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Agents Of Mercy: The press said

Tracklist: The Black Forest (11:06), A Quiet Little Town (6:53), Elegy (6:14), Black Sunday (6:14), Citadel (7:03), Between Sun & Moon (5:04), Freak Of Life (7:57), Kingdom Of Heaven (5:30)

Jon Bradshaw's Review

Following on from last year’s excellent Dramarama, Agents Of Mercy bring us their new offering, The Black Forest. Retaining the line-up we heard last year, you can very reasonably expect to savour some top-notch and versatile musicianship and this is very much the case with this release. Combined with the collective writing talents in this group of personnel, you can very reasonably expect some stellar compositions and you will not be disappointed. Given the vast studio experience gracing their collective CVs, you can very reasonably expect stunning arrangements and an engaging soundstage delivered with clarity and precision. Check. You’re waiting for a but? There isn’t one. AOM deliver in spades and sound better than they have done so far to my ears. The compositions are tight and succinct (for prog) with only one track reaching beyond ten minutes and the rest coming in at under eight minutes. With the total album length being 56 minutes this makes The Black Forest entirely digestible and legible. Shifting through a variety of styles and tastes, it remains a banquet but I don’t feel bloated and torpid at it’s conclusion, merely satiated.

What’s more, The Black Forest is a concept album:

"The Black Forest" is a surreal journey - a mysteriously glowing metaphor for a trip thru dark, disturbing, scary times, a lifelong uncertain journey bookended by greed, lust, hunger for power & money, eternal life, mind control, and guess what? ...we're the prey !!

We navigate thru dark dreams of the immortal, dark waters, eerie topics hinting at death & dreams, forest ghosts, blood countess Elzbeth Bathory's life, a freak parade of monstrosity galore, a quiet tidy town with hidden horrors, the touring circus of freaks, dark realms of endless wars and lost kingdoms, the unwanted dark towns of our minds …”
As bold as this may be, it doesn’t really come across lyrically. Musically, there’s a distinctly dark and netherworldy feel. It’s the stuff of childhood nightmares and things that go bump in the night or perhaps a kind of Tim Burton soundtrack. Maybe so, maybe not. It’s difficult to be precise because any label I choose to apply simply isn’t sophisticated enough. This is characteristic of the album as a whole. As soon as you think you’ve got the measure of it, something new and surprising will emerge to challenge your thinking.

This is evident from the off in the startlingly good title track. This broods and leers and is brilliantly theatrical. It blends moments of pastoral folky calm with gloriously symphonic bombast, nowhere more so than in the opulent vastness of the grave pipe organ heard in its conclusion. There are also passages and motifs that Flower Kings fans will find contain echoes of Roine and Jonas’ ‘home’ band. I want to draw a line under that though. It’s only natural that Roine’s signature compositional style will manifest itself, but this is not a Flower Kings album. It’s an Agents Of Mercy album and, with The Black Forest, I think they have laid down a marker and discovered their own identity. Another thing that struck me very quickly is Lalle Larsson’s amazing keyboard work. His contribution is supremely textured and diverse adding colour and wave and depth at every moment.

Black Sunday and Citadel reveal a move towards a harder, rockier sound for AOM with the guitars and drums pushed forward in the mix. Roine’s wrenching distorted guitar sounds great in these two tracks and the driven, heavy rock of Citadel’s verses would sit reasonably comfortably in Deep Purple’s canon. Similarly, Freak Of Life uses this harder, rockier edge but it contrasts and blends with symphonic elements and playful, creepy verses. The instrumental sections and solos from Roine and Lalle in all three of these songs underline the combined prowess of the band and demonstrate musicians at the height of their prodigious talents.

Elsewhere, Elegy is gorgeous, aching and beautiful and again, very theatrical. A silky arrangement of piano, strings and oboe provide the spine for the plaintive theme which is steadily layered with bigger and more open instrumentation: cavernous drums, Jonas’ fluid bass and earth-shattering Taurus pedals, and one of Roine’s elegant, majestic, weeping guitar solos. The impressive and catchy, A Quiet Little Town combines funk/fusion elements within a dramatic, bustling framework that is beguilingly ‘metropolitan’ in tone and belies the title of the track. I like this one a lot. Between Sun And Moon is the apple among the oranges, an upbeat piece with a characteristic ‘Roine’ vibe. Blending simplicity and complexity, melancholy and joy with élan, this is an utterly infectious ray of light amidst the shuddering blackness of the invisible sky inside AOM’s Black Forest.

I’ve not mentioned Nad Sylvan yet as I’m singling him out for special praise. His is a stunning performance on this album. The songs are dripping with theatre and drama. There are some very clever vocal parts, in a range of styles, which deepen the dramatic impact of each song. From sacred choral moments to Negro Spiritual and gospel choirs, to MGM romantic choruses and odd outbursts of harlequin colour, listen out for the shifting, twisted-fairytale aura of the vocal arrangements. This AOM is so theatrical, so dramatic, that it is almost (I stress, almost) tipping into rock-opera territory and it is Nad Sylvan’s superb work that makes it so. Not, I might add, that there is anything wrong in that! I love Stephen Sondheim and Les Miz and some of Rice and Webber’s work as well as the classic MGM musicals of the 40s and 50s. Prog Opera? Now there’s a thought, Roine.

All in all, this is an excellent album that often touches brilliance. Certainly fans of Jonas Reingold and Roine Stolt’s work in all it’s guises should be buying this. It plays with the kind of energy and accessibility that could open the ears of prog virgins and prog neophytes to a world of rich musical wonders. Equally, I think it could prick up the ears of even the most jaded and bitter of the Prognoscenti to warrant an appreciative nod of dismissive, sneering approval. What’s fantastic, and ultimately what makes this record a triumph, is how deftly AOM tread the line between the-gone-before and the-not-yet-done. It proves to be a dazzling tour-de-force in both sonic and stylistic terms and it’s very, very difficult to complain about that.



Jez Rowden's Review

As a dyed in the wool fan of The Flower Kings I have always felt a bit let down by Agents of Mercy, despite both of their previous albums having some enjoyable moments, particularly 2010's Dramarama. Roine Stolt possibly felt that after the last couple of TFK albums were generally not as strong as some of their earlier material he needed a break from the band and he certainly appears to be enjoying himself with the Agents’ more song-based and less excessive approach. However, as time has passed I, for one, have been hoping that the Kings would re-emerge to produce an album to rival their majestic creative highs but with three albums in as many years AoM are beginning to feel more like a full-time gig than a sideline. The Black Forest, an album I honestly have not been looking forward to with a huge amount of enthusiasm, is a concept album no less that makes a more than convincing step towards bringing Roine’s two worlds together. In short, this is one hell of an album.

The concept of The Black Forest, which disappointingly does not involve any sort of cherry stuffed gateau as far as I can see, deals with a surreal journey through a scary forest as a metaphor for a lifelong journey. Whilst the world we travel through can be beautiful you can’t see what dark and disturbing times may be waiting around the corner.

An epic to start? That sounds promising and the title track sets things up nicely and doesn’t disappoint. I’ve never been comfortable with Nad Sylvan’s vocal style but his idiosyncrasies seem a better fit here and he doesn’t grate at all. Walle Wahlgren on drums is a real find and he has certainly developed over the course of the two Agents’ albums he has appeared on while Lalle Larsson is simply spectacular behind the keys.

A Quiet Little Town is awesome with fabulous bass from the master Jonas Reingold adding a Gentle Giant twist and elsewhere there is Genesis influence in the writing. Sylvan picks up writing credits on this track and Freak Of Life, Stolt contributing the rest.

Black Sunday opens with epic church organ and choral vocals before turning into a stomper driven along by Wahlgren, Roine adding fine guitar. Larsson displays his talent with a typically dextrous and quirky solo and the interplay between all concerned is tremendous. Overall things are looking very bright indeed and you can almost see Roine smiling. Perhaps.

Elegy is exactly that, a mournful piano led piece with a great vocal from Sylvan and a guitar solo dripping with emotion as only Stolt can provide. Roine takes some lead vocal on Citadel, a real rocker containing some extended instrumental breaks that will no doubt translate well into the live environment. Overall the music has more balls than previously and this goes a long way towards redressing the balance of expectation against delivery. The tracks are also longer and more symphonic in their outlook with influences from jazz and folk and this can only be a good thing.

Roine again takes lead on Between Sun & Moon with Sylvan coming in for the chorus and this sounds more like it could have come from a Flower Kings album with its embellishments and ebb and flow, stop/start feel. Freak Of Life starts with a sinister circus side show before deploying some great keys and crunching bass through a number of changing cycles with more Genesis influence and an impressive performance from Nad. Kingdom Of Heaven is very airy and hypnotic with Larsson’s keys swirling behind Stolt’s quality extended soloing, the track building to a crescendo and finally falling away to silence.

From a prog perspective Agents Of Mercy have often looked like a talented bunch of musicians that aren’t stretched enough but here they have finally produced the album that should have been their debut. This would probably have been expecting too much but now all concerned have clearly settled into the environment and there is no telling where they will go from here and what wondrous music may be out there in their future. The Black Forest is succinct and holds the interest without wavering and disappearing up its own arse. It is over the top, in a good way, but with a considerably shorter running time than either Dramarama or Fading Ghosts of Twilight it follows a definite “less is more” approach which is to be commended.

For the first time in a bunch of years I am not missing The Flower Kings as much! It is not just that I am happy with this release, more damned surprised as I really wasn’t expecting it to be this good. This is a quality album and an easy recommendation for anyone missing Roine’s symphonic tendencies and the quirkiness of TFK but with their excesses toned down slightly.



Ian Butler's Review

AoM are a new band to me, so for this DPRP RTR I am approaching this album without hearing any of their back catalogue. I also listened the first few times without any information about the band. I did know that Mr Roine Stolt was involved and it was prog, so I anticipated a certain style of prog. I am sure that my other DPRP colleagues will give some further background about the band and their works.

The Black Forest - opens the album. It's darker and harder edge than I expected, but it's full with melodies and intricacies from the start. I am instantly impressed by the many changing passages in the music. Lalle Larson comes to the forefront with a good old fashioned sounding keyboard solo, over a 'prog' time signature, text book prog! The initial darker passages make way for quieter Camel-esque parts with flutes, acoustic guitar and church organ, all courtesy of the modern keyboard I assume. Midway through this track, the music goes very quiet, builds back up steadily with mellotron, in a real early Genesis end of Suppers Ready style. It's a good piece to start the album, very interesting and diverse. This track reminds me about Discipline's superb album Unfolded Like Staircase. The more I listen to this track, some theatrical elements creep in.

Nad Sylvan delivers most of the vocals on the album I believe and I think he sounds unique. If I were to try and describe his voice, I hear shades of Bon Scott, Peter Hammill and Peter Gabriel all in one! Now you have to buy this album to hear this right?

