Webster’s dictionary defines the word "driven" as: "-adj. being under compulsion, as to succeed or excel." Was "drive" what it took for Lars Eric Mattsson to take on such a massive project as War, or was it ambition? War is defined by Mattsson as "A non-fictional rock opera about the state of this planet we call the Earth.” Mattsson not only commanded eight plus musicians (including Mark Boals, Vitalij Kuprij, Irene Jansson, Björn Jansson, Lance King, Andre Vuurboom) but also several Choirs, the Astral Chamber Orchestra, and also played all guitars, bass, accompanying keyboards, and composed, mixed, and produced this opus. Whew, talk about a full day’s work. The question is, of course, does this ambitious project justify commandeering the world's attention? For the most part, the answer is "yes," but it’s unclear how often one will come back for more than a handful of spins.
War contains eight tracks, with half the tracks being over eight minutes in length individually. Within the eight tracks, seven different lead vocalists are used, which leads to potential questions of continuity. Thankfully, for the most part, the music makes up for any potential discontinuity issues related to the multiple vocalists. Most of the vocalists employed have similar singing styles, which doesn’t hurt.
The compositions are best described as Progressive Rock with dashes of Opera and Classical influences. There are peaks of instrumental inspiration sprinkled throughout, especially on the lengthier tracks, but nothing extremely long to become too annoying.
Some highlights include "Where’s Our Chance," with its galloping pace and multi-tracked choruses by Irene Janssen, followed by "Deep In The Shadows," with its keyboard-based introduction, Classical-sounding bridges, and a fine vocal performance turned in by Mark Boals (other than the forced-sounding highs he tries to reach at the track’s end). Three of the tracks feature keyboard solos by one of Rock’s premier keyboardists, Vitalij Kuprij, who always puts in a fine performance wherever his musical cameos appear. Mattsson himself does an adequate job on guitar, but Yngwie doesn’t have to lose any sleep at this point. On "Smoke And Mirrors," Mattsson can be heard trading licks with Vitalij, which is an interesting diversion.
"War Suite Concerto" seems to begin the downfall of the release as it weighs in at a hefty fourteen minutes. The track takes a while to get ramped up, with its passive vocal opening, and then gives the listener a few fleeting moments of musical instrumental grandeur. The track is broken up into eight vignettes, of which most are slower, Opera-like movements. From here, the release concludes with the equally sullen "Requiem." This track, while employing three vocalists, turns the adrenaline down to a meager 1 on a scale of 10.
This was certainly an ambitious project; unfortunately sometimes that "special spark" is missing, causing this release to lose some of its repetitive playback value. Actually, without the uplifting performances by some of the bigger names mentioned above, this release would have been mediocre at best. There certainly is a mystique about this album when you read the impressive line-up, as well as all of the work Mattsson must have put into it. This is by no means a substandard CD; it just might be a hard buy for a listener on a very tight budget.
Lars Eric Mattsson: All Guitars, Bass, Keyboards (except for solos) and Production
The Astral Chamber Orchestra: Strings
Eddie Sledgehammer: Drums and Percussion
Yoshi Watanabe: Additional Percussion
Recording Quality: B
Overall Rating: C+
Release Date: May 2005
To find out more about Lars Mattsson, visit the label’s site at www.LionMusic.com, or Lars’ official site at www.LarsEricMattsson.com.