a l b u m r e v i e w s


KHARMA
WONDERLAND

MTM Music 0681-13
Produced by: D Tanaskovic & Kharma

Released: OUT NOW
Closest Relative: Styx, Queen, Kansas
GENRE: AOR
OVERALL: 95%

  1. Free Yourself
  2. Wonderland
  3. Knowing You
  4. Forever
  5. In Chains
  6. Standing Alone
  7. Part Time Lovers
  8. Angel Eyes
  9. Ray Of Sunshine
  10. Spell On You
  11. Don't Close Your Eyes
  12. Hold On
  13. Wings Of History
  14. Cold As Ice (Japan Only)

MTM's release schedule was a little bare there for a while, but here they are making up for lost time and low and behold Kharma is another classic.
Kharma is the result of 10 years worth of writing and demo work, culminating in this album being recorded late last year over several months. It features two of Sweden's finest artists - vocalist Goran Edman and guitarist Dragan Tanascovic, with Atilla Szabo, Joel Starander, Imre Daun and special guest Mats Olausson rounding out the band.
Kharma's Wonderland is one of the most energetic and highly original AOR albums I have heard. The title says it all. Certainly it is one of MTM's most innovative releases ever.
Funny that I should say that this is innovative and original given that the music is almost entirely influenced by the past and the stalwarts of this genre of music like Queen, Deep Purple, Styx, Kansas and Journey.
But the band in their own unique way have taken the best of these bands and made it their own in a tribute to the foundations of classic rock.
There is a real buzz of energy listing to this album. One has to have an appreciation for the more over the top pomp and ceremony of 70's rock to understand how good
this really is. But even if you are a late 80's or 90's kid, then the freshness of these songs should be enough to involve you in them.
Not only is there plenty of guitar and keyboards, but horns, percussion, brass and more backing vocals and harmony layers that one could hope for.
And vocalist Goran Edman is in better voice than ever before. Track By Track:
Free Yourself - opens with a intense mix of guitar, Hammond organ, brass and keyboards. Fantastic! An breezy uptempo feel good rocker that sounds like classic Paradise Theater era Styx.
Wonderland - intro'd by a think Hammond organ sound and tight instrumental mix. Goran is in major Dennis DeYoung mode, in another feel good uptempo song who's verse features that grand piano sound that Styx employed so well and chorus is so over the top. Majestic soaring multi-layered vocals drenched in organ and guitar. More of Styx and Kansas at their best. The sound and production is so good it's scary.
Knowing You - a more straight ahead guitar driven number that reeks of the intro to Journey's Stone In Love. Wonderful! The songs stays on the format until the once again multi-layered 70's pomp chorus. A really uptempo feel good pop rocker and Foreigner influenced vocal.
Forever is the fist big power ballad of the album. Darker, orchestrated and dramatic, just like those classic ballads of the 70's. Dennis DeYoung in the verse, turns to Freddy Mercury in the chorus. This song could have been lifted from just about any Queen album. The vocals have the same dramatic effect of Who Wants To Live Forever for example.
In Chains - is one of the more musically original songs of the album. A heavy, mid tempo, keyboard driven track, with intense vocals and a darker guitar sound. Goran's voice takes on some of his characteristics used on John Norum's Total Control album.
Standing Alone - returns to a more uplifting feel, while still fairly dark lyrically, this sounds a little more 80's and has another chorus drenched in harmony vocals.
Part Time Lovers - another original track with a softer verse, but a dark and heavy chorus. A tip of the hat to Deep Purple, with the heavy use of organ and lead guitar.
Angel Eyes - another dark and moody track, with more Dennis DeYoung vocals in the verse. The chorus is a big soaring ballad with symphonic backing. Intense!
Ray Of Sunshine - a faced paced uplifting track was needed about now and this track delivers. More 70's influences with a Jethro Tull inspired flute in use. A great fast paced chorus with similarities to Queen and then Styx.
Spell On You - another dark and heavy guitar track with more organ and 70's feel. A really solid thump to the rhythm section and quite an intense song.
Don't Close Your Eyes - is another highlight of the album. An equal mix of originality, Foreigner & Kansas and a killer keyboard filled chorus. An awesome vocal.
Hold On - one of the few more straight forward tracks on the album. An uptempo European style rocker.
Wings Of History - a very cool slow intro with moody keyboard feel and haunting vocal. A power ballad with a chorus that is Queen all over. A dark and sentimental, song.
Cold As Ice (Japan Only) - My only complaint of the album. Everyone should get this song as part of the album. This is a huge Deep Purple style blues rock anthem with a killer chorus and soaring vocals. The tempo is almost pedal to the metal and the album could have used this track two or three songs back. Just to break up the intense darkness of the album. If you can get this track - go for it!
BOTTOM LINE: Another melodic rock release of the highest quality. The production on this album is second to none and puts many other releases to shame. But to be fair, the guitarist owns one of Sweden's top studio's, so the cost of production was cut considerably.
It would be hard to imagine a lot of other bands being able to afford such a good sound.
As I said, this is more sectional in it's appeal that some of the more mainstream AOR releases, but the fact remains the quality of vocals, song writing and production should be more then enough to ensure that a lot of fans add this to their collection and hold it in high regard.
After all there are a lot of Styx, Kansas and Queen fans out there...Spread the word!
PRODUCTION: 96% SONGS: 94% VIBE: 95%ATTITUDE: 95%
ESSENTIAL FOR: Most classic rock fans, fans of high quality AOR and fans of Queen, Styx, Kansas and Deep Purple.


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