Released: 2011, Lion Music
Poor old Lars. He doesn’t get the respect or accolades he deserves. In my opinion his name should be spoken in the same breath at Satriani, Vai and MacAlpine. Who knows why his American counter-parts get more face time or name recognition, maybe it’s his foreign sounding name (to the North American fans) name it’s his low-key approach or something as simple as weak distribution of his albums. Maybe it’s confusing to some fans the difference between his Mattsson project and his ‘solo’ stuff. Maybe when people think of ‘Lars’ they think of some drummer dude in another band.
Well, whatever the reason I’ve always been a fan and champion from the days of buying EXCITER on cassette back in the early 90’s, (which for you trivia hounds was the North American Leviathan Records 1991 re-pressing of ELECTRIC VOODOO with alternate art.)
Point being, Lars rules and he has been a staple of the Lion label since Day One, probably because he started the whole thing! In fact this is Lion Music's 300th release! It’s good to be the king and not have to shop your music to a label! It’s been six years since his last solo album and 10 years since I’ve reviewed a solo album by him! Too long. So what is Lars up to these days?
His new album AURORA BOREALIS is a fantastic piece of work. The full title AURORA BOREALIS: CONCERTO FOR ORCHESTRA & ELECTRIC GUITAR tells you everything you need to know. This is Mr. Mattsson’s classical tour de force. A concerto suite is really great idea and I don’t think anyone else besides Yngwie Malmsteen back in 1998 has done this and his was called CONCERTO SUITE FOR ELECTRIC GUITAR & ORCHESTRA. Lots of guitarists incorporate neoclassical leads, runs styling’s etc, but it’s pretty rare to write the whole album in this vein. I think that is why it works so well, but here’s the catch, it works if you are a fan of classical composition. If you are a fan of straight shred like for example Joe Stump or crazy weirdness like Vai then AURORA BORELAIS is not necessarily for you.
As this album is a fairly unique concept there aren’t too many frames of reference except the aforementioned Yngwie one. AURORA BOREALIS is much less classical than Yngwies concerto. It’s also more song oriented rather than ‘Adagio’, ‘Allegro’ ‘Presto’ etc however there is no denying the classical influences. Tracks like ‘Revolutionary Star’ are quite revolutionary with flute, rock drums and blazing solos before very briefly dropping into a more conventionally classical moment and then back to solos. It’s all over the map but it makes sense.
I’m not a musician so at times I find it hard to use the correct terms to describe music, but I do know what I enjoy and this is certainly a complex, challenging listen with many, many interesting components. Violins, flutes, horns are blended into the melting pot. Lars has created a dynamic, innovative, unique and progressive instrumental album. All guitars guys, prog dudes need to check this out and open-minded Metal fans in general should lend an ear as well.