Roine Stolt must be a very busy man. He's a band member or associated with The Flower Kings - by the way, do they still exist? - The Tangent, Karmakanic, Transatlantic and of course with his most recent band Agents Of Mercy. The Black Forest is their third album and it's by far the best, but also the darkest. It's a concept album dealing with disturbing, dark times featuring greed and hunger for power and money. Doesn't that sound familiar..? The music on this album contains a more rock approach, but you can still hear symphonic and progressive elements. The guitars and the drums have moved forward in the sound, but the Moogs and Mellotrons are still clearly present. The playing time of most of the songs is longer than on the previous two albums. Agents Of Mercy still consist of Nad Sylvan (vocals, keys), Roine Stolt (guitars, vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass guitar), Lalle Larsson (keyboards, vocals) and Walle Wahlgren (drums). On the first two albums Sylvan's voice was a kind of problem for me, but on this one his vocals sound much better or maybe I've got gradually used to his 'Gabriel meets Fish' voice.
The album opens with the amazing title track, an epic piece lasting over eleven minutes. It contains great hooks, excellent riffs and melodies and brilliant vocal passages. I'm sure that this piece will become an Agents Of Mercy classic! Black Sunday is the heaviest song; especially Stolt's hard hitting guitar is outstanding here. Elegy is a ballad followed by the electrifying Citadel featuring a Led Zeppelin riff. It's inspired by the legend of the Blood Queen, a serial killer who lived from 1561 until 1614. The album ends with another highlight, namely the instrumental Kingdom Of Heaven in which Roine Stolt plays some astonishing guitar. This song has been dedicated to his father. Conclusion: The Black Forest is a great progressive rock album that will be a delight to listen to for fans of Roine Stolt and all the bands he's associated with. Highly recommended indeed!
**** Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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