Most of us UK prog fans have yet to hear much of Swedish power trio Brother Ape, but with this new album being their first for Dutch-based but globally connected label FREIA Music, you’d hope that would change – not least because this is the most instantly engaging record they’ve made since their 2003 debut. .
The jazz rock touches that regularly punctuated their sound are less evident. Instead we hear clear ambitions towards widescreen arena rock in the style of 90125-era Yes, exemplified by Hina Surawa’s synth-coated melancholic sweep and the emotional balladry of Don’t Stand At My Grave And Cry. But this is no airbrushed AOR: the jagged riffs and scattergun percussion of Let The Right One In leave satisfying sonic scars, and the epic chorus that climaxes Oblivion is built on top of stuttering, uneasy rhythms and slashing twin guitars. There’s also an unashamed romantic wanderlust – they characterise the almost showtune-ish, string-soaked musings of If I Could and You Are’s beautiful acoustic patterns. This is helped by the fact that frontman Stefan Damicolas’ vocals are now stronger and more emotive, sounding like the genetically spliced offspring of Roger Hodgson and Jon Anderson. This Ape is clearly evolving