Wheel Of Life
Karmakanic: Wheel Of Life (The End/ Regain, 2004) --Vinaya
1. Masterplan pt.1
2. Alex In Paradise
3. At The Speed Of Light
4. Do U Tango?
5. Where Earth Meets The Sky
7. Wheel Of Life
8. Masterplan pt.2
Now here’s something from left field! Vocalist Goran Edman, best known for his work with Swedish shred sensation Yngwie Malmsteen, may appear on this album, but don’t let that fool you. Karmakanic put on a pretty dazzling musical fireworks display, alright, but this ain’t no Rising Force clone by any stretch of the imagination.
Indeed, stretching the imagination in every direction conceivable within the loose confines of something vaguely resembling a "rock song" is what this band of prog rock nutters does. Under the guidance of Flower Kings bassist/ keyboardist/ composer Jonas Reingold, Karmakanic produce a complex, wide-ranging and free-flowing flood of crazy musical ideas that bear a distinct old-school prog–rock influence (as in ‘70's prog- we’re talking way before Dream Theater, kiddies!), with just enough hints of politically correct modern rock to bring it up to date. The opening cut, "Masterplan pt.1" clocks in at over fourteen minutes, and is a good indicator of things to come: sprawling, epic arrangements, broad dynamics and complex guitar and synth riffs, all delivered with a spectacular degree of musicianship and an impressive lack of ego-driven solo extravaganzas.
Nope, this isn’t the kind of modern, ironically generic, post-Dream Theater prog rock album-by-numbers that snotty, uninformed, know-it-all critics love to hate. Guitarist Krister Jonzon in particular deserves credit for not cramming the album with glorified picking exercises, sweep-picking runs we’ve heard a thousand times before, or those excruciating low E string chug-fests that turn every other prog metal album released these days into a patience-testing, rubber-stamped parody of the form. In fact, Wheel Of Life has few generic "metal" elements to speak of, with Jonzon frequently choosing to compliment his talented bandmates with acoustic guitar, reverting to the electric mainly for some tasty, melodic, fusion-ish leads. Goran Edman, too, comes across as something of an anomaly, contributing largely to those hints of modern rock I mentioned, with his clean, polite, distinctly non-metal vocals. And throughout the disc, the band as a whole seem to be working quite hard to keep things sonically interesting, with lots of weird sound effects, most notably the computerized voice that frequently interjects on "Do u Tango?" to pose that very question.
But whether you tango or not matters little, because Karmakanic have produced an ecclectic record that all manner of open-minded souls may find reason to groove to. Sure, some of the longer songs drag a bit in places, but they almost always pick up a big head of creative steam before you get bored with them. Only one problem: Why has such a vibrant and colorful album received such bland and lifeless cover art? The Age Of Silence album had similar problems, and a perusal of The End Records’ website leaves me inclined to suggest the company consider a major overhaul of their art department.