A Quiet Little Town, is punchy funky prog, ala Gentle Giant and Ritual, even down to the same bass sound! Trying to resist the volume control is useless, I just hoped the neighbours weren't at home! Walle Walghren (drums) and of course Jonas Reingold (bass) play superbly together throughout the album as you would expect. This track, like the first, has many passages and the middle part of this song is totally different from the start.

After forming some initial opinions I went to the website to get some more information about the release. It's supposed to be more of a prog than symphonic album, where the sounds of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zep more common than references of Yes and Genesis, but with the caveat, still expect moog and mellotron! To be honest, I don't really hear much harder rock in the styles of the forementioned groups in this album. To me it sounds more in keeping just with other heavier The Flower Kings moments, or actually Spocks Beard's heavier moments on their SB album. A quick look at the personnel on the album reveals that it comprises many musicians from the that remarkable Swedish musical gene pool, with family members of Karmakanic, TFK's etc..

Black Sunday, is a harder rocker and starts with Queen-esque vocals, church organ and moog which makes way for a solid head knodding drums beat accompanied by heavy guitars, with Roine's wailing wah wah guitar over the top. I can see how this is more rock influenced, but the doubled guitar lines and keyboards are still there, rooting it firmly in prog land!

Elegy is the fourth track and begins with a pleasant piano and vocal intro. This is where Nad Sylvan's vocals really shine. Even the use of the phrase 'the winner takes it all' makes it futile to try not think about Abba, terrible I know! The track advances and in true classic prog style, drops into a minor key and launches into a descending progression with a carefully crafted and emotionally executed guitar solo. Jonas compliments with some high fretted melodic bass playing. At this point it struck me that there is always something new on every listen.

Citadel is in direct contrast to Elegy, a more upbeat song. For me the short guitar riff is a bit too easy and common, but its there. The great part about this track is that they appear to cut loose towards the end and it sounds like jamming with keyboard and guitar interchanging solos. Its all quality indulgence and they sound like they were having fun in the studio! Heaven forbid!

Between The Sun & Moon initially brings out that TKF's 'popier' side with a friendly beat and melody. This one could actually be radio friendly, it even appears to have with a 'chorus'. It initially reminds me of a few tracks from The Rainmaker, like City Of Angels by TFK's. As soon as you think that it's a more relaxed song, it then turns on you and goes crazy scoring maximum prog points with further Gentle Giant and Genesis passages. Scrap that radio comment, it would frighten people if it was played on 'normal' radio, but not DPRP web radio of course:-). Brilliant.

The sound quality is very good, even on our DPRP official download. I didn't have the CD in time, but Roine informs us via the web site that it was recorded in fat analogue, and that shines through. I'll buy the CD just for this reason. My only observation is that perhaps it too polished and clean, the music on this release lends itself to being a bit 'dirtier' to really drive, especially with the Moogs and Wurlitzer/heavier organ sounds etc..

Freak Of Light follows and is an up tempo flowing concoction of driving drum beats and dominating vocals. It's faster and more frantic with some Yes style doubled vocals in the middle.

Kingdom Of Heaven closes the album in an epic fashion. It's a beautiful song, it's classic text book 'emotional prog'. It has mellotron and acoustic guitar from the start with slow, meandering bass with solo guitar over the top. It reminds me of Three Stories from TKF's Alive On Planet Earth live album. It's my favourite track on the album, it magically takes you away from the place where you are at the time.

Overall it's a real grower, with every listen there is something different to discover. I also enjoyed the differing styles from harder rock, delicate flutes, the occasional violin and fantastic use of time signatures. There's also real delicacy and melody here too. If you like the TFK's, but find some of the noodling too much sometimes, this is a little more direct and harder. I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to this album and recommend it to prog fans who like the classic prog flavour of TFK's, Karmakanic, Ritual, Gentle Giant, Tangent, Yes and (earlier) Genesis, to name but a few. Perhaps it might be too much 'hard prog' for the Neo-proggers or later Marillion fans only etc. Actually, if you are on this web site as a prog enthusiast, I think it's genuinely one of the best albums in a ong time.

Conclusions:

JON BRADSHAW : 9 out of 10
JEZ ROWDEN : 9 out of 10
IAN BUTLER : 8.5 out of 10


http://www.getreadytorock.com/reviews2011/agents_mercy.htm
AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest Foxtrot (2011)

Blimey! Just how can anything surrounded by so many progressive rock clichés sound this good?
Agents Of Mercy are unashamedly retro prog-rock in almost every respect. For starters they're a supergroup fronted by Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings. Add to this the fact that 'The Black Forest' is a concept album then top it off with no track clocking in at less than six minutes and you should be scared off like a fox at an electric fence.
What rescues it from the quagmire of mundanity is exceptional songwriting backed up by stellar musicianship from all concerned. Despite the fact that the mine of early '70s progressive greats has been well and truly excavated, there is a seam of contemporary nuggets here exposed by the sheer diversity of the material.
Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson are all name-checked, but then so are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Add to this a soupcon of jazz, folk and Medieval to the mix and you start to get a feel for what this is all about.
Eight tracks in all and not a duffer to be seen. From the classic prog rock of the title track to the Sabbathesque riffing of 'Black Sunday', from the quiet elegance of 'Elegy' to the staggering guitar solo on 'Kingdom Of Heaven' AOM have exceeded anyone's expectations here with an absolute belter of an album.
Mention must be made of all the musicians involved - Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, et al) leads the way with top notch fretwork throughout, Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) backs this up with superb keyboard dexterity and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) just has one of those voices that suits every track - ranging from Gabriel one minute to Jon Anderson the next and all points in between. Add on the rock-solid engine room of Jonas Reingold and Walle Wahlgren (Weaverworld) and you have all bases covered.
Given that the world of music is littered with failure when it comes to supergroups, Agents Of Mercy have bucked this trend with a truly exceptional album which, given enough exposure, could easily outstrip the reputations of its component parts.
Stunning.
*****
Review by Alan Jones
Alan sequences "The Eclectic Mix" on the third Sunday of every month on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, and usually manages to include some prog.

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PROGULATOR :
http://progulator.com/reviews/review-the-black-forest/

Use of Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory
We all reside in a world of instant gratification; if this news comes as a shock to you, it’s highly likely that you live in a cave, or at least in Idaho. We worry about ADD and ADHD in our children, when realistically a great number of those poorly diagnosed cases are simply examples of children who have grown up in the Internet age. Darwin was right: evolution exists — and a short attention span has evolved its way into society. Why exactly is this relevant? Because The Black Forest, the latest effort from Swedish prog rockers Agents of Mercy, absolutely grabbed me by the balls within five seconds, essentially stealing the title belt for “shortest time it’s taken an album to pique my interest” from Van Halen’s debut album, which I first heard when I was seven years old.
An impressive feat from a band led by Roine Stolt. That certainly isn’t a knock on his musical abilities or musical aptitude, both of which he has in great abundance, but my experiences with The Flower Kings, Stolt’s well-known prog giant, have required several listens to really get into. They weren’t bad — far from it, as Stardust We Are remains a personal favorite. They just didn’t capture my attention right away. Now, I consider myself a fairly patient listener, so this isn’t a negative for me like it might be for others, but an album that captures you immediately and throws you directly into the musical vision is hard to come by.
Enter the opening piece, which also happens to be the title track on the album. Talk about getting off on the right foot. The listener is treated to an 11-minute epic that opens with several seconds of dark ambiance before a creeping piano abruptly enters, quickly giving way to some dark, moody progressive goodness. All within 30 seconds. I’d normally give some comparisons to other groups’ work, but I’m hesitant to do so because this track, like most of the others on the album, is unique. Sure, you can find influences here and there (I personally hear an overall mix of a darker Flower Kings, early Genesis and maybe a splash of late 70′s Rush), but none of it feels copied and the overall sound seems unique to Agents of Mercy. The piece keeps up it’s energy throughout, maintains a good balance of dark melody and some bright counterpoint, and is graced with a screaming Lalle Larsson keyboard solo, a common occurrence in the album. Full disclosure: I rate the opening track on The Black Forest as one of the best album openers of all time, in the same class as “Jordrök” off of Änglagård’s album Hybris. It’s that good.
And the party don’t stop there! There lots of diversity to appreciate in this album. The track A Quiet Little Town takes on a funky and sometimes quirky vibe while Citadel almost has a 70′s hard rock quality to it. The most noticeable triumph of The Black Forest, though, lies in its ability to return to the moody atmosphere that defines the concept album; even while it deviates and experiments in an almost organic jam session at times, the point of the story isn’t ever lost. The lyrics are deep, poignant and don’t really seem to insist upon themselves, which is a pretentious way of saying that they don’t seem forced. I won’t spoil the story for you, mostly because I’m too lazy after just two listen-throughs to synthesize it for you. So I’ll let the band do it (straight from their Web site:
“The Black Forest” is a surreal journey -  a mysteriously glowing metaphor for a trip thru  dark, disturbing, scary times, a lifelong uncertain journey bookended by greed, lust, hunger for power & money, eternal life, mindcontrol, - and guess what? …..we’re the prey !!
We navigate thru dark dreams of the immortal, dark waters, eerie topics hinting at death & dreams, forest ghosts, blood countess Elzbeth Bathory’s life, a freak parade of monstruosity galore, a quiet tidy town with hidden horrors, the touring circus of freaks, dark realms of endless wars and lost kingdoms, the unwanted darktowns of our minds ……… fun stuff eh ?
Dark! Disturbing! Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory! Why didn’t I get this album before Halloween!?! And I haven’t even started with the production and instrumentation. Tremendous drumming is made even better by the sound, with perfect (in my opinion) snare drum attack and decay and great cymbal work. The onslaught of keyboard tones are never overwhelming and are always appreciated, and both players (vocalist Nad Sylvan also contributes) get the right patch for the right situation. I couldn’t pick out any obvious playing errors, and I’m sure I’d be nit picking if I went looking for them.
In short, I was abundantly impressed with this album. In fact, if Wobbler hadn’t released Rites At Dawn earlier this year, I would most likely be heralding The Black Forest as the best progressive album of 2011. A deservedly solid rating for an impressive album.

