Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Nozanopra - Peace In Our Hearts
Musical Style: Progressive Rock Produced By: Thobias Wiklund
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: Sweden
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: Nozanopra
Tracks: 9 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 44:00

Nozanopra - Peace In Our Hearts

Of all the surprises at Angelic Warlord this year, the summer of 2017 full-length debut of guitarist Thobias Wiklund’s Nozanopra project, Peace In Our Hearts, ranks at the very top.  For those not familiar, Wiklund released in 2015 his debut solo album To Remember The Forgotten, which (per the 80% Angelic Warlord review) ‘gives prominence to (an even) joining of instrumental and vocal cuts (four each) that rest upon a foundation of melodic hard rock with periodic leanings toward the metal and progressive side of things’ .  When the artist contacted me about reviewing Nozanopra, I was expecting more of the same musically - by no means a bad thing - but was pleased to discover he had further expanded upon the progressive facets inherent to TRTF.  Where Wiklund steps outside the box is from how he also incorporates Far Eastern melodies and rhythms with the use of a Turkish stringed instrumental called the saz throughout the instrumental portions of select songs.  It lends an eclectic feel in similar fashion as how Magdallan employed sitar on its 1992 Big Bang album.           

If you are similar to us and are a fan of TRTF, then there is also no need to be concerned in that Wiklund has not forsaken his signature AOR and melodic rock ways but rather has incorporated them within a progressive framework in similar fashion as Time Horizon (noting its 2015 release Transitions).  A full measure of this, of course, attests to the presence of renowned vocalist Peo Pettersson, whom is better known for his work in Leviticus, having fronted the group’s fourth album from 1989, Knights Of Heaven, in addition to the four TRTF vocal tracks.  Peo fronts three of the seven Peace In Our Hearts cuts as well, with the remaining four credited to Chris Lanto, who contracts with Peo’s raspy mid-paced style with a classic tenor form that walks a fine line between Steve Walsh (Kansas) and Russell Allen (Symphony X).  Trust me, the guy is that good! 
Otherwise, Wiklund, who got his start by releasing a pair of turn of the century EP’s with Twilight Illusion prior to recording TRTF, continues to employ a wide array of musicians to fill out the Peace In Our Hearts roster.  Returning is TRTF drummer Mauritz Petersson who joins guest musicians drummer Mats “Mally” Hoxell, bassist Tomas Lundqvist (who also appeared on TRTF), percussionist Hagop Artinian and saz expert Emanuel Demir.  It would be accurate to suggest that said wide array of performers and their varying backgrounds help lend to the albums diverse feel.     

I would like to start the track by track by stating that Peace In Our Hearts is progressive in featuring its share of twists and turns and time signatures while blending various musical forms but also does not overdo it in that there are not any 20 minute epics either.  Rather, majority of the albums songs reside within six to seven minute territory, including opener “Druidic Fire Never Dies”. 

A song that highlights aspects of the progressive and neo-classical, “Druidic Fire Never Dies” opens its first minute instrumentally as saz makes its first appearance but otherwise proves an upbeat heavy rocker.  The rollicking tempo it sets suggests of all out metal even though guitars do not cross the metal threshold, which is more observation as opposed to critique in light of the quality to the music at hand.  My favorite aspect to the song is the stand out melody not to mention how Lanto’s soaring vocal abilities further enhance its epic based feel.

Peo makes his first appearance on “Now Is The Time”, a fitting AOR tinged melodic hard rocker in which guitars make the stronger statement.  The more commercial environs is the upshot but without backing from the groups progressive makeup, as refrain touches upon the radio friendly and an intricate bass line enlivens the backend.  Instrumentally, saz gives way to a scintillating lead guitar run.

