Fire! Orchestra: Ritual album review

Large-scale success for this large-scale ensemble.

Album cover for Fire! Orchestra's Ritual

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For several years, Fire! Trio – Mats Gustafsson (sax), Johan Berthling (bass) and Andreas Werliin (drums) – have expanded to a larger grouping when occasion and finances have allowed. They say they’ve slimmed down a few members, but we count 21 players in ex-ABBA songsmith Benny Andersson’s Stockholm studio. Known for his ear-splitting sonics and bellicose playing, Gustafsson subsumes his aleatoric instincts here in order to help deliver a driving and surprisingly rock-orientated composition. Broken into five parts, Ritual vibrates with an almost mechanistic, industrial momentum. Although the principal horn-led themes are relatively simple, they have a galvanising force.

That’s partly due to their energetic repetition, but also through the assertiveness of their performance, with vocalists Mariam Wallentin and Sofia Jernberg adding passion to the text, taken from esteemed Swedish poet Erik Lindegren, sung in English. Think Magma when they’re firing on all cylinders. After the turbulence of previous sections, the finale reduces to a bluesy march whose solemn steps evoke Ian Carr’s pieces with Nucleus. It’s a smouldering but tightly disciplined and highly satisfying resolution.

Sid Smith

Sid's feature articles and reviews have appeared in numerous publications including Prog, Classic Rock, Record Collector, Q, Mojo and Uncut. A full-time freelance writer with hundreds of sleevenotes and essays for both indie and major record labels to his credit, his book, In The Court Of King Crimson, an acclaimed biography of King Crimson, was substantially revised and expanded in 2019 to coincide with the band’s 50th Anniversary. Alongside appearances on radio and TV, he has lectured on jazz and progressive music in the UK and Europe.  

A resident of Whitley Bay in north-east England, he spends far too much time posting photographs of LPs he's listening to on Twitter and Facebook.