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Progressive rock, Rock music, uncategorized — November 14, 2011 7:16 am
Agents of Mercy – The Black Forest (2011)
Posted by Nick DeRiso

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The Black Forest, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a walk through twilit, spooky woodlands. Thankfully, however, Swedish prog-rockers Agents of Mercy manage to sidestep the typical genre nemesis like, say, a dragon. Instead, this swirling, half-lit landscape is used as a metaphor for life’s mysteries.
That’s not the last time that Agents of Mercy’s third studio album surprises, as you’re taken on a journey that is by turns disturbing, scary — oh, and in another left turn, often very loud.
There’s more of a heavy-rock feel than previous Agents of Mercy efforts, in particular on “Black Sunday” and “Citadel,” which owe far more inspirationally to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and early King Crimson than to, say, Yes or Genesis. At the same time, the panoramic opening title track streaks impressively from this bucolic serenity over to a billowing symphonic grandeur.
“Freak Of Life” seems to pluck out the best of both impulses, and combines them into one of the album’s more compositionally assured, imagination-goosing moments. “A Quiet Little Town” boasts this zippy fusion-like interplay, “Between Sun And Moon” is a brawny anthem, while “Elegy” showcases the band at its most generous and emotional. Throughout, the brilliantly collaborative vocals give the project this theatrical propulsion — sounding, at times, like a much, much — MUCH — darker version of Queen.

Returning with the same lineup as last year’s Dramarama (vocalist-keyboardist Nad Sylvan, guitarist Roine Stolt, keyboardist Lalle Larsson, bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Walle Wahlgren), Agents of Mercy has deepened its
sense of musical inter-connectivity, even while broadened its range.

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Dangerous Dog
http://www.dangerdog.com/2011-music-reviews/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-review.php

Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest
Progressive Rock
4.5/5.0

Foxtrot Music
Website Facebook MySpace
by Craig Hartranft,  11.14.2011


I can dig most anything in which Flower Kings chief Roine Stolt is involved. Agents of Mercy is another one of those profound projects of creative and classic progressive rock for which he and his band mates are known for (in a variety of other bands). The Black Forest, the band's third release, is another prog delight.

Agents of Mercy does little here to deviate from their previous successful formula. However, you might sense a slight bit more edge as there's a strong rock feel coursing through the album (without being overbearing). This is notable within A Quiet Little Town, which blends a rock groove with a bit of jazz and smattering of a funky feel. Also, Freak of Life has a bit of rock heaviness to propel the arrangement. Yet both are tempered by the melodic and symphonic notes.

Yet, traditional melodic progressive rock is still the main attribute of this album, and both Black Sunday and Citadel pack plenty of intrigue from composition to musicianship. The title track is the longest and most expansive offering moments of heaviness against light segues with plenty of synth and guitar solos. On the lighter side, there's quiet melancholy of the aptly titled Elegy, which finishes with soaring Stolt solo; and, also, the beautiful, solemn, and stirring Kingdom of Heaven, Stolt's tribute to his father who passed in January of this year.

In short, fans of Roine Stolt, vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun), and all the other participants (and their projects) should pick up on this wonderful album of melodic progressive rock. Strongly recommended.
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Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest

    With Roine Stolt's brainchild Agents of Mercy going back in the studio within a very short time after their second release Dramarama, I knew that he had those creative juices flowing and was itching to get back to work. This comes as no surprise as the man has been on a creative curve going upwards for over two decades now.

    In case you were new to this band they are Nad Sylvan (Lead vocal & keyboard), Roine Stolt (Guitars & vocal, production), Lalle Larsson (Keyboards & vocal), Jonas Reingold (Bass) and Walle Wahlgren (Drums).

    As with his several other projects, Roine stretches out more and comes up with a masterpiece of progressive rock that always improves upon the last recording.

    Black Forest is the band's first concept album and actually a 56 minute track that they cut up into more bite sized digestible pieces. So where does one start with a prog rock magnum opus such as this? Is it going to be pompous overkill or a beautiful painting on a musical palette? What I heard was 8 tracks of unrestrained brilliance from beginning to end on this release. I expect each release to be different and so far all three have with this being the most captivating of them all. I found it interesting how CD Baby listed this album as 70s rock with influences from Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Procol Harum. The influences are clear with the music Roine makes however I would not call this 70s rock, there are bits and pieces that would qualify as such on any album but make no mistake this is progressive rock through and through.

    The lead off track "Black Forest" takes you into another time and place some 300 years ago through the eyes of a weary traveler and as the album progresses so does the music and the story. "A Quiet Little Town" is an interesting thought provoking track that will form a perception not only through the storyteller's eyes but through you, the listener. It is beauty and cynicism that leaves you hanging at the end of a rope waiting for an escape route then around the corner comes more darkness with "Black Sunday." While this is all going on as you are absorbing all the incredible soundscapes created by this band of musical supermen, you hear Roine's guitar wailing away, cutting like a knife or in the same instance giving a subtle nod for the next instrument to come in and lead the way. Although Roine is a musical genius he plays as part of a team and each member of the band gets their moments in the sun as matter of course.

    "Freak of Life" is the most powerful rocking track. It sounds like it could be a step back to medieval times but the difference is there is a stage where Roine and the band are playing this song right outside the renaissance fair, luring you in to see the show. You could also imagine this being played outside of a modern day circus big top. Any way you look at it, it's a freak show. Think of a deranged Jethro Tull minus Ian's flute and a little more sophisticated and heavy you may get a grasp of what this music can sound like on this powerhouse track.

    But don't get the impression this is anything like Jethro Tull or any other band you have heard. This is Agents of Mercy, a project that started off with two guys throwing a few songs together that became a band that rivals the Flower Kings in their most fertile period. I think it was best to put the Flower Kings to bed for a while and start something new and challenging, and that is what Mr. Stolt has done, again with great success. Black Forest can be a fantasy, a tale from the dark ages or a twisted look upon on the cold realities of life regardless of what century you lived in. It all depends on what eyes you are looking through but in the end what you get is one of the finest progressive rock albums of 2011.


    Track Listing
    1. The Black Forest
    2. A Quiet Little Town
    3. Black Sunday
    4. Elegy
    5. Citadel
    6. Between Sun & Moon
    7. Freak Of Life
    8. Kingdom Of Heaven

Added: November 15th 2011
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Score: *****


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DANGER DOG :
http://www.dangerdog.com/2011-music-reviews/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-review.php

AGENTS OF MERCY: THE BLACK FOREST

Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest
Progressive Rock
4.5/5.0
Foxtrot Music
by Craig Hartranft,  11.14.2011

I can dig most anything in which Flower Kings chief Roine Stolt is involved. Agents of Mercy is another one of those profound projects of creative and classic progressive rock for which he and his band mates are known for (in a variety of other bands).The Black Forest, the band's third release, is another prog delight.
Agents of Mercy does little here to deviate from their previous successful formula. However, you might sense a slight bit more edge as there's a strong rock feel coursing through the album (without being overbearing). This is notable within A Quiet Little Town, which blends a rock groove with a bit of jazz and smattering of a funky feel. Also, Freak of Life has a bit of rock heaviness to propel the arrangement. Yet both are tempered by the melodic and symphonic notes.
Yet, traditional melodic progressive rock is still the main attribute of this album, and both Black Sunday and Citadel pack plenty of intrigue from composition to musicianship. The title track is the longest and most expansive offering moments of heaviness against light segues with plenty of synth and guitar solos. On the lighter side, there's quiet melancholy of the aptly titled Elegy, which finishes with soaring Stolt solo; and, also, the beautiful, solemn, and stirring Kingdom of Heaven, Stolt's tribute to his father who passed in January of this year.
In short, fans of Roine Stolt, vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun), and all the other participants (and their projects) should pick up on this wonderful album of melodic progressive rock.
Strongly recommended.

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Something Else
By Nick DeRiso

http://somethingelsereviews.com/2011/11/14/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-2011/

The Black Forest, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a walk through twilit, spooky woodlands. Thankfully, however, Swedish prog-rockers Agents of Mercy manage to sidestep the typical genre nemesis like, say, a dragon. Instead, this swirling, half-lit landscape is used as a metaphor for life’s mysteries.

That’s not the last time that Agents of Mercy’s third studio album surprises, as you’re taken on a journey that is by turns disturbing, scary — oh, and in another left turn, often very loud.

There’s more of a heavy-rock feel than previous Agents of Mercy efforts, in particular on “Black Sunday” and “Citadel,” which owe far more inspirationally to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and early King Crimson than to, say, Yes or Genesis. At the same time, the panoramic opening title track streaks impressively from this bucolic serenity over to a billowing symphonic grandeur.

“Freak Of Life” seems to pluck out the best of both impulses, and combines them into one of the album’s more compositionally assured, imagination-goosing moments. “A Quiet Little Town” boasts this zippy fusion-like interplay, “Between Sun And Moon” is a brawny anthem, while “Elegy” showcases the band at its most generous and emotional. Throughout, the brilliantly collaborative vocals give the project this theatrical propulsion — sounding, at times, like a much, much — MUCH — darker version of Queen.

Returning with the same lineup as last year’s Dramarama (vocalist-keyboardist Nad Sylvan, guitarist Roine Stolt, keyboardist Lalle Larsson, bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Walle Wahlgren), Agents of Mercy has deepened its sense of musical inter-connectivity, even while broadened its range.
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SOUNDPRESS:

Journey with Agents of Mercy to Dark and Dramatic Places!

Agents of Mercy was formed in 2009 by guitarist Roine Stolt and singer Nad Sylvan. The two core songwriters have cultivated their sound with different musicians over the course of three Agents of Mercy albums.

Their latest, The Black Forest is filled with dark imagery and dramatic instrumentation. The eight tracks follow a rock oriented path yet twist and turn through ethno, folk, jazz, medieval, prog and symphonic stylings. Guitars and drums lead the way but mellotrons and moogs add to the mystery of the music.

The CD opens with the shadowy and surreal title track, which sets the tone for the rest of the tunes that deal with death, dreams, freaks, ghosts and other horrors. However there is a glimmer of hope in "Between Sun & Moon" a song that tells us that we are special and to "take a look at the offspring and the seeds of success you've sown."

The album was recorded at a top notch studio in Sweden at Varnhem, which is described as very "dark age". The combination of modern and medieval enhances the mood of the music. The album was recorded on analogue tapes that also adds to its aura.

There is a lot of tales and terrains in The Black Forest. I found that I enjoyed the material more upon multiple listens as there are a lot of subtle sounds placed in its prog rock path. Of particular note is the eerie and electrifying "Citadel" inspired by the legend of the Blood Queen - a serial killer that lived from 1560-1614, followed by the more encouraging message of "Between Sun & Moon". The CD closes on a reflective note with the intricate instrumental " Kingdom of Heaven ". Journey with the Agents of Mercy to dark and dramatic places!