“Peace In Our Hearts” takes a similar AOR based heading - albeit, this time with Lanto on vocals - but within a darker and more mid-paced framework.  Pronounced melody, for instance, continues to play a lead role, as does a classical aspect in terms of keyboards, which are a bit heavier this time around.  I particularly enjoy the saz and lead guitar duel that occurs instrumentally (artist pulls-out-all-the stops soloing wise). 

“Save The World” represents the perfect joining of heaviness and melody.  It would not be inaccurate to suggest “Save The World” features the albums most decided rhythm guitar focus - the type which places it within hard rock territory - while the abundant hooks are of an almost Theocracy like quality (I swear I can hear Matt Smith alongside Peo in the harmony vocals!).  All the while throughout the backdrop, an overriding moodiness prevails.

“Land Of Paradise”, albums longest at just under eight minutes, comes across in the form of a somber Gothic influenced ballad.  The song drifts serenely its first two minutes to acoustic guitar and airy keyboards until picking up impetus at once, with big bass and resounding guitars stepping forward to propel things ahead in the more forthright manner.  Following a moving instrumental stretch near the end, “Land Of Paradise” gains further momentum as it reaches a crescendo of emotion for its rousing close.

Final Peo cut “So Many Miles” comes across legendary in feel in approaching the grandiose- it mirrors light epic metal touches but without approaching the heaviness innate to power metal.  Does that make sense?  One need look closely at the refrain, which sounds like something Warlord or Blind Guardian might devise.  Otherwise, the song revels in the mid-tempo with a firm guitar mix and return of saz after taking a break on “Land Of Paradise”.  Also, note the technical drum signatures from Mauritz Petersson.

Album closes to the Kansas like progressiveness of “Soul Searcher”.  Lanto does his best Steve Walsh impersonation, while the song reeks of the type of hooks prime Kerry Livgren might come up with (albums best track in my opinion).  Plenty of twists and turns along the way, including a slower, resonate passage just past the halfway point and another extended instrumental stretch to feature Wiklund’s elegant lead guitar work.  The only thing missing is Robby Steinhardt’s violin in the backdrop!

Crisp and clean production allows ample room for all instrumentation, including more than adequate bass and keyboards to taste but not to much so.  Vocals receive a complementary mix, as do guitar leads.  On a couple of songs, such as “Druidic Fire Never Dies”, I wish guitars had been placed a bit more forward, but it is also important to keep in mind (at least based upon my impression) Nozanopra is going for a progressive rock based sound as opposed to hard rock or metal.

The group could have expanded upon packaging a bit.  While cover art is finely done and the single page insert is laid out professionally, I wish room had been made for lyrics, noting how song titles such as “Peace In Our Hearts”, “Save The World”, “Land Of Paradise” and “Soul Searcher” leave impression as touching upon light faith based themes.

Strength to Peace In Our Hearts resides in how it affiliates a light progressiveness and leanings towards the melodic rock side of things with other musical forms (classical, Goth, etc).  Diverse and varied might be the first words that come to mind but so does eclectic, at least when factoring the creative use of saz, which gives the album an outside the box feel not always associated with progressive music.  Of course, those into all musical styles presented will be drawn to Peace In Our Hearts, as will fans of Peo, keeping in mind equally able cohort Chris Lanto.  In the end, putting the project over the top is Wiklund’s songwriting that roots itself on strong melodies but does not overdue it in terms of the progressive. 

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Druidic Fire Never Dies” (6:46), “Now Is The Time” (5:46), “Peace In Our Hearts” (5:17), “Save The World” (5:30), “Land Of Paradise” (7:42), “So Many Miles” (6:22), “Soul Searcher” (6:29)

Thobias Wiklund - Guitars & Bass
Chris Lanto - Lead Vocals, Keyboards, Saz, Bass & Drums
Peo Pettersson - Vocals
Mauritz Peterrson - Drums & Percussion

Additional Musicians
Mats Hoxell - Drums
Tomas Lundquist - Bass
Paul Artinian - Keyboards
Hagop Artinian - Percussion
Emanuel Demir - Saz


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