CD Review – PreHistoric Animals – The Magical Mystery Machine (Chapter 2)

Swedish proggers Prehistoric Animals return with this, the band’s third album which follows on from the concept from the group’s previous album with a Sci-Fi story, relating the tale of two characters, Cora and Jareth, who are collecting humanities abilities. The lyrics are not quite as plainly fanciful as that suggests and there are enough parallels drawn on contemporary matters without searching too hard. The band, which began life as a two-piece featuring multi-instrumentalists Samuel Granath on drums, keyboards and Stefan Altzar on vocals, guitars, keyboards has since been rounded out by two additional musicians and the group certainly benefits from it.

“What happens when you love classic progressive rock, alternative rock and brilliant pop music? You make it very hard for yourself…” states the band. This drawing in of strands from various sources is one of the key elements of prog rock. It is how you use them that allows a band to stand out from the crowd.

The opening, An Empty Space, is heavy in electronica paired with catchy pop-rock and is quite cinematic with some effects laden vocals, whilst We Harvest The Souls Of The Brave moves more into progressive metal with an array of hooks and riffs that steers the music to a heavier zone. Ghostfires is a very melodic piece and becomes a little alt. rock for a while, I Am The Chosen One (And I Like It) shifts once again towards progressive metal, with some suitably shredding guitars and a somewhat simpler approach. Pull Me In toys with electronica again although given the prism of a slow-ish rock ballad to play with, whilst It’s a Start, Not the End, the album’s concluding track, has the feel of an epic that features some excellent singing, being more complex and enterprising.

Although there is a great deal to admire with this album, it does also feel a little derivative from time to time. The strengths at the start and end of the release wither just a little bit in the centre, perhaps not helped by having to carry the narrative of the concept. Perhaps it is the strength of the other material that leaves the listener somehow expecting more. Better pacing may be a help – perhaps an acoustic moment or two might have whetted the appetite a little more.

There is a very good standard of musicianship though throughout the album from all the participants. In what could well have been a bleak, cold rather austere collection of songs given the releases concept, there is quite a bit of emotion on display especially from the guitars. The rhythm section is quite upbeat and jaunty, but it is the vocals that are possibly the stand out feature. Although laden with effects at times, one would imagine because of the concept’s needs, Stefan Altzar’s vocals bring quite a lot to the table without being too up front and central. Given the diversity of the music, all the musicians need to bring a full back of tricks with them, from subtle melodic lines, riffing, hooks, and a little funkiness as necessary. The standard of the production is high, although the sound is generally quite dense there’s quite a lot of space and etherealness generated.

By modern standards this is a relatively old-fashioned length of album, clocking in at just over the three-quarters-of-an-hour mark. That is just about right for this story. Any longer may have been stretching the concept just a little bit too far. It feels like the collection of songs has just achieved their natural length.

In spite of the few reservations mentioned, this is a very good album. It takes a very modern prog stance, adding catchy hook ridden pop to the mix with very little that could be discordant apart from the odd outbreak of guitar shredding. It is an evenly paced album with any breaks in the propelling rhythms coming principally from the electronic interludes. Much of the complexity is produced by the layering of the sound. This is an interesting album and proves to be a good one to listen to.

1. An Empty Space

2. We Harvest the Souls of the Brave

3. I Am the Chosen One (and I Like It)

4. Ghostfires

5. Cora’s New Secret

6. The Protectors of the Universe

7. 2100 (New Year’s Eve)

8. Pull Me In

9. It’s a Start, Not the End

Samuel Granath – drums, keyboards

Stefan Altzar – vocals, guitars, keyboards

Daniel Magdic – guitars, keyboards

Noah Magnusson – bass

Release date: 24th March, 2022

Label: Glassville Records

Formats: Vinyl, CD, digital

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