The Band:
Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) - VOCAL & KEYBOARDS
Roine Stolt (Transatlantic, Flowerkings) - GUITARS
Jonas Reingold (Flowerkings, Karmakanic) - BASS
Lalle Larsson ( Weaveworld, Karmakanic) - KEYBOARD
Walle Wahlgren - DRUMS

Album Tracklist:
The Black Forest
A Quiet Little Town
Elegy
Black Sunday
Citadel
Between Sun & Moon
Freak Of Life
Kingdom Of Heaven

• Info: : www.agentsofmercy.com
 (Laura turner Lynch/SoundPress.net)

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http://www.getreadytorock.com/reviews2011/agents_mercy.htm

AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest Foxtrot (2011)

Blimey! Just how can anything surrounded by so many progressive rock clichés sound this good?
Agents Of Mercy are unashamedly retro prog-rock in almost every respect. For starters they're a supergroup fronted by Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings. Add to this the fact that 'The Black Forest' is a concept album then top it off with no track clocking in at less than six minutes and you should be scared off like a fox at an electric fence.
What rescues it from the quagmire of mundanity is exceptional songwriting backed up by stellar musicianship from all concerned. Despite the fact that the mine of early '70s progressive greats has been well and truly excavated, there is a seam of contemporary nuggets here exposed by the sheer diversity of the material.
Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson are all name-checked, but then so are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Add to this a soupcon of jazz, folk and Medieval to the mix and you start to get a feel for what this is all about.
Eight tracks in all and not a duffer to be seen. From the classic prog rock of the title track to the Sabbathesque riffing of 'Black Sunday', from the quiet elegance of 'Elegy' to the staggering guitar solo on 'Kingdom Of Heaven' AOM have exceeded anyone's expectations here with an absolute belter of an album.
Mention must be made of all the musicians involved - Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, et al) leads the way with top notch fretwork throughout, Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) backs this up with superb keyboard dexterity and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) just has one of those voices that suits every track - ranging from Gabriel one minute to Jon Anderson the next and all points in between. Add on the rock-solid engine room of Jonas Reingold and Walle Wahlgren (Weaverworld) and you have all bases covered.
Given that the world of music is littered with failure when it comes to supergroups, Agents Of Mercy have bucked this trend with a truly exceptional album which, given enough exposure, could easily outstrip the reputations of its component parts.
Stunning.
Alan Jones- Get Ready To Rock -   Eclectic Mix
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AOM Israeli review   DME

http://dmme.net/reviews/reviews48.html#agome

Progressive rock in its purest: it can't get more refined in the dark woods.
The FLOWER KINGS or TRANSATLANTIC fans will confirm that, when it comes to himself, Roine Stolt knows no quarter. But he'd be the first to say that keeping an experimental edge always sharpened is tiresome, so the master founded another band, AGENTS OF MERCY, to be as classic as it gets for neo prog. One may bemoan the genre's refusal to dig for roots of the original music form, and outsiders can be averted by "The Black Forest", yet for the aficionados it's a balm. Echoes of progenitors abound, epics like "Citadel" marry straightforward attack to adventurousness for the the group's third album to balance the "art" and "rock" particles.
The agenda is laid out in the sprawling title track once Lalle Larsson's crystal keys give way to Stolt's heavy riffs, and Nad Sylvan's voice weaves a predatory narrative and lets the instruments ebb up and down to drown the mastery in the sea of emotions. It's a rare feat in modern prog as is such a heartfelt ballad as "Elegy". The long solos are there, of course, but they - especially when executed on organ - embellish the picture rather than distract, and once "A Quiet Little Town" pours funky jive and gospel choir onto the artsy mill, this deviance makes the whole rather spicy and captivating. "Kingdom Of Heaven" returns the progressive flow to its basic values, and here the Black Forest really feels like home sweet home.
****


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BACKGROUND MAGAZINE   Holland.

Roine Stolt must be a very busy man. He's a band member or associated with The Flower Kings - by the way, do they still exist? - The Tangent, Karmakanic, Transatlantic and of course with his most recent band Agents Of Mercy. The Black Forest is their third album and it's by far the best, but also the darkest. It's a concept album dealing with disturbing, dark times featuring greed and hunger for power and money. Doesn't that sound familiar..? The music on this album contains a more rock approach, but you can still hear symphonic and progressive elements. The guitars and the drums have moved forward in the sound, but the Moogs and Mellotrons are still clearly present. The playing time of most of the songs is longer than on the previous two albums. Agents Of Mercy still consist of Nad Sylvan (vocals, keys), Roine Stolt (guitars, vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass guitar), Lalle Larsson (keyboards, vocals) and Walle Wahlgren (drums). On the first two albums Sylvan's voice was a kind of problem for me, but on this one his vocals sound much better or maybe I've got gradually used to his 'Gabriel meets Fish' voice.

The album opens with the amazing title track, an epic piece lasting over eleven minutes. It contains great hooks, excellent riffs and melodies and brilliant vocal passages. I'm sure that this piece will become an Agents Of Mercy classic! Black Sunday is the heaviest song; especially Stolt's hard hitting guitar is outstanding here. Elegy is a ballad followed by the electrifying Citadel featuring a Led Zeppelin riff. It's inspired by the legend of the Blood Queen, a serial killer who lived from 1561 until 1614. The album ends with another highlight, namely the instrumental Kingdom Of Heaven in which Roine Stolt plays some astonishing guitar. This song has been dedicated to his father. Conclusion: The Black Forest is a great progressive rock album that will be a delight to listen to for fans of Roine Stolt and all the bands he's associated with. Highly recommended indeed!

**** Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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Various Reviews TBF (Jan 5, 2012)

AGENTS OF MERCY - "The Black Forest" by Douwe Fledderus - October 2011 for www.progvisions.nl

The first thing you will notice when you put the CD in your player is the fat sound of the album. The basic tracks were recorded on 24-track analog tape. Agents of Mercy are really rocking on this album! The album opens with the dark title track “The Black Forest” (11:10), a progressive gem with a high symphonic character ... the style? ... fans of the Flower Kings will love this song. But Agent of Mercy goes a step further. It is a diverse track with great melodies and wonderful instrumental parts. I love the use of the church organ, the Mellotron and the fat synth solo's. What an opener ... this is a piece of symphonic bliss. The music is more rock orientated then on the previous studio albums. The next rocksong “A Quiet Little Town” has a funky/jazzy opening. The funky bass and the jazzy guitar are combined with the freaky and symphonic synth solo's.

A melting pot of great progressive rock. “Black Sunday” is a rocking and heavy symphonic monster with screaming guitars, melodic vocal lines and freaky Moog solo's. In the second part the music becomes more melodic with great melodic guitar work. “Elegy” is the first rest-point after this overwhelming start. A ballad with nice piano, keyboard strings and melodic guitar parts. With Nad Sylvan the band has a great vocalist with a unique sound. The band has three people who are responsible for the vocals (Nad, Roine and Lalle) ... a luxury for a progressive band. In the end there is a soaring guitar solo. Then it is time for the song “Citadel” sung by Roine , another up-tempo song with great freaky synth solo's, screaming guitar solo's and fabulous drumming.

With “Between Sun & Moon” the band is slowing down a little bit. It has a nice piano intro with beautiful Mellotron strings. But that's not for long ... as I earlier said; the band is rocking on this album. So also on this track nice guitar and keyboard work. The ending of the song has some Yes influences, especially in the guitar sound. “Freak of life” is the next prog monster with delicious synth and guitar solo's. A great diverse track with some beautiful vocal melodies. In the second part you can hear a nice multi-voice vocal refrain. The album closes with the instrumental track “Kindom of Heaven”. After a slow opening the song develops into a long soaring guitar solo on top of a bed of keyboard strings.

“The Black Forest”, which is dedicated to Roine's father Sune Stolt who passed away on January 14th 2011, is the best studio album of the band so far. It has a longer song format and the band is rocking. But at the same time you can describe the music as classic prog and symphonic. You can hear great instrumental parts on this album. And with Nad Sylvan the band has an exceptional singer blessed with an unique voice. Agents of Mercy made a great album. Highly recommended!

We all reside in a world of instant gratification; if this news comes as a shock to you, it’s highly likely that you live in a cave, or at least in Idaho. We worry about ADD and ADHD in our children, when realistically a great number of those poorly diagnosed cases are simply examples of children who have grown up in the Internet age. Darwin was right: evolution exists — and a short attention span has evolved its way into society. Why exactly is this relevant? Because The Black Forest, the latest effort from Swedish prog rockers Agents of Mercy, absolutely grabbed me by the balls within five seconds, essentially stealing the title belt for “shortest time it’s taken an album to pique my interest” from Van Halen’s debut album, which I first heard when I was seven years old.
An impressive feat from a band led by Roine Stolt. That certainly isn’t a knock on his musical abilities or musical aptitude, both of which he has in great abundance, but my experiences with The Flower Kings, Stolt’s well-known prog giant, have required several listens to really get into. They weren’t bad — far from it, as Stardust We Are remains a personal favorite. They just didn’t capture my attention right away. Now, I consider myself a fairly patient listener, so this isn’t a negative for me like it might be for others, but an album that captures you immediately and throws you directly into the musical vision is hard to come by.


Enter the opening piece, which also happens to be the title track on the album. Talk about getting off on the right foot. The listener is treated to an 11-minute epic that opens with several seconds of dark ambiance before a creeping piano abruptly enters, quickly giving way to some dark, moody progressive goodness. All within 30 seconds. I’d normally give some comparisons to other groups’ work, but I’m hesitant to do so because this track, like most of the others on the album, is unique. Sure, you can find influences here and there (I personally hear an overall mix of a darker Flower Kings, early Genesis and maybe a splash of late 70′s Rush), but none of it feels copied and the overall sound seems unique to Agents of Mercy. The piece keeps up it’s energy throughout, maintains a good balance of dark melody and some bright counterpoint, and is graced with a screaming Lalle Larsson keyboard solo, a common occurrence in the album. Full disclosure: I rate the opening track on The Black Forest as one of the best album openers of all time, in the same class as “Jordrök” off of Änglagård’s album Hybris. It’s that good.


And the party don’t stop there! There lots of diversity to appreciate in this album. The track A Quiet Little Town takes on a funky and sometimes quirky vibe while Citadel almost has a 70′s hard rock quality to it. The most noticeable triumph of The Black Forest, though, lies in its ability to return to the moody atmosphere that defines the concept album; even while it deviates and experiments in an almost organic jam session at times, the point of the story isn’t ever lost. The lyrics are deep, poignant and don’t really seem to insist upon themselves, which is a pretentious way of saying that they don’t seem forced. I won’t spoil the story for you, mostly because I’m too lazy after just two listen-throughs to synthesize it for you. So I’ll let the band do it

Straight from their Web site:
“The Black Forest” is a surreal journey -  a mysteriously glowing metaphor for a trip thru  dark, disturbing, scary times, a lifelong uncertain journey bookended by greed, lust, hunger for power & money, eternal life, mindcontrol, - and guess what? …..we’re the prey !!
We navigate thru dark dreams of the immortal, dark waters, eerie topics hinting at death & dreams, forest ghosts, blood countess Elzbeth Bathory’s life, a freak parade of monstruosity galore, a quiet tidy town with hidden horrors, the touring circus of freaks, dark realms of endless wars and lost kingdoms, the unwanted darktowns of our minds ……… fun stuff eh ?
Dark! Disturbing! Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory! Why didn’t I get this album before Halloween!?!

