The illustrious Huck N Roll wrote recently that he spent his summer looking for the next great retro album. I write today that he needn’t have bothered; that album is to arrive after the summer and it’s called Excerpts from a Future Past. Produced by a Swedish band called Hällas, Excerpts represents their debut full-length and it’s really fantastic. Steeped in the hard rock, proto-heavy metal and progressive tendencies of the 1970s, Hällas so perfectly evokes this era without sounding remotely tired or trite. You may continue to read only after you’ve parted ways with your cash.
Even before I reach any substantive point about the song-writing, I absolutely love this aesthetic. Excerpts is simultaneously warm in its production yet cool in execution, swaggering through its 43-minute duration with Uriah Heep‘s jauntiness and lively playfulness. Simple guitar and keyboard leads dominate proceedings, occasionally layering in Maiden-esque harmonies, and entirely avoiding an overt reliance on Black Sabbath unlike so many throwback rock and metal bands. Touches of prog also reveal themselves on repeated listens, particularly on “The Golden City of Semyra” and “Shadow of the Templar.” The warm, organic, actually-played-together production is central to this success, with an evenly-balanced mix and dynamic master. The band simply gels and sounds cohesive in a way that super-technical, modern bands sometimes don’t.
Each component part of the songs written is exemplary. Tommy Alexandersson’s vocals are less whisky-soaked than whisky-drenched, crooning at a lower register. He’s far from most technically-gifted singer I’ve heard but he’s soulful, full of emotive character and perfect for the music. Nicklas Malmqvist’s keyboard is prevalent and fulfils whatever instrument is required, be that an organ most commonly but also faux strings and generic electronic synths. The most critical element is probably the guitar-work, undertaken by the adept duo of Alexander Moraitis and Marcus Pettersson. Leads are incredibly simple but far from dull, while progressive adornments in instrumental passages are intricate but not masturbatory. The two guitars sometimes harmonize and sometimes counter-point, weaving deftly between each other, and they’re always a pleasure to hear. Amazing moments are plentiful but special mention must go to “Star Rider” which boasts an exquisite opening riff and the record’s best solo. I’m convinced that those who don’t enjoy it are literally dead so are literally incapable of enjoyment generally. It’s a sure pick for my song of the year short-list.
Negatives are minor. I’d argue that the end of the record could be re-jigged so that the two longest tracks aren’t next to each other – they drag just slightly. The penultimate, “Shadow of the Templar,” has a great natural climax which would have made for an excellent overall conclusion. Tacking on “Illusion Sky” undermines this effect so while it’s a good track, it feels extraneous. I certainly don’t advocate for its complete removal given the album’s satisfactory 43-minute duration though slipping it elsewhere would serve itself and Excerpts better. The fade-to-black ending also rubs me the wrong way as I feel this is a limp finale in most contexts. But I really can’t linger on these points as they feel so insignificant next to the many thrills otherwise.
Excerpts exemplifies feel-good music for me; it’s so far up my alley it’s rubbing my prostate. Some of the miserable bastards I regretfully call co-writers whinged at my recommendation but they’re literally dead, as noted above. Some may say it’s derivative and I do have slight complaints but my overwhelming response is one of unadulterated joy. You like joy right?!