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When Leif Edling put Candlemass to rest for the first time, he was looking for something a little different. So he teamed up with his old friend Mike Wead (who actually was in Candlemass for a brief period) and singer extraordinaire Mats Levén, who later worked with Edling in Krux. My expectations were something like a faster version of Krux, of which, besides Edling and Levén, also keyboard player Carl Westholm was involved with Abstrakt Algebra. It wasn’t.
What it is, is kind of hard to describe though. It’s still quite doomy, in the sense that the tempo is below the average of my collection. And it’s highly technical. And weird! If the band name didn’t give you that impression yet, the artwork certainly will. At some point, the stuff is even too weird, for my taste. Most of the material really grew on me after some time though. There are definitely some great moments on this album.
Absolute highlight for me personally is ‘Shadowplay’. This is Leif Edling at his best. The song is structured nicely, slightly surprisingly, the riffs are killer and Mats Levén once again shows why he is Metal’s best vocalist. In the chorus, which has some great, subtle piano work, Levén especially displays his greatness. Mike Wead does some stellar guitar solos throughout the song as well. It’s really a pity the album was distributed so poorly; ‘Shadowplay’ deserves to be heard. The song alone is enough to purchase the album.
But there’s more good stuff on the album. Opening track ‘Stigmata’ more or less follows the same path, albeit slightly more technical. Great chorus too, by the way. ‘Abstrakt Algebra’ shows every single band member in top form and has a great chorus which is meant to be screamed along and in ‘Nameless’, Mats Levén once again stands out with an incredible vocal performance (what else is new?).
In the category “too weird”, there’s the song ‘April Clouds’, possibly the slowest song Edling was ever involved with. Not that that’s a problem; ‘Bitteroot’ is slow too, but that one is pretty enjoyable. ‘April Clouds’ is just too slow and the church organ really gets on my nerves after a while. Besides, I’d rather hear some singing than some distorted whispers from Levén. I really don’t like the psychedelic industrial track ‘Vanishing Man’ either. Monotonous and annoying. And once again, Levén is singing below his par. But let’s not forget just how good his par is.
Closing track ‘Who What Where When’ (a disastrous title for a journalism student like yours truly) took me longer than any other track to get into. The song lasts over 15 minutes and I used to think at least the last three minutes belonged in the trashcan. After some time, I realized there was really some brilliance in the song structure, which isn’t unlike Krux’ epic masterpiece ‘Lunochod’. While not as good as that one (almost though, ‘Lunochod’ just sets an eerie mood and builds towards a climax slightly better), ‘Who What Where When’ is a true riff monster which is remarkably accessible for its length. Especially when compared to the rest of the album. I think it’s a great closer.
Though ‘Abstrakt Algebra’ isn’t exactly the masterpiece a lot of people want me to believe it is, it’s a highly enjoyable album once it sinks in. It just needed a whole shitload of time before it did for me. Once it does, you’ll notice that this is an album full of excellent musicianship, which has a couple of wonderful moments. But I think that if you want to hear the combination of Edling’s songwriting, Levén’s divine vocals and Westholm’s psychedelia in its ultimate form, checking out Krux would be a better idea.
Being a fan of Traditional Doom I checked out Abstrakt Algebra because of Leif Edling's involvement. Unfortunately this pales in comparison to Candlemass or even Krux. The music itself is leaning more towards Power Metal (not that sugar-coated European Power Metal, which I like to call Flower Metal, mind you) than actual Doom.
The album starts strongly with the song Stigmata which is the most memorable song of the mediocre lot found on this album. It's been awhile since I listened to the album but I can still hear the refrain. The next two songs are more or less solid. Listenable but rather bland. And the fourth song, the eponymous title track is the other highlight of the album. After that the whole shebang looses the sense of direction and becomes a mish-mash musical playground for Edling's ideas. Ideas that don't fit into the album as a whole. There's no doubt that the band is a bunch of talented fellows but there's enough material here for an EP, not a full length album. Filling it with experimental half-finished song-wannabies destroys the overall impression.
And then there's the matter of production. I have nothing against what so many people call poor production. If poor production means muddy, raw, old school and vintage. The problem with Abstrakt Algebra is that the production feels tame. The riffs should be much more aggressive. And the doomy parts should be crushingly heavy and pounding. I want to hear an angry tiger but I get a Fluffy on morphine instead. And I can hear the vocalist has potential, but the production cages that potential leaving him too low in the mix.
Altogether a rather half-baked and bland album with two somewhat outstanding songs. Recommended only for fans of Leid Edling.
(Originally written for rateyourmusic.com under the moniker KingBizarre)