And I haven’t even started with the production and instrumentation. Tremendous drumming is made even better by the sound, with perfect (in my opinion) snare drum attack and decay and great cymbal work. The onslaught of keyboard tones are never overwhelming and are always appreciated, and both players (vocalist Nad Sylvan also contributes) get the right patch for the right situation. I couldn’t pick out any obvious playing errors, and I’m sure I’d be nit picking if I went looking for them.
In short, I was abundantly impressed with this album. In fact, if Wobbler hadn’t released Rites At Dawn earlier this year, I would most likely be heralding The Black Forest as the best progressive album of 2011. A deservedly solid rating for an impressive album.


John O'Boyle's Review

Dramarama is Agents Of Mercy’ second album; the follow up to their stunning first release The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight, which received a 7.5 and 8.0 out of 10 respectively here at DPRP. Nad Sylvan (vocals and keyboards), Roine Stolt (guitars), Jonas Reingold (bass), Lalle Larsson (keyboards) and Walle Wahlgren (drums), have created another album that has pin pointed the Amygdale of my brain, causing recognition of emotional significance and arousal, such is the beauty of the music that has been created, I think I have just died and gone to heaven, the stunning stages that have been created here by the interaction of such luminaries, just beggars belief.

Although this is an album of symphonic rock that may sound familiar, the band has created an album of stunning quality. The difficulty for some maybe the fact when compared to some of the many pieces that have been recorded by these artists in various bands, it could be quite easy to dismiss this as a weaker sibling, a mistake you will regret, should you choose that path. It’s interesting that the song writing structures are uniquely different in approach, seeing seven compositional Stolt pieces, three Sylvan and two joint compositions. It is quite easy to pick out the said tracks, as their approach is different in style.

Nad has the tones of early Gabriel interspersed with Collins, which for me really adds depth and character to the storyboard of lyrics presented. Sometimes his approach can sound a bit quirky, but for me that is the beauty of Nad Sylvan. Roine’ guitar work as ever delivers stunning backdrops, one minute very sedate, unimposing, the next driving, taking command, leading, which in the blink of an eye, duelling and complementing the awesome keyboard soirées.

If you were to ask me to perfectly describe what AOM are about then the opener, The Duke Of Sadness would pinpoint the band to perfection, a theatrical rock approach interlaced with a film noir feel. If the classic line-up of Genesis were Swedish, still recording today, then this maybe what they would sound like. You are presented with great melodies and harmonies throughout, the music scales to climatic crescendos with strange and unusual lyrical structure. The hopeful and beautiful sounding Last Few Grain’s Of Hope really steps up a gear, not in meter, but quality, the keyboard and bass interaction really carry the song, Roine’ fretwork is emotional and poignant as Nad’s vocals are punctuated by musical perfection, making it a song to die for. Peace United has a harder edge to it, again being keyboard heavy, a modern approach on a retro Beatle-esque soundstage; instrumentally nobody outstays their welcome, truly amazing stuff.

A spiritual sounding Journey carries on the intentions of the band, which is laced with Lalle Larsson’ stunning virtuosity and some very nice guitar breaks, the whole piece is built on the tones of Nad’ vocal approach. I just find it amazing that such prolific musicians can conjure up such magic time and time again. Gratitude features a beautiful bass line, Jonas really stepping up to the plate, Roine’ vibrato guitar interjections and the layered keyboards really setting the piece alight. Meet Johnnie Walker an inviting an intriguing song, an ode to the whisky, liquid gold, a friend and a joker which paves the way for the folky Cinnamon Tree, being a real favourite of mine; the lyrical and vocal approach really reminded me of the best of what Cat Stevens offered, almost as if this was one of his long lost classic songs, a path that The Ballard Of Mary Chilton travels too, pardon the pun, (she was purported to be the first European woman to set ashore at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts), which proves that good songs don’t have to be complex.

Roger The Tailor sees the Genesis approach to storytelling being used to great effect, building pictures of characters lyrically, whilst the musical interludes swirl, jazzy and humoresque almost acting as the personalities of the characters. Conspiracy really towers with its powerful deliveries, scaling harmonies, a song that just majestically strolls confidently through the world of music, holding its head up high. We Have Been Freed is a very powerful track featuring some stunning interaction, which seems to take a more forward approach, but underneath layered, with the addition of some nice lead breaks, seeing the best interaction between Roine and Lalle, teasing and mirroring each other with fantastic harmonies and rhythms, which is really the trademark throughout the whole album. Time the closing track of this stunning album, a beautiful, slow and sedate, dignified in character and manner, almost sorrowful that the storytellers’ journey has come to an end, brings this whole affair to a fitting closure.

Dramarama sees the band sounding like a mix of The Beatles, Yes, Genesis, to some degree The Tangent, hints of Kaipa, The Flower Kings and Transatlantic, symphonic prog with a melodic and upbeat approach. I had the great fortune to see the band play quite a few of these songs live at The Summer's End Festival this year, which opens up a whole new world when listening to these songs. The whole beauty of the album is that it’s a grower, the more time you allocate, the richer the reward is. I cannot find one negative thing to say about this album; being a very close contender for album of the year, for me just being pipped by Manning’ Charlestown; Now Stolt and Manning playing together, that is a whole other story that we don’t need to go into here.

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Dave Baird's Review

Following last year's pleasant debut Agents of Mercy release, The Fading Ghosts of Twilight, Roine Stolt has once again gathered a fine selection of musicians to put out the second CD, Dramarama. Fading Ghosts was very much a project spawning from a desire of Roine's for Nad Sylvan to sing on a couple of songs that blossomed into a full release with Nad singing the lion's share of the material and a variety of musicians from around the globe providing the backing via the internet. The new look Agents is a different beast altogether with Roine putting together a singular, all Swedish line-up allowing for group writing, rehearsals and recording. The result isn't perhaps as far from Fading Ghosts as you might expect, a lot of the style of the new line-up has been retained from the first album (think Afternoon Skies, Jesus on the Parapet, A Different Sun, Bomb Inside Her Heart from Fading Ghosts…), but there's cohesiveness that was previously missing.

The album is an evolution in the real sense of the word as Roine appears to have taken all the good genetics from Fading Ghosts, rejected the bad bits and added a little more good on top. Nad's singing all the lead vocals this time around - an excellent move, not because Roine's singing is bad, far from it, but Nad's voice is fairly new to the scene and its original quirkiness is a real pleasure to the ears. Perhaps in keeping with Nad's image (although Roine is the main writer) the songs are overall more theatrical and somewhat whimsical. Many of them are telling tales: Roger the Tailor, The Ballad of Mary Chilton, The Duke of Sadness, Meet Johnny Walker, ok, that one's about whiskey, but written and sung as though it were a person.

As in many of Roine's projects fellow Flower King, Jonas Reingold, provides his ever dependable and tasty bass work, and on keyboards we hear Lalle Larsson. Lalle of course will be known by many DPRP readers as the keyboardist on the last Karmakanic CD, and indeed he played with Karmakanic and Agents on the Power of 2 tour, so I guess Roine liked the collaboration. Lalle is quite technical player, but he proves himself an excellent band member also, supporting the music rather than dominating with a variety of classic organ, Mellotron and Moog sounds. He gets his moment to shred on Journey where he gets a full two-minute solo. I'm not sure it's all in keeping with the rest of the CD, but it's quite a lot of fun and displays his jazzier side quite well. New behind the drums is Mickael "Walle" Wahlgren who proves to be very adaptable and tasteful, a good match for the generally laid-back atmosphere. I had the pleasure to interview Lalle and Walle a few months ago - this will be published in the coming weeks.

I've had this CD for nearly three months now and listen to it regularly, it's a real treat, certainly one of my personal favourites of 2010 (certainly the track Meet Johnny Walker hits the spot for me since the first time I heard it, in fact I'm still whistling it all the time now). There's a relaxed and breezy air about it and it has certainly provided some light and smiles in the dark winter months. On top of this every time I come back to it I'm finding something new. The album is a balanced mix of folk, theatre, symphonic prog, retro and ballad with an overall sprinkling of funkiness (that'll be Jonas I think). Yes of course there are quite some Flower Kings moments too, would be Roine otherwise now would it? Lyrically it's interesting with quite a measure of humour thrown in - how many songs have lyrics with the tail rhyme words as "elastic", "fantastic", "drastic" and "enthusiastic"? (Roger the Tailor). It's a bit pointless IMO to talk about influences too much with Roine's work, he has his own huge body of work to call upon now, however one could cite Genesis, lighter Yes and The Beatles lurking in the shadows, plus parts of We Have Been Free have a distinct Van Der Graaf Generator whiff too, but these are influences in the same way that Beethoven sometimes sounds a bit like Mozart.

I do hope Roine keeps this band together for another album or two because they've really got a nice vibe about them and play well together on stage should you get the chance to see them live.

Conclusion - nothing particularly new, but a solid evolution on the first release and real gem, if you liked the first album then you'll LOVE the second.

Conclusions:

JOHN O’BOYLE : 9 out of 10
DAVE BAIRD : 8.5 out of 10

Duo Review - DPRP (Jan 3, 2011)

5 stars Roine Stolt spends a lot of time writing music and playing guitar. If he is not trotting around the globe with his beloved Flower Kings he is either performing solo work, cranking out solos for supergroup Transatlantic or even jamming in a jazz fusion band called 3RD World Electric (check out Kilimanjaro Secret Brew for a taste), which really is not a stretch for a guitar genius like Stolt. In 2009 to add to the ever growing list, he started another project called Agents of Mercy. An acoustic experiment with vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) turned into a full blown band. They would subsequently release a solid debut titled The Fading Ghosts of Twilight. It was a fine slice of prog rock and you had to wonder what was around the corner for the versatile Mr. Stolt.

What I appreciate most about Stolt is that he is always ready to push the boundaries and take a chance in whatever band configuration he happens to be in at the time, and good luck keeping tabs on that movement by the way.

So along comes 2010 and now we have a brilliant sophomore release from Agents of Mercy to enjoy called Dramarama. Lead singer Sylvan sounds like a cross between Gabriel and Fish, he certainly has a unique and pleasing vocal style that seems to fit quite well with temperaments and atmospheres provided by Stolt and company. Flower Kings and 3rd World Electric bandmate Jonas Reingold join the proceedings on bass while Lalle Larsson (keys) and Walle Wahigren (drums. percussion) fill out the rest of the positions in the band. Note that Stolt in addition to providing vocals and lead guitar contributes with additional keys, ukulele, and lap steel.

