Johnny Engstrom Band – Magnetic Force

This is the third release by Johnny Engstrom Band, a Swedish trio whose music is oriented to the metal side of progressive rock, but with its evident symphonic tendencies. “Magnetic Force” saw the light this 2011 via Alienation Records, and it is a challenging album that will surely remind you of some older heavy prog or prog metal acts. It comprises eight compositions that make a total time of 74 minutes.

Magnetic Force opens with the longest track, entitled “Oblivion Part 1”. It starts with some kind of radio station playing some tunes, a car, some birds, and some footsteps can be listened as the wind blows. A minute later some chaotic noises appear and put an ambient of tension, and then little by little the guitars, drums and other instruments are joining until after two minutes we could say the song actually starts.

We can clearly notice their metal tendencies, the heavy guitars, bass and drums, and the powerful keyboards. However, the song has some slower moments when it seems to be rebuilt. With softer passages which give a cool balance to the music. At half the song there is like a hiatus, and then different images are shared, so you can imagine several things while the story is being told. There is an instrumental passage I particularly like, at minute thirteen with nice and soft guitar notes, that later disappear in order to let the bombastic keyboards and heavy sound return. So the song returns as its original form.

“Under Haunted Skies” follows the prog metal sound which in moments reminds me of Dream Theater or Queensryche, but with the own JEB style.  This is another long song (not longer than the opener, of course) but with interesting moments. I like the drums a lot, and their capacity of creating both tense and tranquilizing atmospheres. The vocals are cool and perfectly fit in this genre, I mean, his voice is clearly for a metal oriented act.

“Magnetic Force” has an explosive and bombastic beginning which slows down a little bit some seconds later, but the heavy feeling never disappears. There is later a cool guitar solo, followed by some spoken word while the great technique of the musicians is shown. I particularly enjoy more those maybe short but rich instrumental passages, than the ones with voice, though I know one of the keys of this album is to understand its concept, so the lyrics and voices are actually essential.

“Endlessly” is a much softer track, pretty catchy and with an inherent poppish feeling, which does not necessarily means it is a weaker song, actually it gives a healthy change to the album, no matter it only lasts six minutes. The last two minutes are the best, with nice and emotional guitar riffs and cool keyboards. “River Oaks” actually follows the same softer rhythm and the catchy sound, so this couple of tracks might be joined and counted as only one long song.

With “Wounded” the initial heavier sound comebacks and seems to be a promising track, however I have to admit that this is my least favorite of the album, and that the so repetitive chorus even annoys me. But well, leaving that aside, the rest of the track is nice, with cool changes and great guitars. “Paradise” has once again a softer rhythm and sound, it is a melodic track that slows down the emotions and puts you in a much calmer mood. But wait, the great thing on this song is that after three minutes it becomes heavier and creates a vast progression and a cool mixture.

A thing I liked a lot is that you can join “Oblivion Part 2” with its first part and listen to them together, and it works. However I also liked the decision of placing them as opener and closer tracks. This second part is a couple of minutes shorter than the first one, but it also has several elements included, cool passages with changes in mood and rhythm, with great guitar riffs and an appealing structure. These Oblivion tracks are the highlights of the album.

Well, I like but not love Magnetic Force, it is great and recommendable for prog metal fans in particular, its pros are the concept, the longer tracks and the musicianship in general, its cons are Wounded, and that the whole album is really long and in a certain moment it bored me. However, I foresee a great acceptation of this album, so surely we will read and listen more about Johnny Engstrom Band.

Enjoy it!

Track listing:

1. Oblivion Part I
2. Under Haunted Skies
3. Magnetic Force
4. Endlessly
5. River Oaks
6. Wounded
7. Paradise
8. Oblivion Part II

Line-up:

Johnny Engstrom – guitar, vocals, keyboards
Niklas Högberg – bass, keyboards
Galle Johansson – drums

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