Mattsson - War
Mike Varney dicovered that Finnish guitarist in 1985. I came across his solo activity on the occasion of the third solo CD - "Electric Voodoo" (1991). It's essential to write down the foreword. Lars Eric Mattsson is famous for his cooperation with many well-known artists, e.g. Erik Norlander (Lana Lane, Rocket Scientist), Patrick Rondat (Elegy, Jean-Michel Jarre), Rob Johnson (Magnitude 9), Alex Masi, Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater), Chris Poland and Rusty Cooley. Beside his solo works, he as well played in other bands: Vision (hard rock), Astral Groove (blues rock), Condition Red (progressive) and a supergroup Book Of Reflections (neoclassical progpower). Mattsson's debut solo release was published in 1988.
"War" is the eighth Finn's album and different in comparison to his previous CDs. The main difference is that here aren't any instrumental compositions. Moreover, the album is promoted as rock opera. Many significant names appeared on that project: Mark Boals (vocals; Malmsteen, Ring Of Fire), Vitalij Kuprij (keys solos; Artension, Ring Of Fire), Irene Jansson (vocals; Star One, Ayreon), Björn Jansson (vocals; Tears Of Anger, Imaginery), Lance King (vocals; Balance Of Power, Empire), Andre Vuurboom (vocals; Sun Caged), Eddie Sledgehammer (drums, percussion) and others. There is also The Astral Chamber Orchestra responsible for the strings' parts.
Opera inseparably makes me think of classical music. As you can know, Lasse has become famous for his progressive music, not operas so far. As a matter of fact, he played Johann Sebstian Bach's "Menuet" on "No Surrender" (1989), but it doesn't mean that Lasse is a neoclassical guitarist. Let's move to "War" in order to have all the doubts dispelled.
At the very beginning, I must announce that a term "rock opera" isn't commensurate with the contests of "War". I can write that there are hard rock elements, but won't classify it as rock opera. You'd better listen to Nikolo Kotzev's "Nostradamus" to get to know what should be described as rock opera indeed, haha. "Where's Our Chance", with interesting Irene Jansson's singing, is nothing, but a composition full of heavy progmetal music. The same female singer appears in a calm "A Dreamer's Lullaby". I got interested in these compositions on which Vitalij Kuprij participated. In "Your Dream", he played more in the style of Artension than of his solo works. Great impression came down on my mind after listening to "Smoke And Mirrors" and "This Is The End", especially because of beautiful solos by a duo Mattsson-Kuprij in the former one. The latter one is European power metal track that is distinguished by Vitalij's mad solo, jazz tastes, decelerations and sudden "spurts". The strings don't play too often, because their unique role is not taking the lead, but giving a chamber mood to Finn's music. As far as male vocalists are concerned, I am most pleased with Mark Boals' performance.
Summing up the review, I'd like to stress that "War" should be rather described as metal opera. I think that listeners won't mind the term progressive opera, so it can also be used in the context of "War". The material is very complex and strongly more muddled up (in positive meaning) than Kotzev's "Nostradamus" and Avantasia's music for instance. I can say that Lasse placed emphasis much on instrumental than vocal sphere. "War" doesn't include as distinguishing singers as on Avantasia, and choirs are less diverse for sure. In spite of my subjective remarks, I will stay a Mattsson's music fan and express a confirmation of his professionalism further.