Seemingly coming from nowhere, Sweden's Kaipa unleash the most consistently interesting/awesome Prog Rock album since Metropolis Part II with Sattyg; something truly special in the wonderful world of Wank.
??A near-perfect synthesis of Prog's new and old schools, of virtuosity and tastefulness, and of competing influences, Sattyg hits like a steamroller and almost reeks of redemption - a bunch of undervalued veteran players showing the new guys how it's done.??
Apparently Kaipa, who formed over 40 years ago, were once considered one of Europe's premiere Prog acts, but the years weren't kind to them, washing them into obscurity when Yes and Genesis were granted immortality. Hell, even Gentle Giant, known almost exclusively for the underrated status, has way more name-recognition than Kaipa. ??
That being said, 2015 Kaipa is almost an entirely different band, with keyboardist/songwriter Hans Lundin the only remaining original member and with most of the other members joining about 15 years ago. In 2006, Scar Symmetry guitarist/certifiable genius Pers Nillson replaced founding guitarist Roine Stolt, who left to focus on The Flower Kings.
??A lot of the credit here is due to Nillson, whose work on Sattyg makes the Scar Symmetry material look laughably pedestrian. Nillson plays in a very Vai-esque smooth legato, but with a sense of catchiness that eludes Vai himself (not an apples to apples comparison, but I digress). The closest way to describe this in terms of the Prog Rock world would probably be to call into mind how similar Petrucci and Morse sound, but how Petrucci gets way more recognition for having more memorable solos, etc. The guitar-based "World of the Void," for example, has an undeniable Vai influence, but sticks in your head unlike anything Vai has written since Passion & Warfare.
??Interwoven with all the liquidly leads is a strong traditional folk undercurrent that gives Sattyg its own distinct character. While a variety of metal genres have been incorporating the traditional folk sound successfully for years now, Prog Rock has paradoxically behind the curve. Not saying it hasn't been done before Sattyg, but it hasn't been done as well. The short instrumental title track is indicative of this.??
The male/female dynamic offered by vocalists Aleena Gibson (a pop songwriter by trade, with credits stemming from Nick Carter to Girls' Generation) and Patrik Lundstrom is a fine addition, although they tend to play second fiddle to the awe-inspiring musicianship. They have their best moment on "Unique When We Fall," one of Sattyg's most to-the-point tracks.??
While Sattyg has a slight metallic edge, it mercifully stays pretty clear of the metal, probably sounding most akin to Journey and Kansas in its loudest moments. Although it may seem pointless to review an album based on what's not there, your reviewer recalls almost every single decent Prog album of the last 20 years being marred by at least one pointless chug riff. In fact, it seems that Nillson treats his low e-string the way most mediocre nu-metal/metalcore players treat their high e-strings: effectively ignoring it.
??Sattyg, which is just now being released in North America, has been getting noticeably little press since its initial November release. This is a true tragedy. If this isn't rectified in coming months, we can start calling Kaipa the unluckiest band of all time. Sattyg is pure gold.