Artist: PreHistoric Animals
Album Title: The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2
Label: Glassville Records
Date of Release: 25 March 2022
In a few short years, PreHistoric Animals have gone from being an unknown entity in the Mansion Of Much Metal, to a household name. Prior to Progpower 2019, I was unaware of the band and of any of their music. Admittedly, at that time, there was only one album to their name as they were still starting out on their musical journey. But still, my knowledge was precisely zip. Witnessing their performance in Baarlo the year before the pandemic changed all that; you could tell that PreHistoric Animals had something about them. And so it has proved…
…in 2020 in the midst of the world’s Covid struggles, the Swedish entity released their sophomore album, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 1’, a concept record detailing the exploits of two characters who are tasked with collecting the good and bad traits of the human race in order to make their way to a ‘new’ Earth as their world is dying. Fast forward 18 months and very little has changed; the world has opened up a little but still struggles with the ever-present threat of Coronavirus. Add to this, we now see Eastern Europe knee-deep in war. The reality we’re faced with isn’t great, so it’s a blessed relief that great bands continue to release new music. PreHistoric Animals are one such band, and they return with ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’, a continuation of the concept that sees a return to the exploits of Cora and Jareth.
I loved ‘Chapter 1’, offering it a very positive review and rightly so in my opinion. It’s therefore great news to discover that the same four protagonists are involved with the follow-up. That means that ‘Chapter 2’ features the talents of core duo Samuel Granath (drums and keyboards) and Stefan Altzar (lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards) alongside bassist Noah Magnusson and guitarist/vocalist Daniel Magdic.
With the same personnel involved, it’s not surprising to learn that musically and stylistically, the output on ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ continues in a similar fashion to the predecessor. If you liked ‘Chapter 1’, it is almost certain that you will like ‘Chapter 2’ and its blend of progressive rock, AOR, pop, and just a hint of metallic oomph in places. However, in an effort to provide full disclosure, I must admit that it took me a lot longer to warm to the songs here though. At one point, I was contemplating whether or not I actually liked the music and began to weigh up whether or not I was disappointed.
Strangely though, like an addiction, I found myself returning to the record for spin after spin; something about the music kept pulling me in. Ultimately, the draw was simple: fantastic music. I just didn’t immediately realise it. The melodies across the nine compositions have taken longer to get under my skin this time around, but now that I am listening with acclimatised ears, I can say that, without doubt, this record is a thoroughly joyous and entertaining affair, full of the ingredients that made me fall under their spell in the first place.
Importantly, PreHistoric Animals remain difficult to compare to others. There are a million and one bands out there that try to blend prog and pop music, but no-one sounds quite like this quartet, certainly as far as I’m aware anyway. There remains a tangible and intriguing quirkiness about the band that makes the music all the more impressive. These four gents create the music that they want, and it honestly sounds like they are having a lot of fun doing it. This translates through the music, meaning that as heavy as the subject matter may become, there’s a feeling of positivity and fun that sits at the heart of the music. This is as infectious as everything else, perhaps more so in some instances.
So where do I start when looking more closely at the music on offer on this record? That’s simple as it turns out. The first ‘proper’ track, entitled ‘We Harvest The Souls Of The Brave’ encapsulates a little of everything that PreHistoric Animals are so good at. Bold electronic sounds start things off, before a chunky riff enters, providing a little of that metallic muscle I referred to earlier. But from there, the verse quietens down to allow the unmistakeable vocals of Stefan Altzar to work his magic atop a cool beat and more diverse electronic sounds. And then the chorus strikes, and when it does, it hits the mark. I cannot fathom how it wasn’t love at first listen because now I love it. It’s often the earworm that’s present in my mind at the most unusual of times.
‘I Am The Chosen One (And I Like It)’ was one of the most difficult to get to grips with initially but now, ironically, is one of my favourites. The opening rhythm feels slightly off-kilter and there are what I perceive to be a few notes that are almost discordant. However, when paired with a chorus that’s incredibly strong anyway, it only feels more epic and powerful within its setting.
There’s a dark theatrical edge to ‘Cora’s New Secret’ that makes it a striking and immersive song. It feels very proggy and whilst it may not be overly heavy, I love the fact that there’s lots of space within it. And the space is used brilliantly, with layers of synths to create a rich soundscape into which is woven a gorgeous chorus that feels a little waltz-like but with hooks that are razor sharp. Add to this a fantastic performance from Stefan Altzar, as well as an energetic lead guitar solo, and it’s another quality song.
‘Protectors Of The Universe’ begins with what can only be described as a beautifully cinematic orchestral intro, a stunning affair. And when the tinkling piano notes begin alongside a crisp beat, it underlines just how strong and clear the production is on this album. Everything can be heard perfectly, however multi-layered the compositions become, increasing the overall enjoyment of the music tenfold. On headphones or in the car, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ feels alive and glorious.
If you’re looking for further evidence of PreHistoric Animals’ ability to deliver a cracking melody, look no further than ‘2100 (New Years Eve)’. It might sound odd, but the effects on the vocals and the chosen melodies remind me vaguely of ELO. Hopefully this is taken as the compliment it’s meant to be, as I grew up on a diet of ELO and still love the music. The ensuing lead guitar solo is less reminiscent though, as is the rather insistent beat, laid down perfectly by Sam Granath.
The final track, ‘It’s A Start, Not The End’ extends beyond the nine minute mark and is a suitably epic composition upon which to close out this album. It contains easily the heaviest riffs on ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ much to my delight, but equally, it is also one of the emotional and minimalist tracks in places. At around the 3:30 point, the lyrics say ‘…now it’s time to go’ immediately after which we’re hit with a sensationally poignant guitar solo. It’s the kind of emotional affair that brings moisture to the eye, something that I really wasn’t expecting at all. These kinds of surprises only make the music more powerful and memorable as far as I’m concerned.
If ever there was any doubt about the quality of PreHistoric Animals, ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’ extinguishes it. After some initial struggles, the Swedes’ third album has really struck a chord with me. And the fact that I had to work at it, means that my enjoyment of this record is that much greater now. PreHistoric Animals are a quirky band in many respects, but they are an equally special band. They create music that is very much their own, blending progressive rock with pop as seemingly only they can. And in a reality that’s really quite depressing for many of us, the music these four musicians create is an utter joy, providing an intelligence and beauty that’s sorely lacking elsewhere currently. If you’re already a fan, then this is a no-brainer. If you’ve yet to experience PreHistoric Animals though, I implore you to rectify this as swiftly as possible by checking out and immersing yourself in the wonderful soundscapes of ‘The Magical Mystery Machine – Chapter 2’.
The Score of Much Metal: 93%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: