Tears of Anger are yet another example of the high caliber of Rock and Metal bands coming out of the Scandinavian music scene. Yet how many Rock and Metal fans in America, for example, have heard of Tears of Anger, and how many guitar enthusiasts, outside or even inside of guitar circles, have heard of the extraordinary guitarist Benny Jansson? He released no less than three Fusion albums prior to organizing Tears of Anger with his brother Bjorn, who handles the vocals. American and European audiences alike would do well to shine the spotlight on Tears of Anger and recognize their superb musicianship, stylization, and production values. In the Shadows deserves to be brought out of the shadows and enjoyed by Heavy Rock and Metal fans around the world.
The new album is Tears of Anger's second release and features the same lineup as on their debut (Still Alive, 2004, Lion Music), with Benny Jansson on guitar and keyboards, Bjorn Jansson on vocals, Daniel Flores (Mind's Eye) on drums, and Johan Niemann (Mind's Eye, Therion) on bass.
Of the twelve cuts, all of which are strong, about half possess a progressive feel similar to Jorn Lande's songwriting as well as his vocal style. The other songs stay closer to a Blues base, but are still ultra-heavy. Bjorn Jansson's soulful singing on the latter cuts is often akin to Doug Pinnick's (King's X), with those extended Blues phrases and that emotional vibrato. Moreover, King's X fans will appreciate some of Benny Jansson's wicked guitar riffs à la Ty Tabor.
Benny's lead guitar work displays maturity far above the average Metal speedster. He has an intense lead style of his own, but for the sake of comparison, his light touch, fluidity and overall technical ability are on par with the likes of wizards such as Kee Marcelo (K2, Europe) or even Allan Holdsworth. His solos are picture-perfect and show off some incredibly fast runs and slick legato lines. Although for this album, he keeps a rein on his instrumental chops, perhaps too tightly. There are no lengthy, exhibitionistic solos here, nor any flights of Fusion (for those, check out Benny's solo albums).
The striking quality of the music on In the Shadows is the huge atmosphere, a result of the synergies between the instrumentation and the arranging. One can imagine instrumental versions of some of the songs serving well as a powerful movie soundtrack. Interesting keyboard synth sounds are smartly integrated in the arrangements; they fill out the soundscape and make the guitars larger than life. By the way, the album was produced, engineered, and mixed by Benny Jansson.
The inclusion of songs with a dark, heavy Prog-Metal flavor, as well as those with a straighter, heavy Blues approach, makes In the Shadows a very satisfying album. A longer guitar solo here and there and a greater variety of instrumentation would have been pluses, but the album is highly recommended for its large sound, high-energy songs, expert guitar work and outstanding production.