NILS PATRIK JOHANSSON
The Great Conspiracy
One of my friends and colleagues on MR, Zad, mentioned we have been ignoring power metal genre. So I thought I would correct, even if a little. And what a better way to do it, if not with one of power metal best voices. Nils Patrik Johansson has been a frontman for Astral Doors and Wuthering Heights, as well as a few more smaller projects, and is immediately recognized by his throaty high and powerful low notes, as well as distinguishable and interesting accent. I had no idea Johansson had his own self-titled project going as well. The Great Conspiracy is his second full-length release, and the author dedicated it to the assassination of former prominent Swedish politician and prime minister Olaf Palme. Outspoken and controversial, Palme could have been a target for many, yet with political violence in Sweden non-existent, he could afford to go to the movies without security detail. Returning home from one cinema night like that with his wife, Palme was shot in the back of his head. A couple of people were arrested in connection with the murder, one of them even reportedly confessed in the case of mistaken identity killing, but then that confession was apparently recanted, thus the assassination remains officially unresolved. A scar on Swedish psyche, Johansson apparently presents his own version of the events (here is another wishing I had a booklet to tell you more, yet with new way of promos coming from the labels the age of hard copy promo has long been over).
If somewhere you read that The Great Conspiracy was mainly hard rock with some metallic tendency, I am not sure where that description comes from. The album is full-on metal. In fact, when I first heard The Agitator it sounded like tight, Gamma Ray inspired, double bass driven, yet pretty typical power metal. Powerplant like chorus, prominent lead, The Agitator set the table, but somehow I wanted more to be presented for me to appreciate The Great Conspiracy. More was needed, and more was provided, as after several listens through the album I have learned to appreciate it quite a bit. The best part of The Great Conspiracy is its uncanny ability to come up with an unexpected twist or quirk, when macabre piano or classical music insert appears amidst otherwise breackneck, one-step- to-blasting One Night at the Cinema. Or, when choruses of Freakshow Superstar and the title track go for unashamed Europop in the tradition of Ghengiz Khan amidst stretchy metal. Or, when stately, marching, hammering riffs of The Baseball League all of a sudden reveal a glimpse of lounge music. Or, when March of the Tin Foil Hats and Killer Without a Gun are start-to-finish circusy, mocking, weirder tracks, Diablo Swing Orchestra wouldn't mind adding to their repertoire. There are more "normal" cuts, like Dio song This Must Be the Solution, especially in the verse, or somewhat balladic Prime Evil (although it also has a melodic moment borrowed somewhere on an island in the Caribbean).
So while there are no boring, throwaway tracks on the album, going for even more unusual quirkiness would make it even more genius. Excellent musicianship, crisp production, and Johansson distinct enunciation (cjuul rul'es for cool rules in Prime Evil, sjuperstar in Freakshow Superstar), The Great Conspiracy can appeal to straight-faced power metal fans, but those who like both an epic story or prefer it tongue-in-cheek (say the fans of Russkaja), will enjoy the album as well.
Alex quoted 84 / 100
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