Hällas - Excerpts from a Future Past

by Bill Golembeski Rating:8 Release Date:2017-10-13
Hällas - Excerpts from a Future Past
Hällas - Excerpts from a Future Past

Remember Remember the Future? Well, now we have Hällas’ Excerpts from a Future Past. You know, time (in its past, present, and future tenses) is a funny thing.  We all move through it, but eventually, everybody gets stuck somewhere, just like those insects, plants, and water droplets caught in that Jurassic Park amber. I recently attended a Brand X concert at Shank Hall in Milwaukee. Some guy wore a fairly tattered tee shirt that sported the cover art from Nektar’s (already mentioned) Remember the Future album. He would love this record. We were all stuck together with tees that sported names like Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, Robin Trower (from a recent concert!), and Deep Purple. There was even a guy who was the envy of all because he possessed an authentic (or so he claimed) Budgie Tour 1976 shirt. We were all glued together with the music from a time that has sadly moved on. We were like old postcards stamped with fond memories. But I think everybody in the crowd that night would love this album.

Just for the record, I wore my own emblem of personal postcard pride: a red with white lettering and black Zorro mask Mott the Hoople Brain Capers shirt.

The first song, “The Astral Seer,” would have made me breathe a comfortable sigh back in 1976 while, without any hope of a girlfriend, I at least had a pretty good record on the turntable for company. And this one, if released back then, would have possessed enough new wrinkles in its proggy sound to distinguish it from the previous week’s purchase. “Astral Seer” sounds like the great (but long-forgotten) Irish band called Fruupp. It starts with an intricate guitar bit and then surges forward, and yeah, it reminds me of a cut off of Fruupp’s first Future Legends album. And those Nicklas Malmqvist keyboards call down the heavens. There are a few symphonic musical moves, but for the most part this fairly complex and powerful progressive rock.

“Repentance” just pushes the album backward into that Future Past. The dual guitar Wishbone Ash-like harmony contains all the drama that was, well, sort of expected from an album. Tommy Alexandersson’s vocals work well within the band’s framework. To tell the truth, I didn’t know if he was singing in English or his native Swedish language. That’s not really a criticism. But his voice is mixed so well into the overall sound that his accent is not really a distraction. And, in all fairness, although I would love to lounge back on a Friday night and examine the words to songs like “The Golden City of Semyra,” or “Shadow of the Templar,” I seriously doubt there’s anything here to challenge the profundity of rock’s mystic poet Jon Anderson, as he sang, “’Cause it’s time in time with your time and its news is captured/For the queen to use. Diddit diddit diddit…” To be fair, I think our Yes guru guy threw in a “didda” or two, just to expand the erudition.

But as The Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want…

And then there is an instrumental, “Nebulon’s Tower,” in which a mellotron swells, as does a rainstorm. That storm overflows into the wonderful “The Golden City of Semyra.” This one rocks with all the glory I remember my dear parents’ living room Philco stereo console could muster. “Star Rider” is organ heavy and infectious. Duel guitars just swim in warm water. The chorus is catchy and demanding like a really good song from Blue Oyster Cult circa Secret Treaties. This tune could raise a lot of lighters in an arena, if people still do that sort of thing.

By the way, I once visited The Amber Museum of the World  in Copenhagen, Denmark. While there, it occurred to me that with computer technology, it would be possible to photo shop my tourist image into a piece of amber right next to an ancient spider, insect, water droplet, or whatever existed back then and was caught in resin from eons ago. I just figured it would make a nice postcard to send to the folks back home. I could look terrified, happy, or possibly pensive. I know it’s hard to believe, and perhaps it was due to the language barrier between us, but the Danish museum guy didn’t think much of my idea.  

Well, that’s the deal with this record. It is old Jurassic Park stuck in amber school. It’s caught in time. It’s a postcard with a picture of the past. It’s like churned rock and roll butter when some big corporation sells the darn stuff at prices that put the family farm out of business.

I really do like this record. But it does take a grain of sand and humor to enjoy progressive rock so it avoids becoming one long ELP record where the show never does seem to end.

The final songs, “Shadow of the Templar” and “Illusion Sky” push the music to its quintessential moment. Record albums did that sort of thing. Guitars start and stop. There’s a wonderful pulsating bass. The keyboards swell behind distorted vocals. Ultimately, this may not be important stuff, but it sure sounds like important stuff. And there may be a concept story to the whole thing. “Shadow of the Templar” rocks a bit. “Illusion” is moody and complex. And then the tune simply rides on the merits of all the music that graced the previous grooves. There is both drama and grace—the stuff I loved long ago.

It’s funny. As I left that Copenhagen World Amber Museum, several Japanese tourists approached me and expressed interest in a postcard in which they shared the stage with prehistoric plant matter. I shook their hands and gave them each a hug. Perhaps, like so many great bands, these guys will be big in Japan. And, again, as The Stones said, “You can’t always get what you want…”

So, yeah, it’s about amber. I love this album. Recently, I purchased the new Haken album Affinity. It’s a modern prog darling. A lot of people love it. I found it precise, harsh, metallic, and without a soul. It gave me a headache. The band even brought in a cookie monster vocalist (Einar Solberg) to guest on a track.  It’s certainly not a bad record. It may even be a great record. It just doesn’t, at least to my ears, sit comfortably in the color and beauty of amber. Sure, this album is stuck in time. But I’m happily there, with postmarked memories, right next to an insect, a spider, a water droplet or, for that matter, a pretty good progressive rock band from Sweden.

 

 

 

 

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