Staying in Scandinavia for the next review, but this time off to Pietarsaari, Finland and a guitarist by the name of Henric Blomqvist.
'All Of Your Illusions' is his first solo album and features several different vocalists – an idea he got after playing with Doogie White and Doogie telling him about how he liked playing with different guitarists.
Participating artists and friends that Henric has co-written the songs with are Doogie White (MSG, ex-Rainbow, Malmsteen etc.), Jari Tiura (Stargazery, ex-MSG), Jukka Nummi (Rainbow Shakers, Angry Machines, ex-Myon), Johan Mattjus, (Solid Faces, ex-Stormwing). Other musicians featuring on the album are Jonas Kuhlberg (bass, MyGrain), Sven Wannäs (Hammond & keyboards, Solid Faces, Kaos Krew, ex-Stormwing) and Roger Snellman (drums, Solid Faces, ex-Tinderbox).
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The theme is very much in the classic rock vein and although collaborations have happened, the main bulk of the songwriting is down to Henric himself, who happens to be a very talented classical guitarist as well.
So to the music, which is kind of why we are all here.
First up is 'Place Of Fear' which starts of with some eerie synth, belting into some classic classic rock riffs with a bit of twist, a bit more to it than your average headbanging riff. Vocals fitting perfectly with the guitar, in harmony, chorus melody hammering into your head. Nice emotive synth coming in almost by surprise where you would expect guitar solo to be but that comes just after, fear not. And a good piece of six string chicanery it is too. A good starter and although not over complicated it is done perfectly, guitar always bringing the track forward, its fruity riff a sound worth listening to.
So to 'Thunderbrigade' and a gentler beginning, but not any less catchy, chanting and military rolling drums before it goes back to the guitar again, an electro acoustic sound. Vocals come in with drums and 30 seconds in there have already been about four layers to the song.
The singing on this one is a little higher in pitch and it fits well with the guitar, again the songwriting and its melodic contents standing out. Allowing the different vocalists to put their feel on the melodies and harmonies was a masterstroke. This one has a military feel to the whole song and given the subject matter that is something else that fits very well indeed. Going back down to the original guitar sound before coming to a crescendo. Superb song.
'Pain That Gains' comes next, balladic this one. Synth and guitar, emotive voice, drums filling in behind. The changes in the guitar during this give it that clever mixed feeling of sadness and hope all at once in the music, with the lyrics adding to the sad feel behind it. Well constructed and different guitar solo, up tempo for the song type – this isn't a templated ballad a la Bon Jovi that makes you want to scratch your eyes out. If you want to liken it to something, try one of the better ones by the Scorpions (no 'Winds Of Change' whether from the weather or curry).
'Black Sky' starts off with a brief synth, tonally paying tribute to Jon Lord's beginning to 'Perfect Strangers'. Classic riff again, this time swinging its way into your consciousness. This one is more in your straight up rock vein, drums pounding, clever fills adding depth to it. Guitar solo in the middle a nifty piece of fretwork, a little Malmsteenish and well done. The riff in this one though really catches the ears, straightforward in your face, but with a more flowered tone and creative time manipulations give it a real impetus.
'Plenty Of Reasons' again takes things down just a little and is purely instrumental. Electric on top of semi acoustic, filled with passion and passion filled fingering (careful with your minds now). When he lets rip it really is impressive stuff but equally impressive is the restrain and his refusal to turn it into an exercise in self gratification, as is the way of too many in this situation.
'Till The End Of Time' kicks in with more masterful riffery almost immediately, another track heading for the delicate area just between the eyes. Melodic chorus, a feature of the album, again filling the sound, bluesy rock and roll rhythm chugging along behind it all the way. Again vocals fitting very well, filled with power, control and most important tone.
Time to test the memory on the next one for 'When We Were Young'. This has more of a funky feel to it, although still out and out rocking. Again vocally impressive, rhythm section pulling it along before it slides into an interesting multi faceted guitar solo. An interesting track, well written as you would expect by now but also a departure from what has come before – this isn't a one trick pony, or even two trick one come to think of it.
'Perfect Dream' carries on with the slightly offbeat theme. Offbeat in a good way – not just repetitive similarly constructed songs. Don't get me wrong, it still rocks as well as any on the album, especially when his guitar gets going towards the end of the song but there is a different feel to the whole composition and it is good. There is a clever use of the keyboards as well giving a whole lot of depth and substance to the track.
'Lonely As I Am' starts off a little heavier, drums pounding out a rhythm matching the guitar, before those riffs come in again. Chorus a little different, slower, more deliberate – the vocal melodies all come through in the verses.
So to the final offering, the title track 'All Your Illusions' and another instrumental one. This one is a lot heavier than the previous instrumental on the album and again very well constructed, multi layered, even going a little middle eastern in the middle before sliding seamlessly into some more fretwork of the highest order.
It isn't just about the guitar either, keyboards take over five minutes in and compliment it beautifully, some Rick Wakeman-esque drifting thrown in and they continue during the last guitar solo extravaganza. The drums as well have a big part to play, especially leading the way into the finale.
So there you have it. Definitely as a debut solo album it is a good result – good songwriting, great musical performances and varied enough musically to keep the interest. The idea of using different vocalists is a good and the concept of letting them have input into the structure is a winner.
Production wise it is good although maybe could do with a little beefing up, a little more raw if you will.
Hopefully they will get the touring band together although of course probably not with as many vocalists as appear on the album. But their voices are not so many tones apart that one singer couldn't manage the whole set.
You can find out more about Henric and the album at http://www.henricblomqvist.com/ as well as on Facebook and ReverbNation