From his original gig with his brother in Pain of Salvation as a bassist and singer, to his projects with KAYAK, Neal Morse, Damian Wilson, and Lana Lane, Kristoffer Gildenlöw is a true veteran of the progressive rock scene. The Swedish artist is about to release his fifth solo album “Empty” on February 8th. “Empty” marks a deliberate shift in Kristoffer Gildenlöw’s musical direction, steering towards symphonic/progressive rock with a prominent rock band lineup at its core—featuring guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals—accentuated by grand arrangements and commanding guitar solos.
We are happy to report that his record rewards multiple listens. Let me begin by stating that I haven’t listened to such an interesting piece of music with such playful, shimmery, and incredible vocals in a long time. Yeah, well, I’m a vocal fan first and foremost, sorry! While I can truly enjoy a great instrumental performance, if the vocals are not absolutely tight, they just kill the vibe for me.
Naturally, the retro Pink Floyd-inspired music of Kristoffer is an alchemical blend that folds progressive rock and psychedelia into its classically beautiful scenery. Gildenlöw explores a wide range of emotions with each piece in this collection, delving into the profound and human aspects of life while expressing vulnerability and raw emotions. It is impressive that he does not appear to compose progressive music in the hopes of making the listener’s head spin, but instead to serve as a tool for healing.
The very first seconds of the opener ‘Time To Turn The Page‘ remind me of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters‘ but it takes a slightly different turn. The track is filled with layers, proggy nuggets, and time signature changes that keep you intellectually engaged. In addition to the rhythms, the first track ‘Empty’ shows beautiful vocal delivery, which adds quite a dramatic flair to it.
It is impossible to resist the intense sonic assault and the smooth transitions of the vocals during ‘End Of Their Road‘. Everything about this track is beautiful. I cannot stress that enough. The artist has taken progressive rock, fused it with some atmospheric ballads, and made something quite extraordinary. But what most defines the record is the emotion conveyed, bolstered by Kristoffer’s heartfelt vocals and the rather playful atmosphere.
As vibrant as ‘Harbinger Of Sorrow‘ is, there is a sense of somberness surrounding it. A hypnotic prog track for all your needs. ‘He’s Not Me‘, is a deeply Floydian piece, eye-catching and memorable. There are so many things at play on this track. Despite borrowing from the likes of David Gilmour, he blends it in an enchanting way that makes it hard to get enough.
With ‘Black & White‘ and ‘Down We Go‘, you are immersed in a gloomy atmosphere while also being reassured of your safety. This is achieved by the guitar solos coupled with the beautiful orchestral melodies brimming over with emotion.
In ‘Turn It All Around‘, there are many interesting layers of instrumental and vocal layers, whereas ‘Means To An End‘ is more of an absorbing ballad with great string arrangements and solos. ‘Beautiful Decay‘ and ‘The Brittle Man‘ are filled with content, swinging from one musical concept to another. They feel very purposeful, with some pretty cool riffs.
‘Saturated’ is incredibly layered, and the backing vocals are powerful, elevating the atmosphere. With a cinematic feel, it keeps you focused as if you were watching a thriller film that requires your full attention. The ten-minute title track is ambient in all its forms. It feels darker than the rest of the album, yet it’s introspective and glorious.
‘Empty’ unfolds as a critical and at times cynical examination of humanity, scrutinizing our actions, omissions, and the tendency to prioritize trivial matters over what truly holds significance. The album prompts contemplation on whether our existence, as observed by the creator, might be deemed a colossal mistake, sparking the question: Is it time to embark on a new beginning?from Kristoffer’s press release
“Empty” is masterfully produced, and the songwriting makes for a diverse listen that subverts expectations just when things start to verge back on the traditional. In terms of its instrumental composition, the album echoes the psychedelic and progressive soundscapes of Pink Floyd and sometimes Genesis but with a more modern approach. This is such a compelling listening album with the right amount of emotional depth that facilitates closer listening, while also remaining gentle and playful enough to be enjoyed in the background.
Pre-order the album here.
Latest posts by Nicoleta Raicu (see all)
- Swedish Band PORTRAITS & TALES Talks Latest Track And Motivations - February 26, 2024
- ‘Sound of Unirii’: Video Mapping in An Audio-Visual Performance - February 26, 2024
- BAU Has Designed A Snaking Bridge Over Yuandang Lake - February 23, 2024