Twenty years and five albums in, the Swedish duo of Carl Westholm and Nicklas Flinck, bolstered by the mysterious NFO (No Future Orchestra), a revolving collective of sometimes-named/sometimes-not musicians, have ploughed a generally neo-ish prog furrow, strong on the symphonic but deep in hock to first and second generation pioneers.
On first listen, there’s little here to immediately counter that assertion. Swooping keyboard arpeggios swiftly shift through the gears, channelling Marillion’s Punch And Judy/Garden Party. Flinck’s vocal register and phrasing manages to evoke almost every-era Gabriel; dramatic near-spoken narration (Dwindle Into Greatness), chorus-smashing euphoria (Between Extremes) and lightly-rasped emotion (The River). Musically, the canvas is painted with a far broader brush, clipped riffery adding more of an industrial than symphonic dynamic. Whimsy is well covered on the slower, sparser tracks, the best of which, Porus, adds an acoustic guitar, and veers close to 60s psych pop. The kitchen-sink approach could be dialled down a notch, but it’s the lack of premier-league cohesion and craft within the songs that dulls an otherwise shiny effort.