In the 12 tracks comprising this CD I would find it difficult to single out any tracks as the best as they all were top shelf prog rock compositions. To be fair I would have to say I did have my favorites like the lead off track "The Duke of Sadness", which was the most prolific lyrically and musically for these ears. "Last Few Grains of Hope" and "Conspiracy" were as equally dark and emotional with some tremendous musicianship providing the highlights. Roine's guitar playing is once again exemplary on every account and the vocals are a superb compliment to the message in the lyrics and the music that push them all along so effortlessly.

I have listened to this album countless times and have not tired one bit from what it has to offer and there always seem to be something that catches my ear or touches me on an emotional level that didn't the previous time I gave it a spin. That is what prog rock is supposed to do, capture your imagination, create imagery in your mind's eye and challenge your psyche.

This band does not reach the level of a powerhouse like Transatlantic, it is a different kind of prog, but they certainly match up well with the Flower Kings after putting this release out. This is a band that is fully matured now with an exciting future ahead if it stays together.

5/5 Stars

Key Tracks: The Duke Of Sadness, Last Few Grains Of Hope, Conspiracy

Keith "MuzikMan" Hannaleck

Agents Of Mercy - The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight

The Review - Prognaut

Agents Of Mercy, for those that don’t know, is a side project from The Flower Kings mastermind, Roine Stolt. Nad Sylvan of Unifaun provides a bulk of vocals with his unique voice. They are joined by on different tracks by an amazing roster of guest drummers; Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson, Tuner etc.) Zoltan Csörsz (TFK, Karmakanic) and Jimmy Keegan (Spocks Beard Live). Fellow TFK member, Jonas Reingold provides fretless bass... Musically, Agents Of Mercy falls under the song oriented symphonic progressive rock genre, which is very similar to Roine and Nad’s respected bands. They do have a unique identity. The uniqueness comes partially due to Nad’s vocals, as it takes a while to get used to. A brief description is a mix of classic Yes (Roine’s guitar playing) & mostly Lamb-era Genesis (Nad‘s vocals).

Once you start listening to The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight, you are instantly hooked. Each song is like a musical and lyrical journey. The lyrics are often cynical, which is another part of the band’s unique qualities. My favorite tracks are the opening title track, “The Unwanted Brother”, "Afternoon Skies" (shows off an acoustic side of the band), “Heroes & Beacons”, “A Different Sun“ and “Ready To Fly”. These tracks stand out the most for me... The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight is by far one of the best releases of 2009. I believe that this is both artist’s most inspired work to date. Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long road for these agents. Perhaps they’ll support the album with a tour and maybe even gracing one of the many progressive rock festivals here in the USA. There are many elements on this album, that draws me to progressive rock in general.

So a high recommendation is in order, especially for fans of The Flower Kings and Unifaun.....

Reviewed by Ron Fuchs on May 23rd, 2009


Review Progwalhalla:

Here’s another Roine Stolt project, it’s one of Progwalhalla’s best running items so I was very curious to their sound. Well, to me the 12 varied and melodic songs sound as a blend of progressive pop, Art-rock (Queen, 10CC), symphonic rock (Genesis and Procol Harum) and modern progressive rock (Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings), tastefully arranged with a wide range of instrumentation (from a lot of vintage keyboards to ukelele and fretless bass by Jonas Reingold).

The English vocals sound inspired, the lyrics have a (often cynical) meaning and we can enjoy many different atmospheres in the 12 compositions, from dreamy and slow rhythms to bombastic. .. Roine Stolt delivers many fiery and biting guitar solos along work on the acoustic guitar, lap steel guitar and ukelele and Biggo Zelfries has an important role by pleasantly colouring the songs with his Minimoog, Hammond, Mellotron and acoustic – and electric pianos, his work gives a typically Seventies touch (especially on the titletrack, Heroes & Beacons and Bomb Inside Her Heart) to Agents Of Mercy their sound, apparently this modern and accessible sounding progressive music appeals to many progheads... ....

Erik Neuteboom - www.progwalhalla.com

Read more: http://www.myspace.com/agentsofmercy#ixzz13VLBC3ho

Erik Neuteboom & Ron Fuchs (Oct 26, 2010)

TARKUS :
Agents Of Mercy
Dramarama

Etter å ha levert sitt solide debutalbum The Fading Ghosts of Twilight i fjor er Agents of Mercy allerede tilbake med sitt album nummer to i form av DramaRama. Denne gangen, som sist, er det Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings) og Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) som står bak de kompositoriske bidragene på denne utgivelsen, samt mye av det instrumentale og vokale arbeidet. Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, Karmakanic), Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic, Weaveworld) og Walle Wahlgren representerer de øvrige musikerne som bidrar på skiva, det vil si at Pat Masteletto og Biggo Zelfries med flere er ute av dansen denne gangen.

Bakrunnen for DramaRama, ifølge Stolt og Sylvan, var å finne tilbake til sine røtter og største inspirasjonskilder fra 60- og 70-tallet. Ut fra musikken som presenteres er det spesielt to band som skiller seg ut, nemlig The Beatles og Genesis, men samtidig med uunngåelig dose av det særegne uttrykket vi kjenner så godt fra Roine Stolts andre involveringer (The Flower Kings, Kaipa, The Tangent og Karmakanic). En av de største forskjellene på Agents of Mercy og de nevnte bandene er at førstnevnte er en del enklere i uttrykket, med få soloer og lange instrumentalpartier som vanligvis preger disse andre bandene. Den strukturelle og melodiske enkelheten som tidvis presenteres på DramaRama drar ofte tankene mot 60-tallet mer enn noe annet, og da spesielt i form av allerede nevnte The Beatles.

De 12 låtene som rommer albumet er spilt inn live i studio, og fokuserer alle på det melodiske, fortellende og dramatiske fremfor den tekniske leveransen som ofte dominerer på nyere progressive utgivelser. Samtidig vet man hvilke ferdigheter som ligger i grunn for dette bandet, og da er det vanskelig å komme utenom den klassiske symfoniske tilnærmingen som samtlige musikere representerer. Låtene beveger seg gjennom klassisk symfo i Genesis’ ånd, via retrospektiv pop i stil med Bowie og The Beatles, samtidig som man naturligvis krydrer dette med et klassisk The Flower Kings-sound. Man kommer heller utenom små sidesprang til partier bestående av både jazz, fusion og classic rock. Flittig bruk av piano, hammondorgel, moog, mellotron og andre ymse instrumenter gjør utgivelsen passe variert, men bandet forlater sjelden sine trygge omgivelser.

DramaRama er selvutgitt på Stolts egen label Foxtrot Records, og med frie musikalske tøyler har han sammen med sitt stjernelag av musikere laget et album som leker med flere nye elementer, men som likevel ender opp med å kjøre litt «safe». Personlig syns jeg resultatet er et solid stykke musikk, med sterke melodier, god tematikk, en dyktig vokalist (en slags Gabriel/Collins-hybrid) og passe varierte låter med fokus på kombinasjonen av symfonisk prog og popmusikk. Er du fan av ett eller flere av bandene som er nevnt i denne anmeldelsen kan du trygt gå til anskaffelse av den nye skiva fra svenske Agents of Mercy, og jeg ville nok heller ha gått for denne enn moderbandets siste utgivelse.

Tarkus - Takus webzine (Dec 9, 2010)

 In my review last year of the The Fading Ghosts Of Twilight, the first album by Agents Of Mercy I said, or words to the effect of, that for the calibre of the performers it was a largely disappointing release, lacking memorable melodies and hooks. Well the main songwriters, Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic etc) and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) have clearly taken note of what I said (yeah right!) and returned with a far more satisfying and enjoyable effort. They are once again joined by Stolt's Flower Kings cohort Jonas Reingold on bass and new in are drummer Walle Wahlgren and keyboard player Lalle Larsson, both of whom have played with one or more of the other players here at one time or another in other projects.
As already mentioned, I'm pleased to report that Dramarama is a far superior work to their debut. While it may tread the same ground of symphonic/neo prog the compositions are better constructed, this time with plenty of strong hooks making it more accessible, at times even the occasional Beatles influence seems to come through. I'm not suggesting Dramarama is all about sugary melodies as there's plenty of great playing to get your teeth into. Just listen to the excellent and lengthy synth solo from Larsson on "Journey" for example and whilst the overriding objective it would seem is not on complexity, with this sort of musical muscle it still impresses with some well thought out instrumental interplay, even if it is of secondary importance, the song being king here. This time around around for reasons I can't put my finger on, I find Sylvan's voice much better too, perhaps because there's more for him to get his teeth into this time.

This album has a more upbeat feel and the band turn in a much more dynamic performance than on their previous release. Some tasteful acoustic moments sit well alongside the more bombastic sections and the greater variety makes for a more well rounded album as a whole. At the end of the day though it's simply a much better collection of songs than their debut where the stronger melodies shine through.

Whilst I couldn't say that Dramarama is the equal of Stolt's greatest work with The Flower Kings it's nevertheless a very enjoyable album, particularly pleasing for me because of my apathy towards their debut. This should please most fans of the players involved here and worth 4 stars.

Nightfly - ProgArchives (Dec 9, 2010)

http://www.getreadytorock.com/reviews2011/agents_mercy.htm
AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest Foxtrot (2011)

Blimey! Just how can anything surrounded by so many progressive rock clichés sound this good?
Agents Of Mercy are unashamedly retro prog-rock in almost every respect. For starters they're a supergroup fronted by Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings. Add to this the fact that 'The Black Forest' is a concept album then top it off with no track clocking in at less than six minutes and you should be scared off like a fox at an electric fence.
What rescues it from the quagmire of mundanity is exceptional songwriting backed up by stellar musicianship from all concerned. Despite the fact that the mine of early '70s progressive greats has been well and truly excavated, there is a seam of contemporary nuggets here exposed by the sheer diversity of the material.
Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson are all name-checked, but then so are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Add to this a soupcon of jazz, folk and Medieval to the mix and you start to get a feel for what this is all about.
Eight tracks in all and not a duffer to be seen. From the classic prog rock of the title track to the Sabbathesque riffing of 'Black Sunday', from the quiet elegance of 'Elegy' to the staggering guitar solo on 'Kingdom Of Heaven' AOM have exceeded anyone's expectations here with an absolute belter of an album.
Mention must be made of all the musicians involved - Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, et al) leads the way with top notch fretwork throughout, Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) backs this up with superb keyboard dexterity and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) just has one of those voices that suits every track - ranging from Gabriel one minute to Jon Anderson the next and all points in between. Add on the rock-solid engine room of Jonas Reingold and Walle Wahlgren (Weaverworld) and you have all bases covered.
Given that the world of music is littered with failure when it comes to supergroups, Agents Of Mercy have bucked this trend with a truly exceptional album which, given enough exposure, could easily outstrip the reputations of its component parts.
Stunning.
*****
Review by Alan Jones
Alan sequences "The Eclectic Mix" on the third Sunday of every month on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, and usually manages to include some prog.

