Intro: Thomas Sarakintsis
29 / 01 / 2018
The audience with unabated interest in the doom / heavy rock of the last fifteen years will know that Fredrik Andersson sang and played guitar on Nymphs & Weavers, the third album of the Swedish Burning Saviours. This multi-talented musician had starred in discography with his own hard & heavy rockers, Stratus. The activities of the aforementioned bands will not concern us in this regard. Blå Lotus from Örebro, Sweden are another artistic attempt of Andersson, but they are at the opposite of the guitaristic orientation of the above-mentioned bands. It is a power trio formed by Andersson and his friend Linus Karlsson. Blå Lotus were formed in 2016 and their style is based on the late 60s and early 70s tradition of progressive – and sometimes psychedelic – rock, which has played a decisive role in Andersson’s music education.
Tales from the keyboard nation
The orange cover and the volcanic fired ground depicted in Tube Alloys are not indicative of the contents of the album: it is more misleading, and refers to desert / stoner rock, while on the other hand their style suits the more artistic side of rock music. So consider the descriptions of “stoner-like riffs” in the bandcamp page of the band as incorrect.
According to Andersson himself (vintage figure, something between Eric Bloom and Jon Lord) the band originally intended to unite the style of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (and The Nice of course) with the 70s Black Sabbath, but in this case the desire was that Iommi’s riffs would be incarnated through a set of different types of keyboards. That is a bold and very interesting blending of influences, but upon entering into their microcosm, you conclude that this effect exists but takes up only part of their direction. Andersson, as a self-taught musician, is introduced with his own unique way to the legacy of Vincent Crane, Doug Ingle, Ken Hensley, and Jon Lord. The main feature of Blå Lotus and what should be emphasized is that they compose and create music based solely on the massive and robust sound of the various types of keys used by Andersson (hammond, farfisa organ, synthesizer) with the guitar being completely absent . This venture, though tested by dozens of bands in the past in both the progressive and the heavy sound in general, is what increases our interest. So, apart from the keyboard player and singer, Linus Karlsson is the bass player (he also plays theremin) with Wiktor Nydén on the drums and percussion.
From the introductory instrumental Trajectory, Keith Emerson’s keyborard prog aesthetics becomes distinct. In the masterful Mephistopeles, Andersson mentions that he uses a 1972 hammond L-100, an instrument Emerson used to play. All the tracks are great, and the material varies in spite of the distinctive compositional pattern. In the awesome Omnistellar Firefly, Andersson, who has a very good voice, sounds like Jim Morisson sings his poetry in a duet with Ian Anderson while the mid jamming section of the song is on a parallel line with Keith Emerson’s solos. The late 60s sounding epic Moebius is inspired by Doug Ingle of Iron Butterfly. The aforementioned heavy hammond Mephistopheles is completely overwhelmed by the fingers of the masters Ken Hesley, Jon Lord and Keith Emerson. The gorgeous eight-minute Indian Money culminates in a synth jam orgy matching glorious moments of the 70s, and it has already secured its place in the everlasting prog constellation. Finally, the simple but beautiful jazzy & bluesy Recreational Nuke highlights the variety of the whole album.
Our enthusiasm is great and how can it is be otherwise? In this album moments of the glorious heavy hammond prog past are highlighted and at the same time condensed in an honest and straightforward way. The feeling of fullness that you experience, a fullness that roots in the primordial moments of the genre, has to do with the remarkable and memorable keyboard riffs and all sorts of melodies that do not seek to vainly innovate but to recapitulate elements from the progressive sound mold.
9 / 10
The first album of the Swedish Blå Lotus under the title Tube Alloys is surely the ideal way to enter 2018. The album satisfies the listener’s need for progressive rock, without imitating well-known motifs, even though the influences of prog legends –mainly ELP- are more than obvious. The “no six strings allowed” principle certainly implies experimentation, but nevertheless the overall result does not go beyond the hard early 70s perfume that fills the album. The wonderful use of instruments by Andersson and the vocal lines fit very well, while the use of flute in Indian Money operates catalytically by breaking any monotony. Something similar is accomplished by the rhythmic section of Karlsson and Nyden in a piece that fully justifies its title from the well-known Faust myth due to its ‘diabolical’ rhythm. In another glance, perhaps in a future album, the use of the guitar would also be a bold choice, while a more “clean” production might had been preferable.
7 / 10