Swedish guitar wizard Ola Englund has released his first solo instrumental guitar album this year. ‘Master Of The Universe’ is truly a masterpiece that as a musician myself I would go so far as to describe it being ‘ear candy’. Instrumental albums usually have the guitar parts doing the brunt of the work and the storytelling rather than lyrics, in standard tunes; throughout all the songs in this album there are clear and defined progressions and sections. These all work together in a wonderful balance that makes for a very tasteful sonic buffet.
The album begins on an unassuming note, or more like set of notes. Pizza Hawaii starts of with a clean progression that rings out before getting stuck into chunkier prog goodness. Englund snuck in an odd time signature towards the beginning that had my ears pricked for the rest song listening out for the changes. The leads take a wild ride, climbing high and then cascading back down. All in all this is a strong and awesome first song with an equally awesome name.
Cerberus has a darker undertone than the previous song in what comes across as a ‘let’s get down to business’ attitude. It commences with yet another clean unsuspecting progression that seems to have both major and minor tonal themes, but before long, relentless chug-heavy riffs flood the sonic landscape. Relieved intermittently by some gentle clean rhythms similar to those at the beginning of Pizza Hawaii., this song ebbs and flows between these two in a perfect balance. About halfway through there is a delicious treat of a solo over some gentle background chugging that builds and releases into crashing blows. Just when you feel that relief from the tense riff it gets straight back into it. The song closes with the same intro progression that brings closure to the piece.
Solar Pt. 1 is the first of two lengthy but mighty songs. It begins with a very mellow piano melody, and slowly introduces each additional instrumental part. An acoustic guitar fills out some of the space, and provides a beautiful accompaniment to the piano. The duration of the song means that it progresses in stages. This first stage is very soothing and lulls you into a calm state before the energy picks up with electric riffs and crashing drums. At about a third of the way through the tune hits those notes that just give you that emotional kick. Evolving further, we hit the halfway point with another mellow section with what sounds like strings underneath the acoustic guitar rhythm. This section gives off a very spacey vibe. No song is complete without a beautiful guitar solo, and Englund delivers here before he heads back into that electrified riff. And just when you think you’ve heard it all – odd funky jazz chord-sounding bass-slapping breakdown? This song has it all! The song goes out with that underlying electric rhythm that came in towards the beginning and rounds off nicely.
An interesting song with an interesting title is That Youtube Song. The intro starts off fairly nonchalantly with a clean and polite riff but before you know it you get slammed from all sides with pounding drums, guitars going nuts in both rhythm and lead parts. This song hits a lot of dissonant notes as well as some seriously Dream Theater-esque rhythms that scream prog. Its transition between fast-paced screaming riffs and slower cleaner ominous ‘verses’ (if you could liken those sections to that description) means yet another tasty tune for this sonic adventure of an album.
Getting back to the long song extravaganza, Solar Pt. 2 is straight up glorious fist-raising goodness from the get go. A satisfyingly cheerful progression greets your ears before heading into a more held back series of ringing chords. These evolve with some soft drums and a beautiful and elegant lead like a cherry on top. Just when you get used to that, another scene change that leads you on a wild ride between tom-heavy drumming, quiet chords, and then a crashing no-holding-back rhythm. The climbing lead riff drops off into another almost jazzy sounding section. And, nothing less than a saxophone solo! This song is full of wonderful surprises, and I think it’s safe to say I have never heard saxophone before in this style of music so I applaud the uniqueness and how well it fits in with the song. It is also my favourite part of the whole album, and unlike many artists who introduce odd features in their songs, the sax sticks around for a while for you to enjoy. Englund then once again weaves an amazing solo over the dissonant rhythms. All in all this is a great sequel to Solar Pt. 1 and despite the length the constant changes keep you hooked from beginning to end.
Slutet På Skivan rounds off the album, that rolls in with a slow and fairly creepy or melancholy piano part. Again, surprise – guitars and drums explode into life again before you have a chance to think about what’s happening. This is the shortest song of the whole album, and does not feature any crazy guitar wizardry bar the last 30-40 seconds. Piano continues all the way through, with a jumpy rhythm that sounds caught between upbeat and melancholy, an interesting combination. Overall a great way to finish what is a fantastic album.
‘Master Of The Universe’ is out NOW and can be purchased from his website https://olaenglund.com/ or alternatively streamed from all major platforms.