..................................................
PROGULATOR :
http://progulator.com/reviews/review-the-black-forest/

Use of Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory
We all reside in a world of instant gratification; if this news comes as a shock to you, it’s highly likely that you live in a cave, or at least in Idaho. We worry about ADD and ADHD in our children, when realistically a great number of those poorly diagnosed cases are simply examples of children who have grown up in the Internet age. Darwin was right: evolution exists — and a short attention span has evolved its way into society. Why exactly is this relevant? Because The Black Forest, the latest effort from Swedish prog rockers Agents of Mercy, absolutely grabbed me by the balls within five seconds, essentially stealing the title belt for “shortest time it’s taken an album to pique my interest” from Van Halen’s debut album, which I first heard when I was seven years old.
An impressive feat from a band led by Roine Stolt. That certainly isn’t a knock on his musical abilities or musical aptitude, both of which he has in great abundance, but my experiences with The Flower Kings, Stolt’s well-known prog giant, have required several listens to really get into. They weren’t bad — far from it, as Stardust We Are remains a personal favorite. They just didn’t capture my attention right away. Now, I consider myself a fairly patient listener, so this isn’t a negative for me like it might be for others, but an album that captures you immediately and throws you directly into the musical vision is hard to come by.
Enter the opening piece, which also happens to be the title track on the album. Talk about getting off on the right foot. The listener is treated to an 11-minute epic that opens with several seconds of dark ambiance before a creeping piano abruptly enters, quickly giving way to some dark, moody progressive goodness. All within 30 seconds. I’d normally give some comparisons to other groups’ work, but I’m hesitant to do so because this track, like most of the others on the album, is unique. Sure, you can find influences here and there (I personally hear an overall mix of a darker Flower Kings, early Genesis and maybe a splash of late 70′s Rush), but none of it feels copied and the overall sound seems unique to Agents of Mercy. The piece keeps up it’s energy throughout, maintains a good balance of dark melody and some bright counterpoint, and is graced with a screaming Lalle Larsson keyboard solo, a common occurrence in the album. Full disclosure: I rate the opening track on The Black Forest as one of the best album openers of all time, in the same class as “Jordrök” off of Änglagård’s album Hybris. It’s that good.
And the party don’t stop there! There lots of diversity to appreciate in this album. The track A Quiet Little Town takes on a funky and sometimes quirky vibe while Citadel almost has a 70′s hard rock quality to it. The most noticeable triumph of The Black Forest, though, lies in its ability to return to the moody atmosphere that defines the concept album; even while it deviates and experiments in an almost organic jam session at times, the point of the story isn’t ever lost. The lyrics are deep, poignant and don’t really seem to insist upon themselves, which is a pretentious way of saying that they don’t seem forced. I won’t spoil the story for you, mostly because I’m too lazy after just two listen-throughs to synthesize it for you. So I’ll let the band do it (straight from their Web site:
“The Black Forest” is a surreal journey -  a mysteriously glowing metaphor for a trip thru  dark, disturbing, scary times, a lifelong uncertain journey bookended by greed, lust, hunger for power & money, eternal life, mindcontrol, - and guess what? …..we’re the prey !!
We navigate thru dark dreams of the immortal, dark waters, eerie topics hinting at death & dreams, forest ghosts, blood countess Elzbeth Bathory’s life, a freak parade of monstruosity galore, a quiet tidy town with hidden horrors, the touring circus of freaks, dark realms of endless wars and lost kingdoms, the unwanted darktowns of our minds ……… fun stuff eh ?
Dark! Disturbing! Blood Countess Elizabeth Bathory! Why didn’t I get this album before Halloween!?! And I haven’t even started with the production and instrumentation. Tremendous drumming is made even better by the sound, with perfect (in my opinion) snare drum attack and decay and great cymbal work. The onslaught of keyboard tones are never overwhelming and are always appreciated, and both players (vocalist Nad Sylvan also contributes) get the right patch for the right situation. I couldn’t pick out any obvious playing errors, and I’m sure I’d be nit picking if I went looking for them.
In short, I was abundantly impressed with this album. In fact, if Wobbler hadn’t released Rites At Dawn earlier this year, I would most likely be heralding The Black Forest as the best progressive album of 2011. A deservedly solid rating for an impressive album.

..............................



Progressive rock, Rock music, uncategorized — November 14, 2011 7:16 am
Agents of Mercy – The Black Forest (2011)
Posted by Nick DeRiso

Share


The Black Forest, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a walk through twilit, spooky woodlands. Thankfully, however, Swedish prog-rockers Agents of Mercy manage to sidestep the typical genre nemesis like, say, a dragon. Instead, this swirling, half-lit landscape is used as a metaphor for life’s mysteries.
That’s not the last time that Agents of Mercy’s third studio album surprises, as you’re taken on a journey that is by turns disturbing, scary — oh, and in another left turn, often very loud.
There’s more of a heavy-rock feel than previous Agents of Mercy efforts, in particular on “Black Sunday” and “Citadel,” which owe far more inspirationally to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and early King Crimson than to, say, Yes or Genesis. At the same time, the panoramic opening title track streaks impressively from this bucolic serenity over to a billowing symphonic grandeur.
“Freak Of Life” seems to pluck out the best of both impulses, and combines them into one of the album’s more compositionally assured, imagination-goosing moments. “A Quiet Little Town” boasts this zippy fusion-like interplay, “Between Sun And Moon” is a brawny anthem, while “Elegy” showcases the band at its most generous and emotional. Throughout, the brilliantly collaborative vocals give the project this theatrical propulsion — sounding, at times, like a much, much — MUCH — darker version of Queen.

Returning with the same lineup as last year’s Dramarama (vocalist-keyboardist Nad Sylvan, guitarist Roine Stolt, keyboardist Lalle Larsson, bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Walle Wahlgren), Agents of Mercy has deepened its
sense of musical inter-connectivity, even while broadened its range.

................................................................................................................................................................
Dangerous Dog
http://www.dangerdog.com/2011-music-reviews/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-review.php

Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest
Progressive Rock
4.5/5.0

Foxtrot Music
Website Facebook MySpace
by Craig Hartranft,  11.14.2011


I can dig most anything in which Flower Kings chief Roine Stolt is involved. Agents of Mercy is another one of those profound projects of creative and classic progressive rock for which he and his band mates are known for (in a variety of other bands). The Black Forest, the band's third release, is another prog delight.

Agents of Mercy does little here to deviate from their previous successful formula. However, you might sense a slight bit more edge as there's a strong rock feel coursing through the album (without being overbearing). This is notable within A Quiet Little Town, which blends a rock groove with a bit of jazz and smattering of a funky feel. Also, Freak of Life has a bit of rock heaviness to propel the arrangement. Yet both are tempered by the melodic and symphonic notes.

Yet, traditional melodic progressive rock is still the main attribute of this album, and both Black Sunday and Citadel pack plenty of intrigue from composition to musicianship. The title track is the longest and most expansive offering moments of heaviness against light segues with plenty of synth and guitar solos. On the lighter side, there's quiet melancholy of the aptly titled Elegy, which finishes with soaring Stolt solo; and, also, the beautiful, solemn, and stirring Kingdom of Heaven, Stolt's tribute to his father who passed in January of this year.

In short, fans of Roine Stolt, vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun), and all the other participants (and their projects) should pick up on this wonderful album of melodic progressive rock. Strongly recommended.
.........................................................................................................................................................

Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest

    With Roine Stolt's brainchild Agents of Mercy going back in the studio within a very short time after their second release Dramarama, I knew that he had those creative juices flowing and was itching to get back to work. This comes as no surprise as the man has been on a creative curve going upwards for over two decades now.

    In case you were new to this band they are Nad Sylvan (Lead vocal & keyboard), Roine Stolt (Guitars & vocal, production), Lalle Larsson (Keyboards & vocal), Jonas Reingold (Bass) and Walle Wahlgren (Drums).

    As with his several other projects, Roine stretches out more and comes up with a masterpiece of progressive rock that always improves upon the last recording.

    Black Forest is the band's first concept album and actually a 56 minute track that they cut up into more bite sized digestible pieces. So where does one start with a prog rock magnum opus such as this? Is it going to be pompous overkill or a beautiful painting on a musical palette? What I heard was 8 tracks of unrestrained brilliance from beginning to end on this release. I expect each release to be different and so far all three have with this being the most captivating of them all. I found it interesting how CD Baby listed this album as 70s rock with influences from Led Zeppelin, Genesis and Procol Harum. The influences are clear with the music Roine makes however I would not call this 70s rock, there are bits and pieces that would qualify as such on any album but make no mistake this is progressive rock through and through.

    The lead off track "Black Forest" takes you into another time and place some 300 years ago through the eyes of a weary traveler and as the album progresses so does the music and the story. "A Quiet Little Town" is an interesting thought provoking track that will form a perception not only through the storyteller's eyes but through you, the listener. It is beauty and cynicism that leaves you hanging at the end of a rope waiting for an escape route then around the corner comes more darkness with "Black Sunday." While this is all going on as you are absorbing all the incredible soundscapes created by this band of musical supermen, you hear Roine's guitar wailing away, cutting like a knife or in the same instance giving a subtle nod for the next instrument to come in and lead the way. Although Roine is a musical genius he plays as part of a team and each member of the band gets their moments in the sun as matter of course.

    "Freak of Life" is the most powerful rocking track. It sounds like it could be a step back to medieval times but the difference is there is a stage where Roine and the band are playing this song right outside the renaissance fair, luring you in to see the show. You could also imagine this being played outside of a modern day circus big top. Any way you look at it, it's a freak show. Think of a deranged Jethro Tull minus Ian's flute and a little more sophisticated and heavy you may get a grasp of what this music can sound like on this powerhouse track.

    But don't get the impression this is anything like Jethro Tull or any other band you have heard. This is Agents of Mercy, a project that started off with two guys throwing a few songs together that became a band that rivals the Flower Kings in their most fertile period. I think it was best to put the Flower Kings to bed for a while and start something new and challenging, and that is what Mr. Stolt has done, again with great success. Black Forest can be a fantasy, a tale from the dark ages or a twisted look upon on the cold realities of life regardless of what century you lived in. It all depends on what eyes you are looking through but in the end what you get is one of the finest progressive rock albums of 2011.


