Salva are one of those Scandinavian bands that you discover beavering about below the prog radar. The Swedish band has actually been around since earlier this century, releasing its first album, A Handful Of Earth, in 2004. A Thousand Ways To Disappear is the band’s sixth studio release.
The band is built around childhood friends lead guitarist Stefan Gavik and vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Per Malmberg, joined by long term keyboard player Johan Lindqvist. Players have come and gone over the years, but the band is currently completed by bassist Daniel Nätt and drummer Erik Zetterlund. All the band support Per Malmberg with backing vocals.
On the strength of this release, Salva are a very eclectic band who seem to draw on quite a diverse palette of rock colours. The predominate shades though are those of AOR, heavy rock, prog rock, along with sophisticated pop music. A fair comparison would be Styx, with the arena rock sensibilities balanced with art rock and soft rock. That gives quite a broad spectrum of course and you have the feeling the band would use any style they thought appropriate for the song. Which is a very good approach for a change!
The resulting music, rather than being a hodgepodge that this broad range could have produced, is a rather up beat and energetic, finely played and presented. It moves through a series of moods and atmospheres, sliding from something a little grandiose to something much more intimate with some ease. The power is combined with catchy riffs and hard-rock swagger, melodically rich with some interesting harmonies. The band rarely slips into the pure aggression of heavy metal, but there is a drive and purposefulness on display.
However, for all the eclecticism, energy and bluster the interest cannot be maintained and the album is unbalanced. All the best material is in the first half of the album, there could even be an argument to say that the opening track, Stars Aligned, is the best song and that the album slowly fades away after that. A little harsh perhaps, but the listener soon feels that he has heard this before. This might highlight the problem really. The mix of the album feels slightly out of kilter. Per’s voice is placed too commandingly in the mix and tends to dominate too much, certainly to the detriment of the musicians. He has a good voice, clearly enunciated and with thoughtful lyrics. But you soon begin to expect that. The album might benefit from a little musique concrète or dissonance just to spice the listen up a little. It could be that the sound is just too clean. A little gravel can sometimes give the music a little dirt to present the audient a better listening experience. The music does not lack for colour though, with Per bringing along a mandolin and accordion to add some shades.
This, then, is an album that shows a high degree of promise that could have been well served by some out-of-the box thinking. There is much to admire though, and it is very well played and presented. You’ll certainly have a lot worse albums in your collection!
1. Stars Aligned (7:29)
2. Feeding the Flame (4:56)
3. A New God (9:15)
4. Wonder’s Rebirth (5:22)
5. Coma (13:48)
6. Elegy (4:46)
7. The Strong, Silent Type (8:24)
Per Malmberg – vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, keyboards, accordion, mandolin, percussion
Stefan Gavik – guitar, backing vocals
Johan Lindqvist – keyboards, backing vocals
Daniel Nätt – bass, backing vocals
Erik Zetterlund – drums, percussion, backing vocals
Format: CD, Digital
Label: White Knight Records
Release Date: 19th October, 2020