ALMO - Reconciliation

Artist: ALMO

Album Title: Reconciliation

Label: Independent Release

Date of Release: 15 March 2024

Why do I write music reviews on a website by myself for no pay and very little apparent reward? It’s partly about giving something back to the music community that has given me so much enjoyment over the years. I’m not in it for financial reward, as I get a big enough rush from receiving nice feedback occasionally from readers and the bands themselves. It’s also partly for therapeutic purposes; life doesn’t always go as planned, but when I’m sitting listening to music and writing about it, I’m happy. It takes me away from the real-world issues that seek to test my resolve on a weekly, if not daily basis.

Similarly, for Malmö-based Swede, Benjamin Almö Thorsell, making music is his therapy. And, since his previous outlet, the band Frozen Realm split in 2019, Thorsell has been writing for himself. Over the years, he has steadily amassed a body of work that sees the light of day as ‘Reconciliation’ the debut full-length release under the moniker of ALMO. Responsible for just about everything on this record, Benjamin has accepted some help from a few sources. Aside from a couple of guest appearances, Viktor Forsse has provided help with drums and drum programming, as has Lulu de la Rosa, who’s also responsible for production, additional keys, and arrangements.

Not content with creating just music alone, Thorsell has also created something of a concept with the lyrics, too. As he puts it himself, it’s a “journey about coming to terms with and accepting things in life while moving on as a person.”

The best news of all that I am able to impart, though, is that ‘Reconciliation’ is a rather super album. Admittedly, it does wear its influences on its sleeve, but if you ever wondered how it might sound if Haken, Devin Townsend, Mechanical Poet, and Between The Buried And Me jumped into a hot tub for the evening, then wonder no more. Alongside a few other influences along the way, a blend of all these artists comes together to create the ALMO sound. The result is hugely enjoyable, and I hope that this review will convince a few more people to check it out and support a clearly talented musician with a bright future ahead.

It’s no surprise that I have taken to ‘Reconciliation’ when you bear in mind the artistic names dropped within the preceding paragraph. But these endeavours don’t always work out like you might hope, so it’s never a done deal. The thing with ALMO, however, is that the music has a charm and a warmth to it. It’s playful, memorable, and quirky enough to work, especially when you add in the fact that Thorsell is clearly adept at writing some strong melodies, which further add to my enjoyment levels.

Indeed, the opening track, ‘Rain’ brings the album alive but in quiet and tentative fashion, almost lullaby-esque. But the melody is immediate, only getting better as more instrumentation begins to join in. Synth sounds, acoustic guitars, bass, and finally drums and vocals all arrive, swelling the initial melodic sensibilities of the song until it explodes with djent-like guitar riffs that remind me instantly of the little-known Mechanical Poet. The tinkling of piano keys as the opener ebbs and flows is a lovely touch whilst the vocals run the gamut from clean to gritty to full-on gruff to accentuate the heaviness.

ALMO - Reconciliation

‘Vilsen’ quickly follows and unleashes the full djent experience before it all drops away again to be replaced by something more dreamlike. As with the opener, Thorsell is adept at writing music that utilises light and shade, creating drama brilliantly as it flits between heavier passages and lighter moments of quiet reflection, mirroring the way that the human mind can so easily move between emotions.

One of my favourite tracks is without doubt ‘Bliss’, thanks to the pop-like bounce that it offers coupled with a killer melody. I also love the way that Thorsell utilises layered ‘choral’ vocals, not to mention the deceptively proggy elements that are wrapped up so smoothly in a cloak of immediacy thanks to the power of the melodies. Some of the later riffs are pure Devin and BTBAM worship but the final reprise of the chorus is delicious; so uplifting and life-affirming.

The spectre, albeit a welcome spectre, of Devin Towsend looms large over ‘In Dreams’ too. However, as the title of the track suggests, the music is much more ethereal, delicate, and ambient, calling to mind Devin’s work on his 2011 album, ‘Ghost’. It is a wonderful oasis of calm before the heaviness returns via ‘Winterhound’. Again, light and shade is used expertly as the track moves between djent angularity, calming ambience, and bursts of black metal aggression. It also features the odd quirk that reminds me of early Haken, including a brief bass-led noodle.

Without doubt, the centrepiece of ‘Reconciliation’ is the final twenty-minute epic title track, and it’s Thorsell’s crowning glory. It starts off quietly with a bittersweet vibe before taking us on the kind of extended thrill ride with which Haken fans of old will be familiar. But musically, we get absolutely everything, from djent to all-out prog, from extreme metal with a death/black bent to ambient sections. Some of the screams unleashed remind me of Ihsahn, which I hope is taken as the compliment it’s meant to be. Once again, though, the melodic power of the song is strong, with a properly rousing and euphoric sounding feel, perfect for the closing piece. It’s not overused either, meaning that when it appears, it has an even greater impact. The aforementioned quirkiness is evident, too, including a few ‘Cockroach King’ vocal parts and Gentle Giant-isms, not to mention the sudden unexpected bursts of what I can only describe as hillbilly rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass music. I hated them to begin with, but with a few spins, I don’t mind them. I’m not sure I like them still, but I definitely accept them as integral parts of the overall composition. And when the final reprise of the recurring melody and chorus hits, all else is forgotten.

Some of you might be put off by the very evident influences at play on this album, wanting more in the way of originality. And that’s fine, as we’re all entitled to like different things. But I’m not one of those people. Instead, not for the first time recently, I’ve been entertained to an extremely great extent by an album that isn’t afraid to wear its inspiration for all to see and hear, like a giant badge of honour. Benjamin Almö Thorsell has talent in abundance, as well as peerless musical taste, it would appear, and it all comes together in a glorious explosion of joyous progressive heavy metal, the kind that I’d be happy listening to over and over again. I urge you most seriously to take a listen to ‘Reconciliation’ when it’s released because you might just love it like I do.

The Score of Much Metal: 92%



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