    Track Listing
    1. The Black Forest
    2. A Quiet Little Town
    3. Black Sunday
    4. Elegy
    5. Citadel
    6. Between Sun & Moon
    7. Freak Of Life
    8. Kingdom Of Heaven

Added: November 15th 2011
Reviewer: Keith Hannaleck
Score: *****


................................
DANGER DOG :
http://www.dangerdog.com/2011-music-reviews/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-review.php

AGENTS OF MERCY: THE BLACK FOREST

Agents of Mercy: The Black Forest
Progressive Rock
4.5/5.0
Foxtrot Music
by Craig Hartranft,  11.14.2011

I can dig most anything in which Flower Kings chief Roine Stolt is involved. Agents of Mercy is another one of those profound projects of creative and classic progressive rock for which he and his band mates are known for (in a variety of other bands).The Black Forest, the band's third release, is another prog delight.
Agents of Mercy does little here to deviate from their previous successful formula. However, you might sense a slight bit more edge as there's a strong rock feel coursing through the album (without being overbearing). This is notable within A Quiet Little Town, which blends a rock groove with a bit of jazz and smattering of a funky feel. Also, Freak of Life has a bit of rock heaviness to propel the arrangement. Yet both are tempered by the melodic and symphonic notes.
Yet, traditional melodic progressive rock is still the main attribute of this album, and both Black Sunday and Citadel pack plenty of intrigue from composition to musicianship. The title track is the longest and most expansive offering moments of heaviness against light segues with plenty of synth and guitar solos. On the lighter side, there's quiet melancholy of the aptly titled Elegy, which finishes with soaring Stolt solo; and, also, the beautiful, solemn, and stirring Kingdom of Heaven, Stolt's tribute to his father who passed in January of this year.
In short, fans of Roine Stolt, vocalist Nad Sylvan (Unifaun), and all the other participants (and their projects) should pick up on this wonderful album of melodic progressive rock.
Strongly recommended.

.................................

Something Else
By Nick DeRiso

http://somethingelsereviews.com/2011/11/14/agents-of-mercy-the-black-forest-2011/

The Black Forest, perhaps unsurprisingly, features a walk through twilit, spooky woodlands. Thankfully, however, Swedish prog-rockers Agents of Mercy manage to sidestep the typical genre nemesis like, say, a dragon. Instead, this swirling, half-lit landscape is used as a metaphor for life’s mysteries.

That’s not the last time that Agents of Mercy’s third studio album surprises, as you’re taken on a journey that is by turns disturbing, scary — oh, and in another left turn, often very loud.

There’s more of a heavy-rock feel than previous Agents of Mercy efforts, in particular on “Black Sunday” and “Citadel,” which owe far more inspirationally to Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and early King Crimson than to, say, Yes or Genesis. At the same time, the panoramic opening title track streaks impressively from this bucolic serenity over to a billowing symphonic grandeur.

“Freak Of Life” seems to pluck out the best of both impulses, and combines them into one of the album’s more compositionally assured, imagination-goosing moments. “A Quiet Little Town” boasts this zippy fusion-like interplay, “Between Sun And Moon” is a brawny anthem, while “Elegy” showcases the band at its most generous and emotional. Throughout, the brilliantly collaborative vocals give the project this theatrical propulsion — sounding, at times, like a much, much — MUCH — darker version of Queen.

Returning with the same lineup as last year’s Dramarama (vocalist-keyboardist Nad Sylvan, guitarist Roine Stolt, keyboardist Lalle Larsson, bassist Jonas Reingold and drummer Walle Wahlgren), Agents of Mercy has deepened its sense of musical inter-connectivity, even while broadened its range.
............

SOUNDPRESS:

Journey with Agents of Mercy to Dark and Dramatic Places!

Agents of Mercy was formed in 2009 by guitarist Roine Stolt and singer Nad Sylvan. The two core songwriters have cultivated their sound with different musicians over the course of three Agents of Mercy albums.

Their latest, The Black Forest is filled with dark imagery and dramatic instrumentation. The eight tracks follow a rock oriented path yet twist and turn through ethno, folk, jazz, medieval, prog and symphonic stylings. Guitars and drums lead the way but mellotrons and moogs add to the mystery of the music.

The CD opens with the shadowy and surreal title track, which sets the tone for the rest of the tunes that deal with death, dreams, freaks, ghosts and other horrors. However there is a glimmer of hope in "Between Sun & Moon" a song that tells us that we are special and to "take a look at the offspring and the seeds of success you've sown."

The album was recorded at a top notch studio in Sweden at Varnhem, which is described as very "dark age". The combination of modern and medieval enhances the mood of the music. The album was recorded on analogue tapes that also adds to its aura.

There is a lot of tales and terrains in The Black Forest. I found that I enjoyed the material more upon multiple listens as there are a lot of subtle sounds placed in its prog rock path. Of particular note is the eerie and electrifying "Citadel" inspired by the legend of the Blood Queen - a serial killer that lived from 1560-1614, followed by the more encouraging message of "Between Sun & Moon". The CD closes on a reflective note with the intricate instrumental " Kingdom of Heaven ". Journey with the Agents of Mercy to dark and dramatic places!

The Band:
Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) - VOCAL & KEYBOARDS
Roine Stolt (Transatlantic, Flowerkings) - GUITARS
Jonas Reingold (Flowerkings, Karmakanic) - BASS
Lalle Larsson ( Weaveworld, Karmakanic) - KEYBOARD
Walle Wahlgren - DRUMS

Album Tracklist:
The Black Forest
A Quiet Little Town
Elegy
Black Sunday
Citadel
Between Sun & Moon
Freak Of Life
Kingdom Of Heaven

• Info: : www.agentsofmercy.com
 (Laura turner Lynch/SoundPress.net)

.............................

http://www.getreadytorock.com/reviews2011/agents_mercy.htm

AGENTS OF MERCY The Black Forest Foxtrot (2011)

Blimey! Just how can anything surrounded by so many progressive rock clichés sound this good?
Agents Of Mercy are unashamedly retro prog-rock in almost every respect. For starters they're a supergroup fronted by Roine Stolt and Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings. Add to this the fact that 'The Black Forest' is a concept album then top it off with no track clocking in at less than six minutes and you should be scared off like a fox at an electric fence.
What rescues it from the quagmire of mundanity is exceptional songwriting backed up by stellar musicianship from all concerned. Despite the fact that the mine of early '70s progressive greats has been well and truly excavated, there is a seam of contemporary nuggets here exposed by the sheer diversity of the material.
Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and King Crimson are all name-checked, but then so are Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. Add to this a soupcon of jazz, folk and Medieval to the mix and you start to get a feel for what this is all about.
Eight tracks in all and not a duffer to be seen. From the classic prog rock of the title track to the Sabbathesque riffing of 'Black Sunday', from the quiet elegance of 'Elegy' to the staggering guitar solo on 'Kingdom Of Heaven' AOM have exceeded anyone's expectations here with an absolute belter of an album.
Mention must be made of all the musicians involved - Roine Stolt (Flower Kings, et al) leads the way with top notch fretwork throughout, Lalle Larsson (Karmakanic) backs this up with superb keyboard dexterity and Nad Sylvan (Unifaun) just has one of those voices that suits every track - ranging from Gabriel one minute to Jon Anderson the next and all points in between. Add on the rock-solid engine room of Jonas Reingold and Walle Wahlgren (Weaverworld) and you have all bases covered.
Given that the world of music is littered with failure when it comes to supergroups, Agents Of Mercy have bucked this trend with a truly exceptional album which, given enough exposure, could easily outstrip the reputations of its component parts.
Stunning.
Alan Jones- Get Ready To Rock -   Eclectic Mix
....................................

AOM Israeli review   DME

http://dmme.net/reviews/reviews48.html#agome

Progressive rock in its purest: it can't get more refined in the dark woods.
The FLOWER KINGS or TRANSATLANTIC fans will confirm that, when it comes to himself, Roine Stolt knows no quarter. But he'd be the first to say that keeping an experimental edge always sharpened is tiresome, so the master founded another band, AGENTS OF MERCY, to be as classic as it gets for neo prog. One may bemoan the genre's refusal to dig for roots of the original music form, and outsiders can be averted by "The Black Forest", yet for the aficionados it's a balm. Echoes of progenitors abound, epics like "Citadel" marry straightforward attack to adventurousness for the the group's third album to balance the "art" and "rock" particles.
The agenda is laid out in the sprawling title track once Lalle Larsson's crystal keys give way to Stolt's heavy riffs, and Nad Sylvan's voice weaves a predatory narrative and lets the instruments ebb up and down to drown the mastery in the sea of emotions. It's a rare feat in modern prog as is such a heartfelt ballad as "Elegy". The long solos are there, of course, but they - especially when executed on organ - embellish the picture rather than distract, and once "A Quiet Little Town" pours funky jive and gospel choir onto the artsy mill, this deviance makes the whole rather spicy and captivating. "Kingdom Of Heaven" returns the progressive flow to its basic values, and here the Black Forest really feels like home sweet home.
****


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BACKGROUND MAGAZINE   Holland.

Roine Stolt must be a very busy man. He's a band member or associated with The Flower Kings - by the way, do they still exist? - The Tangent, Karmakanic, Transatlantic and of course with his most recent band Agents Of Mercy. The Black Forest is their third album and it's by far the best, but also the darkest. It's a concept album dealing with disturbing, dark times featuring greed and hunger for power and money. Doesn't that sound familiar..? The music on this album contains a more rock approach, but you can still hear symphonic and progressive elements. The guitars and the drums have moved forward in the sound, but the Moogs and Mellotrons are still clearly present. The playing time of most of the songs is longer than on the previous two albums. Agents Of Mercy still consist of Nad Sylvan (vocals, keys), Roine Stolt (guitars, vocals), Jonas Reingold (bass guitar), Lalle Larsson (keyboards, vocals) and Walle Wahlgren (drums). On the first two albums Sylvan's voice was a kind of problem for me, but on this one his vocals sound much better or maybe I've got gradually used to his 'Gabriel meets Fish' voice.

The album opens with the amazing title track, an epic piece lasting over eleven minutes. It contains great hooks, excellent riffs and melodies and brilliant vocal passages. I'm sure that this piece will become an Agents Of Mercy classic! Black Sunday is the heaviest song; especially Stolt's hard hitting guitar is outstanding here. Elegy is a ballad followed by the electrifying Citadel featuring a Led Zeppelin riff. It's inspired by the legend of the Blood Queen, a serial killer who lived from 1561 until 1614. The album ends with another highlight, namely the instrumental Kingdom Of Heaven in which Roine Stolt plays some astonishing guitar. This song has been dedicated to his father. Conclusion: The Black Forest is a great progressive rock album that will be a delight to listen to for fans of Roine Stolt and all the bands he's associated with. Highly recommended indeed!

**** Martien Koolen (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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Various - Various (Jan 5, 2012)