Salva - Off The Deep End

(CD 2018, 70:30, White Knight Records)

The tracks:
  1- King of Nothing(9:38)
  2- Clarity I(6:17)
  3- Skyclad(8:41)
  4- Clarity II(4:11)
  5- The Ghost of Fives(10:47)
  6- Clarity III(5:18)
  7- Under the Fear(9:29)
  8- Clarity IV(5:07)
  9- Brickshort(11:02)

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Swedish lead guitarist Stefan Gavik and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Per Malmberg are longtime friends, as kids they played handball in the early Eighties, later they shared a burning passion for music and formed their first band, hard rock and heavy metal. In high school Per met keyboard player Johan Lindqvist through mutual friends and soon he joined the band. The Salva-project had been a musical idea of Per for many years, but it didn't become a reality until 2003 when he, Johan and Stefan decided to form Salva. They started recording what was to become their debut album, A Handful Of Earth that was released in the autumn of 2004. In 2005 the three decided it was time to start working on their second album. Johan's younger brother Fredrik Lindqvist, a gifted bassplayer, and drummer Lasse Bolin, an old school friend, both agreed to join the band and work began on what was to become Left To Burn, released in 2007 and with it Salva continued building their reputation and growing fan base. Although work on their third album started right at the heels of Left To Burn's release, several of the members got married and started families in the years that followed resulting in the recordings taking almost 3 years. During the work with the third album Salva was offered to sign with the newly started UK-record label, White Knight Records (from Rob Reed, Magenta), resulting in the release of the album Thirst (see review) in 2011. Disaster struck as drummer Lasse Bolin decided to leave the band focusing on family and day time career., but new drummer Erik Zetterlund was quickly installed and proved to be a more than worthy successor. Due to personals reasons the band decided to focus on the recording of their fourth album Sigh Of Boreas (see review), which was released in 2016. The album turned out to be a great success and both critics and fans hailed the album as the bands best effort yet. Just after the release of the album, Fredrik Lindqvist decided to leave the band which resulted in the recruiting of new bass player Daniel Nätt. For the past two years Salva have been busy writing and recording, and in October 2018 Off The Deep End was released.

After a few listening sessions my conclusion is that on this new album Salva sounds like a 'Tribute To The History Of Rock, Prog And Pop', what an incredible variety.
Between prog metal, Gothic rock and melodic rock in King Of Nothing (bombastic choirs, heavy keyboard sound, a propulsive rhythm-section and fiery electric guitar, evoking Within Temptation but also fellow Swedish rockers Europe) and the final track Brickshort (very varied, with an exciting intro delivering a glorious church organ - and Mellotron choir sound, along Gothic choirs, celestial female vocals and fat synthesizer flights).
Progressive pop with hints from Eighties Manfred Mann's Earth Band in Clarity I (swinging with tasteful keyboards and guitar) and like Alan Parsons Project in Skyclad (dreamy with a howling electric guitar solo and emotional vocals).
AOR in Clarity II (tight beat, rock organ and guitar and sparkling keyboards) and Clarity III (bombastic and dynamic with lush Hammond organ and powerful guitar, like Eighties Kansas).
Folk rock in the epic The Ghost Of Fives (varied with a wide range of instruments, from a tin-whistle sound to acoustic guitar and piano).
My highlight is the 10 minutes epic composition Under the Fear. First a swinging rhythm featuring fat synthesizer flights, then an up-tempo beat with bombastic Hammond. The music shifts into first dreamy vocals with soaring Mellotron violins and then a mid-tempo in a bombastic climate with heavy Hammond sound and again fat synthesizer flights propulsive drums. Halfway again dreamy with warm vocals and Mellotron violins, emotional vocals and tender piano, including a sparkling synth solo with powerful drum beats. The second part is also loaded with variety: from a swinging acceleration with a bombastic climate and strong vocals to a dreamy atmosphere with voices, wonderful piano runs. And finally a very compelling sound: bombastic keyboards and strong vocals, lush Hammond, fat synthesizer flights, culminating in Prog Heaven with a majestic Mellotron choir sound and moving electric guitar solo with howling runs, like the best Pallas, IQ and Marillion, wow!

I have the idea that this album suffers a bit from a too ambitious musical approach at some moments, too many ideas and too much variety. And some tracks sound for me too polished, like the AOR inspired songs and the ballad Clarity IV. But in general I conclude that this new Salva effort contains lots of entertaining and tastefully arranged music. With good work on keyboards and guitar, I wish that Salva will focus on compositions like King Of Nothing and especially Under The Fear, that is Salva at its best in my opinion.

*** Erik Neuteboom (edited by Tracy van Os van den Abeelen)

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