Kristoffer Gildenlöw may not be a name that immediately springs to mind when discussing progressive music. Yet, mention the name of the Swedish Prog Metal band Pain Of Salvation, and that becomes another matter. Kristoffer, brother of founder member Daniel Gildenlöw, played bass between 1994 and 2006 when he chose to lead and pursue other musical options and directions.
Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Empty
Release Date: 8 February 2024
Words: Adrian Stonley
In the years between, Kristoffer Gildenlöw has engendered a stunning reputation as a go-to session player, having worked with such diverse and renowned rock acts as Neal Morse (ex-Spock’s Beard), Lana Lane, Damian Wilson (Arena and ex-Threshold) and Dutch proggers Kayak.
Empty is Kristoffer’s fifth solo album, and following the pattern of previous albums, this is also a concept album. Though indirectly, as opposed to being a storytelling piece. Through the music, the intention here is to encourage listeners to consider various scenarios and situations.
It is an album that is aimed at connecting mentally and emotionally with its listeners, encouraging them to reflect on such issues as the world environment and our states of mind and emotions. It aims to encourage the listener to reflect and consider how they connect physically and emotionally to the world and its environs around them.
So, let’s get to the core of the matter directly. With that heavy-duty background, how does the music stand up?
This is not an album that is instantly attainable and will take a few spins for the listener to appreciate the intentions of the artist. But as an album that drips progressive rock, that is a concept not unfamiliar to those listeners who will be reaching out for this offering.
There has often been an underlying approach to prog albums that reflects an attitude of ‘the more it requires listening to, then the better it is and the more the listener will gain from the album.’
Personally, I can relate to this approach. This is not an album for the light-hearted or those who want a quick pop fix. It is very definitely aimed at the more refined listeners who are prepared to take time over their musical artistry.
However, none of these comments should be taken negatively. There is a lot to like here. It just takes time to peel back the layers, dive into the songs and get to the core of what Kristoffer Gildenlöw has developed here. And there are many layers, whether musical or lyrical, as the songs bring to life the thoughts and ideas of the lyricist.
This is not light popular music. It does not provide three-minute fizzy, high-energy quick fixes. It is a very deep and thought-provoking album, multi-layered in complexity both musically and lyrically.
Musically, Kristoffer’s influences are clearly on display, with the guitar work having a very definite Gilmouresque touch, and in parts, the vocal intonation of Mark Knopfler can clearly be heard, particularly in songs such as the latest single, Saturation.
At other times the vocals can be quite downplayed in the mix, encouraging the listener to concentrate harder on the piece to follow the lyric to its conclusion. This is clearly the case on Time To Turn The Page.
Thematically, the album has a defined direction, but musically, a clear pattern develops across the varying pieces. The album’s general feel is that of beautifully crafted soft, layered and textured music. The vocals, bringing the ideas to life, are not forceful and are integrated within the music as though these are almost an additional instrument, utilising the varying tonal attributes to enhance the piece.
There is a gentle ambience that lies across the twelve pieces that make up this album. Though individually and lyrically unconnected, they form a greater piece. The songs themselves exhibit all the traits of a well-developed project, with intricate melodies interwoven with delicate and thoughtful musicianship.
Melodic strings hang over a number of the pieces, and this provides an almost ethereal feel to proceedings. Perhaps this is an album to be played late at night when the listener is in a reflective and thoughtful mood.
Songwise, the album has much to offer. Though no doubt unintentional, the song Black & White has a very close, Mostly Autumn vibe to it in the way that the tune is expressed, even down to the guitar break and the song structure.
Turn It All Around has a light fluttering keyboard interspersed with a string arrangement and what appears to be a delicate pizzicato-style string plucking. However, whilst typing, the writer is still trying to ascertain if this is a string section or an additional layer of keys designed to sound like strings overlayed across the piece. Sorry, my ear is not that finely attuned.
The first single from the album, Saturated, starts with a gentle choral chant, which is reprised throughout the piece before the main theme kicks in and delicious guitarwork takes the piece to the next level.
The title track, Empty, starts slowly and is drawn out with light touch keys, providing a framework for the Roger Waters style near spoken word lyrical feel to sit upon. It is soft, moody and thought-provoking before the Floydesque theme continues with a guitar break that bleeds emotion and melody.
This album is certainly worth more than one listen. Take your time. You will need it to appreciate the intent that lies within fully. It provides a journey, an exploration in which the listener can partake and immerse themselves, to listen and consider inner thoughts and ideas.
Yet, it is not an album that preaches to the listener. Use it to make up your mind on the concept, or simply lay back and enjoy it and let the melodies flow over you.
Kristoffer Gildenlöw Empty is available from buyyouralbum.com/kristoffer-gildenlow.