How Prog’s Most Reclusive Band Änglagård Made Third Album Viljans Öga

For many who revere the altar of first-wave prog, Änglagård is a contemporary band of almost mystical significance. The connoisseur’s choice when it comes to modern Swedish music, they were one of the few bands to tout progressive code in the early 90s, arguably sparking a renewed interest in vintage sounds and wild experimentation that continues to swirl around. flourish and develop today.

Their first album hubris emerged in 1992. An innocent but lovingly crafted love letter to the early days of King Crimson and Yes, it was an enigmatic anomaly thrown into a lake of largely indifferent modernity… and yet the ripples still reverberate on the shore welcoming of the prog today.

The only problem with Änglagård, however, is that they are, compared to most of their peers at least, borderline recluses who have only managed to release three studio albums in the last 25 years. The gap between 1994 Epilogue and their most recent studio effort, Viljans Oga (2012), was a startling 18 years, suggesting either laziness or an almost incredibly incremental game plan. The truth, however, quickly becomes apparent when Program talks to three of Änglagård’s current six musicians via a crystal-clear Skype signal. Founding members Johan Brand (bass) and Jonas Engdegård (guitar), and drummer Erik Hammarström, are huddled together, looking distinctly awkward and uncomfortable. The body language is deafening. Somewhat disarmingly, Engdegård is happy to explain why his band has had such a sporadic history so far.

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“The very short story is that it’s a very unhappy marriage,” he says with a wry half-smile. “We basically can’t live with each other, so we keep falling apart and breaking up after arguments and fights, but we keep coming together and dreaming of doing something again.”

“Everyone in the group has a very strong vision, I guess,” adds Hammarström. “Sometimes we don’t all share the same vision. But we all have strong feelings.

“That explains why we stay together for a few years and then break up,” Brand rises. “But those strong wills and those crazy people, that’s Änglagård. We have a unique sound and that’s where it comes from.

By no means the first band to report that friction was an essential spur to creativity, Änglagård may have struggled to get to the end of every studio project or extended tour, but the results are obvious to all. . The band’s current incarnation – which also includes flautist Anna Holmgren, guitarist Tord Lindman and keyboardist Linus Kåse – has been far more prolific and busy than any previous line-up, touring three nights at Club Citta in Tokyo as main support for The Crimson ProjeKct and a place on the stage organized by compatriot Mikael Åkerfeldt at Roadburn in 2014 among their most recent achievements. But just over 20 years ago, Änglagård began life as a lonely voice, howling in the middle of a barren prog wasteland.

“It was a historic low for progressive rock in the early 90s,” says Hammarström. “Almost nothing existed. We may flatter ourselves, but it wasn’t very difficult to be the best progressive rock band at the time. He was totally dead in Sweden. Normally you become a punk rocker and you want to talk and scare your grandma, but for me, I have two big sisters and I grew up with that kind of music and all the big bands of the 70s, so it’s was normal to continue in this kind of music. Prog rock can also be a rebellion thing, I think.

“We were big fans of progressive music and we celebrated the genre because we loved the music so much,” Brand recalled. “If you listen to the first album, hubris, it’s a small attempt to celebrate the genre, in our own way and with some Swedish folk influences and a mixture of our personalities. It was not just about repeating the past.

“A lot of people mix it up the wrong way,” Engdegård interjects. “We like to use vintage instruments but especially now, today, I think we’re creating progress in music. We’re pushing the boundaries. We’re not writing typical 70s prog rock. But I think some people hear we play mellotrons and Rickenbackers and we have the old sounds, so they think we play retro music. We think we’re a band that really plays progressive rock in the truest sense of the word, and we take it to a higher level.

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Despite the 18-year gap between their second and third albums, it’s not hard to see the red line that runs through the Änglagård catalog and how Viljans Oga represented the culmination of two decades of evolution and turbulence. A staggering four-song work that vividly recalls the best of the original ’70s prog era while sounding quite unlike anything around back then – or anything today, d ‘somewhere else – Viljans Oga is clearly a labor of love and, given the difficult relationships these dedicated musicians share, another potential minefield designed to test Änglagård’s collective resolve.

“This record was a huge effort to make,” agrees Engdegård. “Then we did about five shows, in the United States, France, Belgium, Portugal and Sweden. Then we crashed again and said, “Never again!” [laughs]. Some band members wanted to continue touring, so there was a small change in the line-up. They brought Linus on keyboards and Erik on drums and went on for two years without me.

“We were tired, all of us,” adds Brand. “We had serious problems with our drummer. Jonas took a break and me and Anna wanted to continue, but we couldn’t move on with the drummer. So we had to find a new drummer and, when our keyboardist decided he didn’t want to play live, a new keyboardist too.

“We all met a few times and jammed a lot and tried new things, and then this opportunity to play in Japan came along,” says Hammarström. “We were asked to go and play three nights with The Crimson ProjeKct in Tokyo. I had never been to Japan before, so it was ‘Go!’ and that was the debut of the quintet version of Änglagård It really took off and we played some really good shows in Mexico, Germany and Poland, from the start this band had a really big potential and we all love good music and the people are really nice, but they’re uncompromising. It’s not like an ordinary band.

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Speaking to this trio of driven artists, it’s very obvious that what propels the Änglagård ship forward is an obsession with the music itself. The creative process and the ability to see crazy ideas come to life transcends any petty feuds that individual musicians may have (or have had) with each other over the years. Like their Swedish brethren in Opeth and Anekdoten, Änglagård have been doing this long enough to consider the popularity of prog music in 2015 as proof that they were right all along and that the timeless nature of truly creative music will both sustain their careers. and their own interest. to push forward their own sound with dogged determination. More than any other band from the frigid north, however, Änglagård could be forgiven for considering themselves the godfathers of a local scene that has grown from nothing to something quite extraordinarily fertile.

“I don’t know about that, but I think Änglagård’s sound is really unique,” replies Engdegård, a little reluctant to honk his horn. “There are a lot of great prog bands in Sweden, but I don’t know any other band that sounds like us. I think there is this little corner for us. I think a lot of fans think so too.

“The progressive genre is much bigger now, of course,” says Brand. “The international community is also much bigger now, thanks to the internet age. It’s much easier these days. Everything is faster. It’s fantastic to have Facebook and all these things. We are very happy to do this in the modern age.

Right now there seems every chance that Änglagård is marching towards many more triumphs Where disintegrate amid a melee of acrimonious frustration. Perhaps this knife-point existence is what they need to fully engage with the magic that vibrates at the heart of Swedes’ thrilling and idiosyncratic sound. With well-committed writing for Viljans Ogalong-awaited sequel, plans to release a live DVD in the near future and a reserved spot on Cruise To The Edge next November, it seems harmony is the current state within the Änglagård camp. If we generously assume, then, that all potential interpersonal disasters are avertable, what can we expect from the band’s fourth album when it finally arrives?

“It’s very difficult to predict with us!” Endegård laughs.

“Everyone in Änglagård is writing music now…and very interesting music!” Brand declares with a broad smile. “We have a lot of ideas. I think it’s going to be a very interesting album with a lot of energy. We might do a triple album! Each band member gets a side from the album, so I have my own side for my own song and all other members can contribute and add their special feelings and sounds. Like a concept album…”

“With six producers,” adds Endegård. “But never All at the same time!”

This article originally appeared in issue 57 of Program Magazine.

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