|Musical Style: Hard Rock||Produced By: Thobias Wiklund|
|Record Label: TW Music||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2015||Artist Website: Thobias Wiklund|
|Tracks: 8||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 39:42|
Music has always played an important role in the life of Stockholm, Sweden based guitarist and composer Thobias Wiklund. His musical journey traces to age three when he received his first guitar as a gift, but he later also learned to play bass, drums and keyboards in addition to starting his own band and playing in church upon reaching thirteen. After relocating to Umea (in Northern Sweden) to study music, he joined vocalist Niclas Lideskär and drummer Richard Johansson (both Fatal Smile & Jaggernaut) in Twilight Illusion and recorded a pair of EP’s in Miracle Of Life (2003) and Remember My Name (2004). Wiklund departed Twilight Illusion in 2006 to both work as a freelance musician and start work on his debut full length-solo album To Remember The Forgotten, which he released via TWMusic Productions on October 16, 2014 (digital) and December 1, 2014 (CD).
To Remember The Forgotten breaks down evenly (four each) between instrumental cuts and vocal tracks in resting upon a foundation of melodic hard rock with period leanings towards the metal and progressive side of things. Of note are the guest musicians appearing on the album, including bassist Tomas Lundqvist, keyboardist Joaqim Lewerin, drummer Mauritz Petersson and vocalist/keyboardist Peo Pettersson. Name immediately standing out is that of Pettersson, who many will remember from fronting Leviticus on the melodic rock of its fourth album from 1989, Knights Of Heaven, and 2003 comeback live album Live At Bobfest 2003. Previous to that he got his start as vocalist of Axia on its self-titled debut released in 1988 in addition to making a guest appearance on six tracks on guitarist Bjorn Stigsson’s (Leviticus) excellent 1989 solo outing Together With Friends (a hard to find album that desperately needs to be re-issued).
Thobias Wiklund and Peo Pettersson form the quintessential guitarist and vocalist team when factoring the melodic nature of the To Remember The Forgotten material. Consider how commercial hard rock opener “Wisdom Leader’ finds the two at their best, with Pettersson singing in a higher register compared to what I recall from him in the past (observation and not critique) and Wiklund lending a classical edge to the song with is exquisite playing. Otherwise, “Wisdom Leader” maintains a forthright disposition front to back in highlighting light traces of keyboards and albums best melodic based hook (catchy chorus is certain to pull you in on first listen).
“Guardian Angel” tempers the pace but ups the heaviness as bluesy Hammond B3 replaces the keyboards. This one finds Pettersson singing in his trademark lower register style imbued with heartfelt touches of grit and gravel- he reminds somewhat of Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen, Joshua Perahia) in this capacity. Note how the song maintains the accessible proclivities, reveling in AOR and melodic rock with its radio friendly refrain and lush guitar harmonies. Put this one on Knights Of Heaven and it would sound right at home, albeit the crisp and clean To Remember The Forgotten production trumps that of its overproduced to a fault Knights Of A Heaven equivalent.
A slight progressiveness reveals itself on six and a half minute “Everything You Want’. The song opens its initial verses ethereally to acoustic guitar and keyboards only to gradually gain impetus as guitars kick in, smoothly flowing its remaining distance to abundant bass (credit Tomas Lundqvist for his deft work throughout the album) and distinct melody in equal portions. Acoustic guitar returns to temper impetus prior to an instrumental section in which the artist showcases his classical influenced soloing abilities.
Eighties metal influenced “She Has Returned” rates as the heaviest of the vocal material. As guitars cement to the front of the mix and decided low end plays a prominent role, a rollicking if not groove based setting establishes itself. The corresponding energy borders on the infectious. Another lengthy instrumental interlude allows Wiklund to cut loose with a knife-edge stretch of lead guitar. Musically, I am reminded of early Joshua Perahia with hints of Setting Fire To The Earth era Leviticus thrown in.
The four To Remember The Forgotten vocal pieces reveal quite the melodic songwriting touch from Wiklund. Again, Pettersson proves the perfect vocal vehicle to navigate such melodic waters- the artist made quite the smart choice in recruiting him to front the project. At the same time, repeat listen reveals Wiklund to manifest the same melodic propensity on the albums instrumental material. In similar fashion to guitarist ‘Pastor Brad’ Windlan (who has received several Angelic Warlord reviews), the artist prioritizes song orientated instrumental hard rock that places equal emphasis on the song and musicianship without allowing the latter (through unnecessary ‘wankery’) to overshadow the former.
“I Speak From The Heart” does exactly that as my favorite of the instrumentals. The song opens to a brief drum solo before slowly maneuvering to accenting keyboards and bluesy guitar, lending a moody but inviting vibe as Wiklund decorated the eloquent scene with his catchy guitar harmonies. There is enough feeling and emotion at hand to send shivers down your spine. Also moody but heavier in form, ‘When The Sun Will Rise” plays up heightened rhythm guitars to establish a swarthy setting in which a churning low end - bass presence is prodigious - holds sway. Lead guitar takes a jazzy stance.
On a lighter side is “To Remember The Forgotten”, as acoustic guitars lend a slight Latin flair to a fusion-based track that comes across inspiring if not uplifting in form. Scintillating melodies and harmonies align with soloing of a delicate nature. “Goodbye My Friend” almost comes across as a companion track to “To Remember The Forgotten”, with acoustic guitar and beguiling harmonies playing every bit the pronounced role but with greater keyboards in the backdrop the separating factor. The song achieves the perfect balance of guitar predisposition and poignant melody in the process.
Constructive comments are few and far between. The album could use another song or two in that it is a bit short at just 8 cuts- keeping in mind the average song length of 5 minutes equates to a well rounded 40 minutes. I also would like to have seen the artist explore the heavier side to his songwriting with a couple more pieces along the lines of “She Has Returned” and “When The Sun Will Rise”. Reinforcing how all the To Remember The Forgotten material holds up to repeat play and that melodic hard rock finds the artist in his natural element.
To Remember The Forgotten adds up to a successful debut solo release from Thobias Wiklund. It is good to again hear from Peo Pettersson, who helps make the melodic hard rock basis of the vocal material stand out that much further. Instrumentally, the album maintains the same melodic penchant while allowing the musicianship to play up to the song without distracting. All in all those into well-written and performed melodic rock, commercial hard rock and AOR are strongly encourages to give To Remember The Forgotten the time and attention it deserves.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Wisdom Leader” (4:02), “To Remember The Forgotten” (4:09), “Guardian Angel” (4:58), “I Speak From the Heart” (5”13), “Everything I Want” (6:30), “When The Sun Will Rise” (5:03), “She Has Returned” (5:00), “Goodbye My Friend” (4”33)
Thobias Wiklund - Guitar, bass, keyboard
Peo Pettersson - Lead and background vocals, Hammond organ and keyboard
Mauritz Petersson - Drums and percussion.
Tomas Lundqvist - Bass
Joaqim Lewerin - Violin and keyboard