Symphonic prog is a sweet spot for me, so I’ll go ahead and wear that bias up front. That said, it never ceases to amaze me that a mere five musicians playing this type of music can produce so much sound without an orchestra, pre-recorded tracks, or additional backing personnel to provide additional textures. Hasse Fröberg (vocals, guitar), Anton Lindsjö (lead guitar), Ola Strandberg (drums), Kjell Haraldsson (keys), and Thomas Thomsson (bass) form a cohesive playing unit, masterfully presenting material from their trio of studio releases. Released by Glassville Records as a 3-disk DVD/CD set, No Place Like Home is HFMC’s first live record, recorded on 24 April, 2016, at the Reginateatern in Uppsala, Sweden. Something like 300 hours of mixing and post-production went into finalizing the release, and Hasse gives high praise to the work of Kicki Holmén and Thomas Schons, who served as the band’s visual and technical advisors on the project.
With a total runtime just short of 120 minutes – not including a 7-minute DVD extra of behind-the-scenes and on-the-road footage – No Place Like Home is a fantastic showcase of the band’s portfolio from nearly 10 years of work. The record captures the vibrant feel of live releases such as Yes Songs or The Ramones’ It’s Alive, albums that captured the bands’ raw intensity. No Place Like Home doesn’t lack for quality filmography or musicianship, but what ultimately comes across in the final product is the band’s love for their art form: HFMC play with passion and poise, joking onstage and bantering with the audience, making incredibly technical sections of music seem so effortless, and clearly enjoying every moment of it.
The 13+ minute suite of “Can’t Stop the Clock” and “Everything Can Change,” the first tracks on HFMC’s last studio release, flawlessly open the concert. Following immediately is “Everything Can Change,” quite possibly my favorite HFMC tune ever recorded: from its rousing 5/4 motion and harmonizing guitars, to Hasse’s heartfelt “today we’re all expendable” line sustained over the first notes of Lindsjö’s blues solo, to the jazz trio segment before the final refrain, this song is an absolute blast in a live setting. Powerplay’s anthemic “Godsong” and Future Past’s pop tune, “Song for July,” both come uniquely alive onstage, not to mention the truly “heavy metal” qualities of “Something Worth Dying For” off of 2016’s HFMC.
The onstage presentation of the massive “Pages” epic comes with a level of intimacy that the studio representation can’t quite touch: Lindjö’s emotive work on the twelve-string, Haraldsson’s careful flute and brass emulation, Hasse’s isolated vocals, and even drummer Ola Strandberg on the acoustic guitar. “In the Warmth of the Evening,” another epic-length track, is another favorite tune of mine, with its deceptively gentle introduction, cool rhythmic variations, and extended instrumental sections, altogether coupled with huge refrains in 5/4. “Life Will Kill You” – the other truly metal-influenced track in the band’s repertoire – follows the laid-back band introductions, and immediately precedes “Fallen Empire.” This powerful epic piece from 2010‘s FuturePast concludes the main set, and Hasse tactfully introduces the tune, avoiding being too political while still expressing the importance of personal responsibility in an unfair and unpredictable world. The encore set consists of the high-energy rock tune, “Venice CA” from Powerplay, together with a brief but powerful citation from The Flower Kings’ iconic anthem, “Stardust We Are,” and the smug little piece from HFMC, “Someone Else’s Fault.”
No Place Like Home also contains two unreleased tunes. “Valley and Fields” is an unofficial live intro for “Song for July.” The piece is a brief instrumental (or at least lyric-less) tune featuring Hasse on the acoustic guitar and Lindsjö on mandolin. The other new piece is a high-energy track called “Chasing a Dream,” which Hasse hinted was “the first part of an epic.” The filmography during this number transitions to an overlay of footage from a studio rehearsal, visually blending both performances. This piece hints at great material to come on the next studio release.
Officially released September 1st, No Place Like Home is a strong notch in the band’s collective belt: a rich, powerful recording that demonstrates the technical virtuosity, chemistry, and passion of some of progressive rock’s most underrated musicians currently on the scene. This release is a must for fans of Hasse Fröberg & Musical Companion!
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