Release date: June 27, 2005

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The Swedish Progressive Rock scene has gone from being peculiar to ordinary to worldwide successful (at least to the extent this genre has ever been successful …). With I Am, Tomas Bodin (The Flower Kings) thrives on this platform, creating a bold album with “only” 3 compositions (all in or near the 20 minute range), and with a strong story tying them all neatly together, based on his own need to meditate over the existential questions troubling mankind since its genesis.

The Music

From the very first tone, this is unmistakably Swedish Progressive Rock, but unlike Bodin’s previous solo efforts, the listener is soon introduced to vocals. According to Bodin, this posed as quite a challenge, since he has never before written music with a lyrical perspective included. Supposedly, the outcome is much to the benefit of dynamic interplay between Bodin himself and the other members of the project.

The album is indeed conceptual, as it tells the story of a man from before birth until after life. The 3 parts, or movements, in this “Rock Opera” cover 3 phases of this person’s life, and are all divided into smaller chapters.

The first movement, “I,” covers the time from before life, through childhood, until young adulthood. This movement is lead by a Baroque inspired theme, appearing several times: sometimes played by keyboard and sometimes by guitar, sometimes in major key and sometimes in minor. The theme gives a unique identity to the movement, and makes it float with ease and elegance.

The second movement, “A,” has a somewhat darker tone and with a heavier beat, as the character grows up, failing to fulfill his mother’s hopes and ambitions. In his darkest hour, he turns to prayer. There is something about this prayer, which reaches out from within all the music and grabs your attention.

The third and concluding movement, “M,” starts with the chapter “In The Land Of Retrospect,” giving the character a chance to look back on his life and even get a glimpse of what’s up after life is over. “M” offers some simply brilliant words, making the character’s struggle and misery in life universal and leaving you with perhaps man’s biggest asset: hope. There is a strong Musical touch to this movement, supporting the divine and religious aspects that often are associated with life and death. Still, Bodin never preaches or forces a certain path onto you. Instead, you are given a chance to see how the character of the story reflects upon life, hopefully inducing certain reflections within yours.

Tomas Bodin openly admits his influences for this project and their presence can clearly be felt, although perhaps not always as pronounced as the vocal soloing in “The Path Of Decision” (from the “A” movement), which reminds one a lot of “The Great Gig In The Sky” (Pink Floyd, The Dark Side Of The Moon).

The Band

Tomas Bodin himself has a sound of his own, distinguishing him from the crowd. Not to mention his fairly unique phrasing, which sometimes may have you fooled into thinking this is another Flower Kings album. The best part, however, is the way he has made the music flow and move with effortless elegance. It’s almost as if his self-proclaimed struggle to write this is nothing but a product of his imagination.

Bodin has brought with him his band mates from The Flower Kings: Jonas Reingold, bass, and newly joined Marcus Liliequist, drums. Both carry the weight of the piece with bravour. Reingold’s playing is as always vivid and very present. Liliequist proves himself a versatile musician; forming structure when required and unleashing chaos when given the green light.

The fourth instrumentalist on board is Jocke JJ Marsh (Glenn Hughes Band). He is one amazing fellow and a master in counterbalancing the keyboards with his dynamic works: high and low, hard and soft, and often with a blue shade to his solo phrasing.

None less than three singers have been brought on board, although Anders Janson carries the lead most of the time. He is a very capable singer, even if his cracked-up, high-register performances in the “I” movement may need some time getting used to. Most important, though, is how he so incredibly well impersonates the character of the story.

Helena Schönning and Pernilla Bodin play more subtle parts in the story, even if the latter serves up a touching part as the character’s mother in “Mother’s Heart,” and Helena Schönning comes down as an angel in “The Angel Of Dreams” (both from movement “I”). The aforementioned “Great Gig” homage, however, is soulfully done by Anders Janson.

The Verdict

Charged with having made a mighty fine album with a conceptual, intriguing, and enlightening feeling, you’ll find the defendants, Tomas Bodin & friends: Guilty. There are moments here to thrill you, puzzle you, frighten you, and most of all moments loaded with food for thought and philosophy. All this hand-in-hand with insightful, excellent craftsmanship makes I AM a must for all followers of Progressive Rock and possibly also for many others!

And by the way, according to Tomas Bodin, I AM is just the first part of an album trilogy …


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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