The Swedish family band Introitus belonged to one of the big surprises of 2010 with their excellent debut album Fantasy. I gave this concept album the highest possible rating of five stars meaning that I considered it to be a masterpiece. Fantasy also ended up as number one in my personal list over 2010. Being a reviewer I'm in the fortunate position to review their second album Elements as well.
Introitus took form in 2005. Until then it was a kind of hobby project by Mats Bender (keyboards) and his wife and singing teacher Anna Jobs Bender (vocals). In addition the band - or the project if you like - consist of Johanna Bender (percussion, keyboards), Mattias Bender (drums, backing vocals), Henrik Björlind (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Pär Helje (lead guitars, backing vocals) and Dennis Lindqvist (bass guitar).
The new album of Introitus is a 72-minute long journey of symphonic and neo-progressive rock. The album can be divided in five long epic pieces and four short connecting interludes named after the four elements Earth, Wind, Fire and Water. In the opener The Hand That Feeds You, a majestic spacey sounding synthesizer in the vein of Ayreon leads to Anna Bender's fine voice. This piece rocks from beginning till end with a fantastic sound coming out of your Dolby surround system, provided that you have one of course. You can enjoy several interesting breaks in this fourteen-minute epic like a two-minute Camel-like flute interlude and a brilliant guitar solo in the vein of Mike Holmes (IQ). The drums of Mattias Bender are very impressive as well providing for the right tempo and rhythms for this excellent song. The middle-section is a rather strange blend of Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and ELP's Tarkus, due to the Hammond and organ solos. Anna's vocals easily reach for the high notes like Tracy Hitchings (Landmarq), Lana Lane or Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn). Earth is the first short and spacey interlude connecting The Hand That Feeds You with the ballad-like song Like Always. This piece has a romantic and peaceful atmosphere, but never gets too sweet and ending with a fantastic 'Brian Josh meets Andy Latimer' guitar solo. Wind is the second interlude with some wind noises and a flute. Restless exactly expresses the meaning of the word: a turbulent and unpredictable instrumental track wherein all musicians and vocalists get a short solo spot. However, I have to admit that the beginning of this track doesn't belong to my favourite passages. But after a few minutes the song grows on you with some very good flute work and guitar solos by Henrik Björlind and Pär Helje.
After Fire, the third interlude, Dreamscape provides for a real musical surprise. This epic piece is a melting pot of the music that Landmarq, Mostly Autumn and Yes make. Starting as an up-tempo ballad the pace increases fast like a car on a racing circuit. Again the lyrics fit perfectly with Anna Bender's lead vocals. After six minutes you'll hear an impeccable combination of bass, drums, guitar riffs and stunning keyboard work. The finale is just brilliant, but I don't want to give it away! Final and longest track is the seventeen-minute long epic Soulprint that starts dramatically with the flute and the cello. In this piece you'll hear all the interesting musical elements of progressive rock played with an amazing energy and fantasy by excellent musicians!
Introitus have done it again and they have grown a lot! I know, it's only the beginning of 2011, but I can't imagine that this album will not end up as the number one in my personal list at the end of the year. For me this album can hardly be exceeded by any other album this year...
***** Cor Smeets (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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