JENS JOHANSSON — Sonic Winter (review)

JENS JOHANSSON — Sonic Winter album cover Album · 1996 · Power Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
SouthSideoftheSky
Keyboard-driven Metal

This album is the second one out of three that the two brothers, keyboardist Jens and drummer Anders Johansson, made together. For those of you who don't know the history of these guys, they both used to play in Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force in the 80's. Malmsteen also plays on this album as a guest, which is very interesting considering that this is a different kind of music compared to that of Rising Force. The Johansson brothers have a very wide set of musical influences that stretches far beyond the boundaries of Metal music. This can be seen on their (especially Jens') extremely diverse output, much of which is far from Metal. The influences on this particular album, however, include keyboard-heavy Deep Purple-like Rock, Neo-Classical Metal, some Jazz Fusion as well as classic bluesy Hard Rock. Overall, you might put this in the Prog Rock/Metal category.

The Johansson brothers are obviously very skilled on their respective instruments and the guitar shredding of Malmsteen is clearly recognizable, but quite sparse as he appears only in a couple of the songs. The overall sound is strongly dominated by keyboards, drums, bass and vocals with some guitar solos (not all played by Malmsteen). The keyboards are mainly organ, synthesizers, some piano and (something that sounds like) a harpsichord.

The vocals are very bluesy and almost soulful and would fit in any classic bluesy hard rock band. Deep Purple might come to mind, but the music on Sonic Winter is more melodic during the vocal parts and more progressive and jazzy in the instrumental parts. The longer tracks are instrumentals and consist mainly of some very good instrumental workout. Still, this is not an album concerned just with showing off chops. The shorter songs are based on melody and not on instrumental workout. Most of the many keyboard solos are appropriate within the context of the songs and never too excessive.

There is here a nice balance between bluesy Hard Rock/Metal songs with some quirks, and more experimental instrumentals. I would say that this album is a clear improvement over the first self-titled one. These two albums are now available together in a two-on-one double CD release. While I think that the third more Power Metal-like album The Last Viking (that features Mike Romeo of Symphony X on guitars) is even stronger, the present album is a very good and underrated one too.

Recommended!
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