The name of Mr. Hasse Fröberg is already well known in prog circles, specifically the ones prudent enough to look past the seventies. The Flower Kings are undeniably one of the most successful and revered bands in the modern progressive rock scene, and even had Fröberg decided to make a Top 40 pop hip-hop record, there would still be a degree of respect for this man and what he’s contributed. With the Hasse Fröberg Musical Companion, there’s no question that he is broadening his sights, so Flower Kings fans looking for ‘more of the same’ will find themselves disappointed. I can’t quite say that the Musical Companion’s music fits my taste too much, but I can’t deny the tight precision and skill of these guys.
“Powerplay” is the sort of album that I may have dismissed, had I stopped at one listen. To tell the truth, by the end of the ten minute opener “My River To Cross”, I felt confident in the fact that- despite Hasse’s illustrious past- the Musical Companion was just another progressive-styled act playing a melodic brand of pomp rock that I could not get into at its best. It’s reasonable to assume that I returned to “Powerplay”, and with each listen, I was surprised to notice things I would have otherwise overlooked. Stylistically, “Powerplay” is a mesh of polished ‘AOR’ melodic hard rock, filtered through a progger’s ambition. It’s easy to take melodies for granted in this sort of music, but Fröberg’s skill with catchy hooks really shines here.
Hasse Fröberg and his company give an incredible performance here. Although few riffs here impress on their own, the band’s chemistry gives “Powerplay” a vibrance I rarely hear in melodic rock. Much of the songwriting here is fairly straightforward, but each of the musicians flesh it out a bit with plenty of details that reward the persistent listener. Not to mention, Hasse’s voice is great as well, with but a touch of gravel to give character to his otherwise entirely clean voice. With the possible exception of the energetic “The World Keeps Turning” and uplifting “The Chosen Ones”, I wouldn’t say that the songwriting is excellent overall, in spite of some powerful melodic writing. Paired with a near-mechanical sense of overproduction, “Powerplay” often lacks the organic lustre I hear much of in The Flower Kings, and would have probably lacked it entirely, were it not for the excellent cast of musicians. “Powerplay” might not go beyond what has already been done in rock music for many years, but fans of Hasse Fröberg and tight melodic hard rock won’t find themselves disappointed with this one.
1. My River to Cross (10:14)
2. The World Keeps Turning (4:10)
3. The Final Hour (12:29)
4. Waves (5:19)
5. Venice CA (5:01)
6. Is It Ever Gonna Happen (7:57)
7. White Butterfly (2:30)
8. The Chosen Ones (7:39)
9. Godsong (5:34)