|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Linus Kase & Per Hallman|
|Record Label: Rivel||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Flagship|
|Tracks: 6||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 47:08|
Vocalist Christian Rivel has been every bit as versatile as he has been busy as of late. The first quarter of 2005, for example, saw him release not only Glory Thy Name, the debut of his new symphonic power metal band Divinefire, but also his hard rocking side project Audiovision and its first full length effort The Calling. Divinefire stayed busy enough to record its sophomore release, Hero, later in the same year, while in the spring of 2006 we can anticipate Enter The Gate, the fifth studio album from the power/progressive metal of his full time band Narnia. And that brings us to Rivel’s latest endeavor: the progressive rock of Flagship and its very fine debut, appropriately entitled, Maiden Voyage.
Flagship is actually a collaboration between Rivel and keyboardist Linus Kase (Brighteye Brison), Kase acting as the bands primary songwriter while co-producing the project along with Per Hallman (Stormwind, Wisdom Call). Rivel, as always, does a very fine job handling lead vocal duties in addition to contributing the majority of the albums lyrics. To help round out the project the two brought in several talented musicians: Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia) fills in on lead and rhythm guitar while bassist Kristofer Eng (Brighteye Bison) and drummer Mick Nordström (Modest Attraction) comprise a solid rhythm section.
What Flagship brings to the table is progressive rock with classic rock tendencies. The best comparison I might make to the band would be Kansas, particularly its earlier material such as Song For America, in that the songs here are lengthy, highly complex and richly orchestrated. Kansas, however, is not the only band that comes to mind here. For example, you can also hear elements of Yes and Rush with hints of Styx and Queen thrown in as well; fans of Spock’s Beard, Neal Morse and perhaps even Dream Theater or Shadow Gallery will also find a home in Flagship.
While the production values to Maiden Voyage betray no overriding elements of thinness or muddiness, its sonics come across slightly dry and would benefit from just a touch of polish. The overall feeling I get, as a matter of fact, is the same as when listening too many of Kansas’ older albums from the seventies. Perhaps this was the desired effect; in which case the production values succeed laudably.
"Heart Is The Center" gets the album off to a strong start. Following a minute long instrumental based introduction, the song slows as a piano stands in support of Rivel’s clean sounding voice during its first verse and chorus. Once Grimmark’s guitar gradually fades into the mix, however, it helps lead the way to the second chorus which is twice repeated by the band in a smooth sounding and flowing manner.
A piano takes “You Are” through its second verse before the song picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar and rhythm section abruptly kick in, the two helping to lead the way to a strong keyboard driven chorus advancing at an upbeat tempo. A sweeping two minute instrumental passage gives Flagship the opportunity to showcase its well rounded instrumental prowess. “You Are” is aptly named:
You, You are the music
You’re the sun
You are there for everyone
To give us strength to carry on
You, You are the stars
You are the light
You are the one who makes things right
You give us hope to see beyond
The Kansas-like grand piano introducing “The Throne” propels the song through its first verse before Grimmark’s rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix and underscores the second hard and heavy. A worshipful chorus reinforced by background vocal helps place “The Throne” among the album strongest tracks. Once again, another lengthy instrumental passage allows Flagship to demonstrate in no uncertain terms the strength of its musicianship. “The Throne” is a song of faith:
My time is now and I will walk Your way
‘Til the end of my living days
I will never surrender
Even if I’m down and out
With You I am always strong
The vocal harmonies initiating “Hold On To Your Dream” give way to a crisp rhythm guitar as the song moves forward in up-tempo fashion. Slowing to the sound of a piano upon reaching its first verse, “Hold On To Your Dreams” does not regain its lost momentum until it reaches a good melodic flavored chorus backed by just the right amount of rhythm guitar. “Hold On To Your Dream” is about exactly that:
Now I see this world with different eyes
I wanna share my passion and give it all to You
Now I understand there’s a plan for my life
I’m just a singer but the eternal love will lead me right
Simple in its approach but technical in its execution, “Windy City” takes off quickly only to slow as a piano carries its first chorus and verse. Picking up in pace, a touch of rhythm guitar enters the mix as the song repeats its chorus in a more upbeat and energy laden manner. I really enjoy how another extensive instrumental passage closes out the songs final four minutes.
“Ground Zero”, a remake of the final track off Kerry Livgren’s (Kansas, AD, Proto-Kaw) 1980 solo album Seeds Of Change, is the only number on Maiden Voyage to not quite make the grade. In comparison, the Flagship version comes across slightly flat, devoid of much of the all out raw emotion and majesty conveyed by the original. Produce Per Hallman, at the same time, fills in on lead vocals and, unfortunately, his vocal delivery does not quite bring the same level of passion and feeling that David Pack (Ambrosia) instilled on the Seeds Of Change version.
All in all, Maiden Voyage proves an all around solid effort that does an effective job of highlighting the combined talents of keyboardist/songwriter Linus Kase and vocalist Christian Rivel. The album, in the end, gets a definite thumbs up and comes highly recommended for fans of the progressive rock genre.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Heart Is The Center" (7:41), "You Are" (6:53), "The Throne" (8:43), "Hold On To Your Dream" (6:38), "Windy City" (7:33), "Ground Zero" (9:39)
Christian Rivel – Lead Vocals
Linus Kase – Keyboards
Carl Johan Grimmark – Guitars
Kristofer Eng – Bass
Mick Nordstrom – Drums
Per Hallman – Lead Vocals
Kerry Livgren – Guitars
Bjorn Klingvall – Violin & Viola
Michael Rank Jensen – Acoustic Guitars
Thomas Vikstrom – Backing Vocals
Also Reviewed: Audiovision – The Calling, Divinefire – Glory Thy Name, Divinefire - Hero, Divinefire - Into A New Dimension, Divinefire - Farewell, Narnia – The Great Fall, Narnia - At Short Notice, Narnia - Enter The Gate, Narnia - Decade Of Confession, Wisdom Call – Wisdom Call