BEARDFISH - +4626-Comfortzone

Beardfish - +4626-Comfortzone

10 songs
65:29 minutes
***** ****


What I always liked about Swedish progressive rock band was the fact how they were using retro elements in the most matter of fact way possible, and still manage to sound like a band from the present. Therefore I was a little disappointed with their last album The Void from 2012, where the quartet had moved in my opinion a little too far into a prog metal direction. They were still sounding good, but lost something of their unique charm.

I am happy to announce that the strangely titled +4626-Comfortzone is a step back from the path to metal. Beardfish still sound quite harsh and brutal at times, but always in the context of their own sound, guaranteeing an originality that only few bands can claim to have these days. I don’t know if this eighth longplayer is a concept album, but there is a common thread running through the songs. The album title is a concatenation of the phone prefixes for Sweden and their hometown Gävle and the song Comfort Zone, meaning that we all grow up to learn, in school and at home, to accept the status quo, instead of questioning authority. Another theme is how we have become a scapegoat society, blaming the economic crises on the weakest of society, thus creating an unparalleled atmosphere of xenophobia and racism. It is really cool to see that there are still, and especially, progressive rock bands around who have more to offer than just incredible musicianship!

That part is of course also quite delightful. The band is limiting itself to playing guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. Live, there are two of the latter. The music is therefore always quite down to earth, never symphonic or self-indulgent. Sure, some of the songs may be a tad longer, but that’s just because the narrative is asking for more space. If We Must Be Apart (A Love Story Continued) takes up a quarter of an hour, but comes with so many different parts, ranging from catchy pop prog to vintage Seventies hard rock, that it would be hard to imagine it any second shorter. But let’s get back to the beginning, with The One Inside Part One - Noise In The Background, which starts the album by introducing a leitmotif that will recur later on in the album. Up next is Hold On, a meaty eight minute track that is typical of the overall sound we have come to appreciate from Beardfish. The vocals are melodic and still have that quality (or accent) that shows you are in the presence of a Scandinavian band. The quasi title track makes it to nearly ten minutes and surprises with weeping guitar lines that feel like borrowed from a young Robert Fripp, contrasted by a really upfront bass guitar with a certain funk slap technique. The following four tracks come with more moderate lengths. Can You See Me Now? is not even four minutes long, and reminds somewhat of the Beatles. More psychedelia than prog, and could be a hit single, if that were ever possible to achieve for a progressive rock band. King and Daughter/Whore make it both over five minutes and show the band from their heavier side. In between those two we get The One Inside Part Two - My Companion Through Life, a mellower four minute moment. We talked already about the quarter hour epic. The album ends with Ode To The Rock’n’Roller, a strange yet appealing seven minute track about how society discourages originality in artists, and finally The One Inside Part Three - Relief, where the leitmotif introduced during the intro ends in a heartfelt ballad.

Like every self-respecting prog rock album, +4626-Comfortzone will take a couple of spins before you get all of its open and hidden charms. Beardfish have gone back somewhat to their roots, yet it doesn’t feel like a creative step back. Instead it seems as if the quartet has returned that what they do best. And three years after their last album, it is really nice to have them back.

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