Artist: Rikard Zander

Album Title: I Can Do Without Love

Label: ZR / Border Music

Date Of Release: 11 March 2016

I never find it comfortable reviewing music by artists that I know and would refer to as friends. However, the Blog Of Much Metal is all about trying to support artists that deserve the assistance. So when I heard that Rikard Zander, keyboardist with Evergrey, had recorded his debut solo album, I had to offer my assistance.

I had heard snippets of the material via social media and knew that I was not in for Evergrey Mark II. But, with Rikard’s nervous-sounding comment of ‘it is very different to Evergrey’ ringing in my ears, I must admit I was aprehensive to press play on ‘I Can Do Without Love’. In order to retain credibility as a writer, I have to be honest. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to have to write negative things about an artist that I respect and someone who has become a friend to me. ‘Please let me like this’, I therefore whispered in mantra-fashion as I pressed play.

Fast forward more than a week and here I am writing the review. I have listened to ‘I Can Do Without Love’ a silly number of times and it is with relief and genuine pleasure that I can report that the listening experience is a largely positive one.

It is true, anyone looking for some extra Evergrey material between albums will be left very disappointed and possibly slightly confused. Despite featuring Evergrey’s bassist Johan Niemann and drummer Jonas Ekdahl as well as Avatarium and ex-Evergrey guitarist Marcus Jidell, this album is an entirely different beast to the day job. This is not a heavy metal album; in fact, at times, it’s not even a rock album, not in the classic sense. ‘I Can Do Without Love’ has as much in common with pop, country and blues music as anything else. It is the vehicle via which Rikard has been able to showcase his singing and keyboard-playing skills, not to mention his song writing abilities and on that score I have been left surprised. This surprise is partly because of the overall direction taken on the album but also because of the strength of the material.

‘I Can Do Without Love’ is an intensely personal and honest collection of songs, displaying a sensitivity and undeniable charm that snares you in and captivates, whether or not this kind of music is generally your ‘thing’. And it’s safe to say that this isn’t normally ‘my thing’.

Photo by Patric Ullaeus

Photo by Patric Ullaeus

The first thing that hits me is Rikard’s voice. It is so smooth and melodious but with a fragility to it that creates real emotion when the music requires it. I knew that Rikard occasionally engaged in some backing vocals for Evergrey but I never knew he could sing this competently.

If you’re looking for an example of Rikard’s great vocals, look no further than the opening duo of the title track and ‘Another Lonely Night’. The title track is relatively simple in its construction but aside from Zander’s voice, it benefits from a really addictive central melody and beautiful, emotional and soulful lead guitar work from Marcus Jidell, firmly in keeping with the sorrowful feel of the song.

‘Another Lonely Night’ is without doubt my favourite song on the album. The acoustic guitar and keyboard melodies, coupled with more brilliant lead guitar embellishments are beautiful and Zander’s voice oozes emotion, sounding like his voice might crack at any point. A distorted guitar enters the fray late on to add a nod towards Zander’s metal background but it remains strangely subtle and understated, merely enhancing the atmosphere of the song.

‘The World Makes Sure You’ll Die’ continues with the dark and sombre themes that loom large over this record but this time is comprised of just piano and vocals. Those familiar with Evergrey will no doubt recognise Rikard’s playing style and this is a song that, minus the vocals, could easily sit on an Evergrey album as an interlude-type piece or incorporated within a heavier track as a lead melody.

Whilst ‘I Can Do Without Love’ deals heavily with sorrow and regret, the music on the album isn’t always low-key and tracks like ‘Work Things Out’ and ‘Believe In Yourself’ are great examples of the brighter and breezier side of Zander’s song writing. The former has more of an up-beat bluesy country rock-inspired flavour, whilst ‘Believe In Yourself’ features some positive lyrics atop the kind of soft-rock song that could easily find its way onto mainstream commercial radio. Then there’s ‘Why Don’t You Leave Me’ which, in spite the lyrical content features a nice driving rhythm.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also room for a really excellent stripped-down cover version of ‘Disarm’, pretty much the only Smashing Pumpkins song that I like.

If I had one main criticism, it would be that the album is simply too short. In the time it takes to make a coffee, let it cool and drink it, ‘I Can Do Without Love’ is over and done. The songs themselves are quite short, generally around the three-minute mark and occasionally I find myself wishing that a few of the songs were a touch longer. But maybe that’s just the prog-head in me talking and anyway, this criticism could easily be turned into a positive: if I hated the music, I’d want it to end, not complain that it is too short. And isn’t there a saying about leaving the crowd wanting more?

Overall, I’ve been left mightily impressed with Rikard Zander’s debut solo outing, a conclusion that’s a relief but more so, is a delight to report.

The Score Of Much Metal: 8.0

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SZU-6jD3gn0&w=560&h=315]

If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others right here:

Redemption – The Art Of Loss
Headspace – All That You Fear Is Gone
Chris Quirarte – Mending Broken Bridges
Sunburst – Fragments Of Creation
Inglorious – Inglorious
Omnium Gatherum – Grey Heavens
Structural Disorder – Distance
Votum – Ktonik
Fleshgod Apocalypse – King
Rikard Sjoblom – The Unbendable Sleep
Textures – Phenotype
Serenity – Codex Atlanticus
Borknagar – Winter Thrice
The Mute Gods – Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me
Brainstorm – Scary Creatures
Arcade Messiah – II
Phantasma – The Deviant Hearts
Rendezvous Point – Solar Storm
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld II
Antimatter – The Judas Table
Bauda – Sporelights
Waken Eyes – Exodus
Earthside – A Dream In Static
Caligula’s Horse – Bloom
Teramaze – Her Halo
Amorphis – Under The Red Cloud
Spock’s Beard – The Oblivion Particle
Agent Fresco – Destrier
Cattle Decapitation – The Anthropocene Extinction
Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic
Cradle Of Filth – Hammer Of The Witches
Disarmonia Mundi – Cold Inferno
District 97 – In Vaults
Progoctopus – Transcendence
Big Big Train – Wassail
NightMare World – In The Fullness Of Time
Helloween – My God-Given Right
Triaxis – Zero Hour
Isurus – Logocharya
Arcturus – Arcturian
Kamelot – Haven
Native Construct – Quiet World
Sigh – Graveward
Pantommind – Searching For Eternity
Subterranean Masquerade – The Great Bazaar
Klone – Here Comes The Sun
The Gentle Storm – The Diary
Melechesh – Enki
Enslaved – In Times
Keep Of Kalessin – Epistemology
Lonely Robot – Please Come Home
The Neal Morse Band – The Grand Experiment
Zero Stroke – As The Colours Seep
AudioPlastik – In The Head Of A Maniac
Revolution Saints – Revolution Saints
Mors Principium Est – Dawn of The 5th Era
Arcade Messiah – Arcade Messiah
Triosphere – The Heart Of The Matter
Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise
Knight Area – Hyperdrive
Haken – Restoration
James LaBrie – Impermanent Resonance
Mercenary – Through Our Darkest Days
A.C.T. – Circus Pandemonium
Xerath – III
Big Big Train – English Electric (Part 1)
Thought Chamber – Psykerion
Marcus Jidell – Pictures From A Time Traveller
H.E.A.T – Tearing Down The Walls
Vanden Plas – Chronicles Of The Immortals: Netherworld


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