. Harder guitar riff again, sounding a little oriental. Weird and disharmonic vocals appear. Hectic atmosphere, only the refrain clear the scene….tells us that the protagonist is wounded and cannot win the race. Acoustic guitars break the song in the middle for a high vocal section that is smashed soon by hard guitar riffing and pumping drums. In the end the weird vocals mixed with the clear refrain closes this drama.
Now here it is….“Paradise“. Balladesque start with acoustic guitars, some background keys and a really warm voice. „I wonder if you will be waiting at the gates“…but will he really leave the gates or step through them? Dreamful instrumentation create the perfect scene of paradise but suddenly a hard guitar part interrupts the silence. I must say that the refrain even remembers me sometimes to 80’s wave bands, sorry for that. Wonderful song, but I think that was only the silence before the storm comes….
..cause we are heading to the final „Oblivion Pt.2“. And just as I said this, thunders in the back appear. The atmosphere is getting mystical and fearful again. Slow back keys lead into musical chaos. Strange and disharmonic guitar part first, but is getting clearer soon. Midtempo reigns the scene. The man is on his way back home. Or not? Johnny has a lot to do cause vocals and refrain are in permanent presence, no time to breathe. Like in a longtrack used normally also we can find different parts and breaks. Slower guitars, darker elements followed by the intonation of light. Clear vocals change with weird vocal elements. Even a telephone is ringing in the back. Spots of violins are set sometimes. The way back home for the man is a hard one. But does he really want to go back? This song is a symphony of chaotic feelings if you cannot make a difference between good and evil. But in the end the man is back…..or not ?
This album contains a perfect soundtrack for a journey into outer space. Johnny Engstrom Band are brilliant musicians as well to make this journey an exciting deal to listen. The vocals, as I said, are mostly near to Rush or Saga, the music is higher class of progressive style and I am sure that the band created their masterpiece here. The production is good, only the guitars could be better mixed.
But in summary this is an album that fans of Rush or even Dream Theater or Vanden Plas will love.
I am wondering how Johnny Engstrom will create something better in the future. Not easy, if you release a nearly perfect album as debut. So people, especially prog lovers, listen to Magnetic Force with intense and you will earn great musical know how mixed with a great storyline concept. There is not even one song as a filler, every song has its rights to be on this album to bring the story forward.
Hope we will here a lot more of the man’s journey and Johnny Engstrom Band next !!
Review by Kerbinator