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Mattias Ohlsson Project - Illumination Award winner

Mattias Ohlsson Project
by Neil Cook at 30 September 2020, 10:37 AM

Illumination” is the debut album from Swedish musician MATTIAS OHLSSON. In the best traditions of Prog this is a concept piece.  It follows a mans decent into madness, which when you distill it into that one simple sentence sounds like so many proggy concept albums since the beginning of time (well the late 60s anyway).
However, and coming from someone for whom the phrase “Prog concept album” give me shivers, and leaves me expecting hours of tedious, overlong tedium, or something so impenetrable and incomprehensive, I simply turn it off.  Well I give it to Mr. OHLSSON, in this case the former was not the case.

All the tropes were there.  Titles such as “Introspection”, “Introversion”, “Aversion” and “Illumination” showed a level of connectivity, as did the musical refrains and cameos throughout the album.  Oh and the reoccurring dialogue, such as the phrase about “the number you are trying to reach is in another dimension”, all giving you the feeling of being in something beyond a collection of unrelated songs.

This said, you could pluck any song of this story and let it stand on its own. And this is mainly because of the strength of the material and the musicianship, but also the diversity of the music.  There is some very light and layered progressive tunes with a capital “P” (“Glow”), some very modern sounding Metal, complete with screamer vocals and proper riffs and menace (“Inferno Within”), a bit of classical structure hear, classic rock there, a touch of 70s prog, something for everyone.  But crucially its done without sounding like someone simply throwing and old idea at the wall to see what sticks.  It all works.  Everything sounds right, nothing is forced or out of place.

No single track illustrates this better than “Omniscient”.  The entire soundscape of the album is summed up in this one song.  From the get-go with is deep, industrial rumble, that gets inside your head, before launching off in many different directions, but all interwoven and integral to the overall outcome of this piece of music.  Sublime and disturbing in equal measures, my song of the album.

With a song so strong near the end less pieces would suffer from becoming anti-climatic, but the remaining pair of “Well Of Madness” aptly titled, mostly instrumental song, before the mammoth 14 minuet title track “Illumination”, which combines a very modern rock sound, the stuttering guitars vs the very 70’s sound to the keys.  This is as close as we come to the model of “prog” I mentioned earlier, and it wouldn’t have taken a lot for this to have fallen into the old traps, but luckily it doesn’t. Yes there is more time changes and layers, and ideas than some bands give you in their lifetime in this one song, but when it doesn’t feel like a quarter of an hour on one song, that’s got to be good in my book.

This was a piece way outside of my personal listening habits, I would never have given it a listen if I wasn’t reviewing it, but I am so glad I was give the opportunity to experience it, and I urge you to go out of your way to find this and experience its greatness.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 10
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. The Long Night
2. Inferno Within
3. Introspection
4. Innocence Lost
5. Introversion
6. Unforgiven
7. Aversion
8. Glow
9. Omniscient
10. Well Of Madness
11. Illumination
Mattias Ohlsson - Everything
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 31 May 2023

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