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The influence of art rock bands like King Crimson continue to be felt into the new millennium, but when progressive rock began to make a comeback in the early 1990sfirst in the underground, then in recent times to an even larger audiencealbums that had been overlooked back in the day suddenly became hugely influential. Anekdoten began life as a Crimson tribute band, gradually introducing its own material into the mix and, ultimately, becoming an original band, taking the symphonic side of early Crimson, meshing it with Red-era metallic guitars, and turning it into an even darker mix that has found fans in prog, but also in goth, darkwave and goth metal as well. Chapters is a career retrospective; a generous two-CD set that combines Anekdoten's more recent, pop-centric brand of brooding, angst-ridden darkness with earlier, more complex material. There's also a series of previously unreleased demos that are interesting alternatives to the original tracks, and sound equally finished.
The first CD is largely culled from A Time of Day (Virta, 2007) and Gravity (Virta, 2003), as the group moved towards clearer song forms, even as its propensity for layering one or more mellotrons created a complexion that distanced it from another prog band-turned-more-accessible-songsmiths, Porcupine Tree. More angular, and with a greater sense of gravitas, the group has also moved towards greater textural diversity, with guitarist/vocalist Nicklas Barker using acoustic guitar in addition to his grungier electric, and Anna Sofi Dahlbergoriginally playing cello in addition to mellotrondeserting her string instrument for organ, Fender Rhodes and Moog. Many of the songs are shorter, like the surprisingly folkloric "The War Is Over" and intensifying/densifying instrumental, "Every Step I Take," a segue from the turgid ballad, "A Sky About to Rain." Still, even modern-day Anekdoten is prone to longer epics, like the 8-minute title track to Gravity, with its edgy, power-chord guitars and powerful, ultimately relentless pulse from bassist Jan Erik Liljeström and drummer Peter Nordins.
The second disc goes back to the beginning, with an alternate mix of the 10-minute "Sad Rain" (a bonus track to the Japanese version of Anekdoten's debut, Vemod (Virta, 1993)). Here, its Crimson roots are worn more brightly, with the symphonic mesh of mellotrons, Liljeström's flowery lyrics and Barker's clearly Robert Fripp-influenced guitar playing still managing to possess its own personalitya less oblique approach to songwriting that's surprisingly lyrical. "Wheel," with guests Per Wiberg on piano and Pär Ekström on flügelhorn and cornet, even references Crimson's "Bolero," from that group's most jazz-centric disc, Lizard (DGM Live, 1970), though Barker's guitar and the group's overall vibe more closely resembles Red.
The demos from Anekdoten's early, heavy and complex classic, Nucleus (Virta, 1995), demonstrate a group not only finding its voice but taking its roots into new and more modern directions. Chapters is a terrific intro for those unfamiliar with Anekdoten; for existing fans, the previously unreleased material provides an interesting window into how this Swedish group has evolved its darkly symphonic sound.
Track Listing: CD1: Ricochet; The Great Unknown; From Within; In for a Ride; The War Is Over; Monolith; A Sky About to Rain; Every Step I Take; Groundbound; Gravity; When I Turn. CD2: Sad Rain; Wheel; The Old Man and the Sea; Nucleus (demo); Book of Hours (demo); The Far from the Sky (demo); 30 Pieces (demo); Prince of the Ocean (demo).
Personnel: Nicklas Barker: electric guitar, acoustic guitar, 12-string electric guitar, vocals, mellotron (CD1#2, CD1#3, CD1#7, CD1#8, CD1#11, CD2), Moog (CD1#10), pump organ (CD1#11), clavinet (CD2#4, CD2#6), Fender Rhodes (CD2#5), bass (CD2#7); Anna Sofi Dahlberg: mellotron (CD1, CD2#1, CD2#2-8), Farfisa organ (CD1#1, CD1#6, CD1#10), Hammond organ (CD1#4), Moog (CD1#4, CD1#7, CD2#8), Fender Rhodes (CD1#4, DCD1#7), organ (CD1#7, CD2#7), cello (CD2#2-4), vocals (CD2#2, CD2#8); Jan Erik Liljeström: bass (CD1#1-8, CD2), vocals (CD1#1, CD1#9, CD2); Peter Nordins: drums (CD1#1-10, CD2), percussion (CD1#1-8, CD2#1-3, CD2#7), vibraphone (CD1#3, CD1#4, CD1#6-8, CD1#10, CD1#11), xylophone (CD1#12), congas (CD1#5), mellotron (CD1#5); Gunnar Bergsten: flute (CD1#2); Per Wiberg: piano (CD1#11, CD2#2, CD2#3); Pär Ekström: flügelhorn (CD2#2), cornet (CD2#2).