Bad Elephant Music is quickly becoming a reliable source for excellent progressive releases. Some of my favorite bands are starting to migrate there, and I think that speaks volumes. I was pleasantly surprised to see Brighteye Brison sign with BEM, then, and I was even happier to see them announce “V”, which is effectively “The Magician Chronicles, Part II”. It’d been a long time since their last release, and I honestly thought that they were done. “V” released on May 24th, and I must say that it is even better than their last album.
Brighteye Brison hails from Stockholm, Sweden. Their music does have a distinctive Scandinavian vibe to it, for sure. The line-up here includes Linus Kåse (Änglagård) on keys, sax, and vocals; Per Hallman on keys and vocals; Kristofer Eng Radjabi on bass, taurus, and vocals; Johan Öijen on guitars; and Erik Hammarström on drums.
I originally started following this project with “The Magician Chronicles, Part I” from back in 2011. Yes, it has almost been a decade since their last album. I remember being attracted to the colorful music and the unashamedly nerdy themes, and that still holds true for this new release. This album may come across as a bit darker, though, and I will point out that the vocals are greatly improved, too, or at least mixed better into the overall sound of the album. The mix of the vocals slightly annoyed me on their last album, as it lacked real presence, but you will hear plenty of that on this record.
The music on this album is progressive rock to the core. I would say that the band seems more influenced by the likes of Gentle Giant and Queen, than by the usual suspects of classic prog rock, however. You will hear some vocal rounds, theatrics, and colorful synth, and most of all you will hear imaginative instrumentals that seemingly appear out of nowhere.
Brighteye Brison loves to write long songs. Their last album featured only three songs, and “V” presents us with the same number of songs, too. Still, the album clocks in at 66 minutes in length. I’m going to voice an opinion here that isn’t a criticism, just an observation: This album could have been split into more songs, even labeled as “suites” if so desired. Most of you probably know that I love a good epic, but sometimes a band writes multiple songs and then smashes them into one track just so they can call it an epic or seem more progressive. That is the case here. The 36 minute “The Magician Chronicles, Part II”, for instance, could have been three or four songs. I feel like it would have been better for sharing and exposure, too, if there were shorter tracks that people could sample to see if they are ready to take the plunge. With only longer songs, some people just don’t bother, unfortunately. Again, just an observation from what I know about supporting musical releases.
That said, all three songs are fantastic, and they honestly don’t feel as long as they are. It also makes talking about all of them in one review rather easy. “The Crest of Quarrel” is a great opener that surely reminds me of something Gentle Giant would have done, only a bit less weird. The chorus is wonderful, and the synth is welcome. Ironically, it is the shortest song at 12 minutes in length, but it is also my least favorite of the three tracks. Still, it starts the album off well.
“The Crest of Quarrel” flows seamlessly into the title track, “V”. I honestly don’t even know when the transition happens unless I’m paying very close attention. This song comes off as a bit more mysterious, and I love the vocals probably the most of all three songs. The guitar work is also more front and center, and this song has real funk and groove to it, too. I think it’s probably my favorite track on the album, now that I think about it. It will really get your head bobbing along at points.
“The Magician Chronicles, Part II” was my most anticipated track here. I loved Part I, and Part II probably eclipses it. You’ll hear plenty of Gentle Giant-style keyboard stutters and musings, not to mention vocal rounds and group singing. It definitely feels more alive than the other two tracks, and more theatrical, too. There are plenty of climactic moments and atmospheric portions. Overall, it honestly doesn’t feel like 36 minutes. It sounds much fresher than that.
Brighteye Brison has returned with gusto, then, and the 8 year wait is definitely worth it. With Bad Elephant behind them, I hope we will hear more from them sooner rather than later. If you are a fan of progressive rock with theatrical twists, you will definitely want to hear this.