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Difficult Math’s Test Passed with Dooming Colours - 94%

bayern, March 28th, 2017

Many fans were certain that Candlemass were finished once Messiah Marcolin left them in the early-90's. Well, they were proven wrong not before long with the excellent “Chapter VI” which was universally denounced, first because of the absence of the ultimate mournful wailer, and second due to the change of style towards a more flexible progressive power metal sound. It’s the latter that we’re going to pay attention more here as it opened a valve on the Swedish metal scene that produced some of the finest bands ever, and literally saved Sweden from the grungy/groovy/alternative debacle that destroyed so many other scenes around the world in the 90’s.

It’s a small world, the Swedish metal one… Everyone knows everyone. And what’s more, everyone knows Mike Wead, the guitar virtuoso, the second best shredder Sweden ever produced after Yngwie Malmsteen. The guy stirred the underground with his main band Hexenhaus (earlier Manninya Blade) producing three outstanding works of technical/progressive thrash within the span of four years. However, he stopped to listen around in the early-90’s in order to see which way the scene was moving. Obviously, the groovy/post-thrashy charade was no match to his talents so there had to be another niche that he would have been able to fit in. The latest Candlemass (“Chapter VI” again”) opus by all means impressed him so without second thoughts he decided to embark on this exciting progressive power/doom metal journey. He merely changed his act’s name to Memento Mori, teamed up with the former Candlemass vocalist Marcolin, and he was ready to go.

Two albums were released in quick succession before Marcolin decided to take a break. A great timing for sure as Candlemass’ own Leif Edling was looking to establish a new project, the band under scrutiny here, and the guitar virtuoso instantly grabbed the opportunity to work with him. With said Candlemass opus and the first two Memento Mori works nicely outlining the path of the new movement, the guys didn’t have much left to do, but to start composing. However, Edling had bigger ambitions waiting to be explored…

The album reviewed here is a meticulously crafted work of complex technical/progressive metal, a great collaboration between the two masterminds who also brought the talented singer Mats Leven in for the fun. This proverbial partnership begins with “Sitgmata”, a stomping volcanizer which quickly unleashes fast ripping riffs before one starts detecting vestiges of Candlemass; progressive doomy build-ups inevitably rise to the surface in the middle, but the sharp clinical guitar work tells a different story. “Shadowplay” is a heavy semi-galloper with spinning technical riffage, a seismic ship-sinker with screamy leads and excellent dramatic vocals. “Nameless” “flirts” with doom for a start and its dramatic accumulations do resemble the ones on “Chapter VI” including on the minimalistic exiting passage.

The title-track is a progressive opus which keeps its deeply atmospheric semi-balladic nature wrapped in an enchanting guitars/keyboards duel. “Bitterroot” is a sombre doomster with balladic sections occupying the middle, but also with more energetic galloping dashes later, the overall approach again clinging towards the last Candlemass effort. “April Clouds” is a sprawling doom metal elegy with sinister funeral atmosphere the latter dissipated to an extent by the following “Vanishing Man”, a dirgy creeper with Leven trying some not very convincing synthesized vocals amongst the macabre doomy riffs. “Who What Where When” is a gigantic 15.5-min saga with a most abrupt aggressive beginning which nearly shoots the composition into a Hexenhaus territory; the guys admirably keep the high energy for at least half the playing time as Wead unleashes some really captivating technical riffage before the second half sinks in spacey doomy, also quite abstract, waters the “feast” finished with the introductory speedy passage; a really engaging and diverse number closing this album with aplomb.

In the end it’s the Edling vision that has been given more space here as the delivery again comes close to the latest at the time Candlemass showing the man not willing to stray too far from an already mapped trajectory. Some guess that Edling tried a step similar to the one of Wead, to change the name of the band for a while, but to continue composing similar stuff, maybe a bit expanded with other additives. Well, the two cases can’t really be compared as the Memento Mori repertoire had very little to do with the aggressive thrashy exploits of Hexenhaus save for the latter’s last entry (“Dejavoodoo”, 1997) which was just a slightly edgier version of the Memento Mori sound. One shouldn’t blame Edling for having his heart deeply rooted in doom, and that whatever he would try subsequently (Krux, his solo project, Avatarium, the newly established The Doomsday Kingdom, etc.) would always be supporting the doom metal idea, one way or another; unlike Wead whose guitar pyrotechnics were, and still are, fitting any existing genre with ease.

So how did the Abstrakt Algebra saga evolve later? Well, there was no saga in the proper sense of the word; Edling had a new material recorded for the next Algebraic instalment two years later, but the labels were not interesting in financing his “mathematical” aspirations. They were a lot keener on seeing a Candlemass reunion so it came as no surprise that that material became the next Candlemass opus, “Dactylis Glomerata”, in 1998. Ironically, it was on these tracks that Edling had decided to branch out into the unknown with more verve thus exiting the doom metal field more than what a Candlemass recording should require. It was labelled as the band’s weakest recording, at least by the critics and the fans, and Edling and Co. moved on…

It seems as though the Abstrakt Algebra story reached its final chapter a long time ago. Still, I have the nagging feeling that Edling has been writing again… I mean some strange mathematical formulas that he would never think of bothering his Candlemass mates with; very close to the ones that helped him pass a really hard test more than twenty years ago.

A weird and technical effort - 79%

Agonymph, January 16th, 2007

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.

Bland Quasi-Doom - 60%

Lord_Elden, October 11th, 2006

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 under the moniker KingBizarre)