It has been six years since the last studio release of quintessential 1990’s progressive rock band Anglagard. In the mean time, original and current bassist Johan Brand has teamed up with original keyboardist Thomas Johnson and current drummer Erik Hammarström to record a debut as All Traps on Earth. Joining them are Brand’s daughter Miranda on vocals, as well as a number of guests on various brass and woodwind instruments (flute in particular). Despite the pared-down lineup, A Drop of Light is Anglagard in all but name. A favored child, if you will.
As might be expected from Brand and Johnson, these five tracks (four of which exceed 12 minutes) exhibit dark atmospheres, rhythmic sophistication, and a thick retro feel without being overly derivative. In fact, as may be said about Anglagard, All Traps on Earth plays a perfected form of symphonic prog that goes beyond their influencers of the 1970-78 period. Brand and Johnson include the expected Moogs, Mellotrons, Fenders, Rickenbachers, and Wurlitzers, while Hammarström incorporates a plethora of percussion into his drum-set based contributions. But there is also a sax solo, something that the parent band did not explore until recently. Miranda Brand’s vocals are wordless chants that subtly add to the more foreboding breaks and motifs.
Thematically A Drop of Light falls somewhere between Anglagard’s first two albums, though it is not far removed from their latest either. Some has said that it is the logical follow-on to their debut, Hybris. What I hear is akin to all of that but with moments of playfulness combined with the serious stuff. Ultimately, I have a soft spot for this sort of thing despite not being a huge prog rock fan. In short, fans of Anglagard should not hesitate. But there are many layers to unwrap in A Drop of Light that will likely keep anyone interested in complex, classically-oriented rock engaged for quite some time.