February 5, 2022

Jonas Lindberg is a Swedish multi-instrumentalist who first came to light with a couple of EP releases, the second of which was called The Other Side and included a song with the same name. He must have liked that title because for his first full-length album, 2016’s Pathfinder, he appended ‘& The Other Side’ to his own name as the band moniker. Six years on, and Lindberg and his team of support musicians are back with a new opus released in CD and digital formats as well as a double vinyl album. I can’t help mischievously thinking that the double vinyl release was an opportunity to change the band name again, this time to: Jonas Lindberg & The Three Other Sides! Anyway, this is certainly a very ambitious piece of work and in good prog rock tradition the seven tracks last a lengthy seventy-six minutes, and are nicely mixed in duration, with three short songs, three longer efforts (between seven and fifteen minutes) and what one might expect to be the crowning jewel of the lot: the twenty-five-minute title track which closes the album.

Lindberg’s influences are many, but in my mind seem to come from two main streams: the symphonic rock tradition, in the style of outfits such as fellow Swedes The Flower Kings and Spock’s Beard, and secondly the more commercial American prog pop/rock sound of groups like Styx and Kansas. Lindberg cites Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple as influences, and there’s a tip of the hat to both on this album, but for me Lindberg looks west across the Atlantic for his influences rather than south and west (or wherever the UK is in relation to Sweden!).

Secret Motive Man opens the album with a strangely stuttering prog metal riff before swirling synths lead to a very Styx-like vocal section. That stuttering riff dominates the song although other themes are cleverly interspersed. There’s a good climax to the track and while it never quite hits the heights, it’s an intriguing opener. It’s also a brave choice as an opener since there’s nothing commercial about it at all. Next up is the short Little Man. Short doesn’t mean simple though. The lilting melody is straight forward and enjoyable but then there are complex instrumental breaks before another good climax. The fifteen-minute Summer Queen is another kettle of fish. The gradual build-up of the opening synths is a fairly evident nod to Shine On You Crazy Diamond, and plenty of other obvious ‘70s prog influences abound from Yes to Rush. Those very overt influences might be because the song goes way back to 2003 when a young Lindberg put the original ideas together with then classmate Joakim Wiklund. Lindberg does spin out the ideas skilfully and the big synth theme that returns at several points is quite inspirational and one of the high points of the album. Oceans Of Time follows and that clocks in at eleven minutes (apologies for the play on words!). It’s another track dominated by a noble synth theme although this time it’s much more rock-oriented with something of a Kansas feel. Lindberg takes the lead vocals on this one and does a fine job. These two meaty tracks are followed by two shorter affairs, Why I’m Here, which has a cheerful pop feel to it, and the instrumental Astral Journey. You might think a six-minute instrumental is a filler track, but Astral Journey is one of the album highlights from its acoustic Zeppelin influenced opening through to some impressive guitar work from Lindberg. It’s an excellent showcase for Lindberg’s creativity and musicianship.

Lindberg, looking…..miles from nowhere

For a prog fan, a twenty-five-minute concluding piece is something to wet your lips for and in this case, it does live up to that billing, even if I’d have preferred a more cohesive piece myself instead of being split into very distinct sections. Still, that approach didn’t do Supper’s Ready any harm, did it? The instrumental Part I: Overture certainly opens in suitably epic style with ominous bells and a quiet synth theme before the main theme of the piece comes in on guitar, again suitably weighty. But then there’s a transition to a rather feeble keyboard theme and while the piece does conclude with the synths gloriously reprising the main guitar theme, the damage has been done. Part II: Don’t Walk Away is a straightforward ballad but it’s a strong song with a fine melody and anthemic chorus. Its musical cousin is the second ballad, Part IV: Memories, a quiet melancholic piece, again with a good melody. Lindberg claims that Part III: I Don’t Know Where You Are contains ‘intense rock in the style of Deep Purple’. Well, there is a dash of Jon Lord’s organ in there and it’s an enjoyably energetic track but It’s more like a polite Styx boogie than genuine heavy rock and would sit more comfortably on Pieces Of Eight rather than Machine Head. The concluding Part V is called Miles From Nowhere (if you are confused at this point it may be because the album, this song, and this part of the song all have the same title!). It starts off a little anonymously but then the music slows expectantly and you think ‘a-ha, here comes the epic ending’ – and you’d be absolutely right! The melody of Part II returns in a much slower and quite inspiring delivery, followed by an excellent solo courtesy of guest Roine Stolt before a valedictory return of the main theme closes matters in style. It’s all totally predictable but brilliant all the same!

There aren’t that many albums of this length that hold your attention, but this is certainly one of them. Lindberg cleverly mixes styles and interleaves shorter and longer songs and that makes for consistently enjoyable listening. There’s no flash showboating either. This is just good prog and is well worth checking out.