Masterpieces are rare animals. Once every few years a monumental flashes like the ‘Drops of Light’ (Drop of Light) by the band All Traps on Earth (All the Traps of the World) land on us. This amazing Swedish album crashed on the international prog-rock community like a meteor and created the top wave. Three members of the Änglagård band, led by Johan Brand, have joined singer Miranda Brand (Johan’s daughter) and a number of other serious and talented musicians. The result – a musical masterpiece at the highest artistic level imaginable.
You can actually live inside this album. It is an abandoned Gothic palace, whose main door is wide open. You can wander through it at night and admire the fine musical architecture, the rare attention to every architectural detail, the inspiring and precise performance, the attention to natural and analog sound – and the deliberate distancing from any sign of industrialization, digitization, alienation and commercialization. Johan Brand is the ‘mastermind’ behind the project, with the intelligent help of classical keyboardist Thomas Johnson. Eric Hamstrom’s drumming is a work of thought of sensitivity, virtuosity, multi-kidney, dynamism and delicacy.
At first glance, the listener finds himself, naturally, comparing All Traps on Earth’s debut album to his seemingly original band – Änglagård. As time goes on one can understand that this is a forgiving but unsuccessful comparison. The organic sound may be similar, certainly on a superficial level, and some of the melodies are somewhat reminiscent of Änglagård’s Scandinavian folk; But in its deepest essence, this is a more diverse, gloomier album and most of the time even more interesting.
The melancholy cover illustration puts the listener in the right mood: the living person, planted in the ground, sending branches to the sky and enjoying a drop of light – while beneath it are buried the dead, twisted, tortured, naked. The first piece, bearing the band’s name, is 18 minutes of horror, splendor, grandeur and splendor: challenging rock that is challenging, multi-faceted, completely unexpected, dramatic and full of life. Like a symphonic poem, the work moves in waves between changing moods, while refusing to succumb to worn-out patterns like house, chorus or linear development of motifs. Such works are written slowly, arduously and laboriously, and only a few are willing to deal with the magnitude of their task of composing.
The second piece on the album, ‘Magmatic Warning‘, 16 minutes long, alludes to the French influences of the band ‘Magma’ (Magma) but for a moment does not sound copied or shallow. Yes, there is jazz-fusion here but in low doses and without hurting the tension or wasting precious time on ego improvisation. Miranda Choir cruises across waves of mellotron, meets marimba and vibraphone; The wind instrument department includes bass clarinet, trumpet and flute horn, saxophone and side flute; A grand piano paints paintings together with Fender Rhodes, Mogg Voyager, Bass Rickenbacker, Mogg Taurus and a variety of gibbons from the 70s. This is an organic, harmonious and multi-layered vintage celebration, both frightening and pleasing to the ear, the complete opposite of the processed and programmed sounds of 2000s computers: everything here is handcrafted, without samples and shortcuts.
The third work on the album, ‘Omen‘ (a sign, a sign of things to come) is perhaps the most impressionistic, cinematic and free on the album. The Swedish ensemble virtuously utilizes every possible musical and technical skill, and wisely inserts the guest musicians to create varied and new patterns throughout its 13 minutes. The result is convoluted, clever and never falls short of formulas. The fourth piece, ‘First Step’ (first step) is just a relaxing 2-minute passage.
The fifth and final piece on the album, ‘Bortglomed Gardard‘ (Forgotten Farms) closes the album with another 14 minutes of super-philosophical wonder. The work develops with great patience, and does not give up quickly. It has panoramic qualities of time travel. The lyrics, originally sung in Swedish, have been translated for you here:
At another time
Of eternal dreams
When life was magical by angels
Generations of destiny
At another time
Of old traditions
In the dark
Farms are forgotten forever
Johan Brand, a terribly talented bassist, cites as a reference and direct sources of inspiration the following artists and currents: King Crimson, Goblin, Magma, the Canterbury scene and the acclaimed Italian soundtrack composer, Ennio Morricone. All of these are tall musical trees to hang on to, but the comparison is not unfounded – Brand studied the masters and completed his degree with honors. So it is no wonder that this non-commercial album, released on November 16, 2018, received excellent reviews, entered the top of the prog charts, and was even crowned by many good ones as one of the best prog albums of all time.
Most bands in the world choose to release one mediocre-good album once a year or two. The band All Traps on Earth has chosen to work very hard, for a period of about 5 years (!), on an eclectic album, invested in superhuman levels, ambitious and demanding of himself and his listeners, one that will amaze and amaze the world. When measuring the end result, this is indeed a very rare achievement that only a few, the hard-core fans will listen to. If you have been able to listen to this album in full many times, you are a lucky human being. An exhibition of complex musical delicacies awaits you, one of the best created by western culture in the last 50 years.
In conclusion, we have all waited many years for such an extraordinary album. It arrived, without anybody expecting it. The drop of light of all the traps of the world is a must-have album for purchase, obsessive listening and enjoyment for long months. It is an extraordinary work, exceptionally good, very brave, surprising all the way and very profound; For her, it is definitely worth living on earth with a pair of ears.