It's been 20 years since Jens Haugan played drums in Thule, perhaps Norway's best kept Progressive Rock secret. With his 2005 demo Tales From Thule, he proved that he is still spiritually connected with Thule and the unique atmosphere of the North Cape. With this year's demo, Last Man Standing, he has refined his expression and made music with perhaps a stronger personal identity.
Although Tales From Thule and Thule anno 1987 were both miles and decades apart, there is a link between the two, except in common history. While Jens Haugan plays in a style that is predominantly Soulful Rock with a slight Progressive twist, he also spins the churning, meditative wheel of eternal impression left by the landscape (and life) near the North Cape. There are a few quieter songs, which are good from a diversity point of view, but perhaps not from a Hard Rock point of view.
Last Man Standing does not only sound better, it also presents a more complete and focused vision. The songs are, for lack of better words, more uniform. The creative process is still substantial, but arrangements and performances hold a higher standard, and thus prove his evolution as a self-made musician. There is more sugar here for hard rockers, yet with the lyrical integrity kept safe (not that one has to rule the other out, of course). His vocal performance is much better here, partly because the songs are written more within his range.
This is a one man show: Jens Haugan writes, composes, plays, and records his own music. With a focus on the creative process, rather than technical brilliance, he serves his ideas as a platter of invitations to come play. There is no doubt that Tales From Thule was made with a hope that someone would pick up on his music and join him in a band.
Last Man Standing removes itself somewhat from this position, yet his desire to join forces with soulmate musicians is still felt. Jens Haugan still handles all instruments himself, and he does so with sufficient ability to present his musical vision. His efforts on drums and guitar are superb at times, whereas his vocal abilities run a little short (however, this is less apparent this time, compared to Tales From Thule.
Both albums are invitations to come play. There is enough inspiration and momentum to start a band, so if anyone feels the urge, call the man. Both albums also offer something for the average listener. His lyrics are personal testimonies and a source for inspiration, empathy, and considerations on your own life. It has been said that he writes music for boys and words for girls, but there is more to it than that. You just need to spend some time and both albums are likely to grow aftr each spin.
Both albums are available only through his Web site www.JensHaugan.com.
He also gives you an option to download the songs for free ("since people don't want to pay for my music", he says ...) from the same site. The site will also introduce you to his previous singer/songwriter projects, if that's your cup of tea. Check it out!