Gildan's Guide to Good Music: Karmakanic - Who's The Boss In The Factory?

Gildan's Guide to Good Music

The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.

As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives[1], most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!

What I aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've[2] never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews has found them useful[3].

In a change of pace from the last few "some variety of Metal" albums I've featured, today we're looking at a real gem of a band that I stumbled across semi-randomly whilst poking around the "people who purchased [item X] also bought..." field at my online retailer of choice - a happy accident indeed! But just being excellent isn't quite enough to prompt a review from me, as I'm uninterested in discussing music you might have reasonably known about prior to my articles - the goal is musical evangelism after all - so it will come as no surprise when I tell you they're obscure by definition.



Who's The Boss In The Factory?

Musical Genre: Symphonic Progressive Rock
Running Time: 55 minutes
# of Tracks: 6
Particularly noteworthy songs: Send A Message From The Heart, Who's The Boss In The Factory?

It's no great secret that most people on these forums are (comparative) youngsters - there was a poll a while back that showed perhaps 90% of the respondents were somewhere in their teenage years - so the odds of my audience consisting of people who can remember the heyday of progressive rock are slim to none (I certainly don't, and I have a decade on most of you). In point of fact, it's eminently possible you don't really know what progressive rock is at all, so if you're in that camp, I suggest reading this hilarious (because it's mostly true) article on the topic. Go ahead, I can wait.

All right, from here on out I'm assuming you have some working knowledge of the weird and wonderful world that is progressive rock - on to the album at hand!

Karmakanic is a side project formed by bassist Jonas Reingold, from the Swedish progressive rock band The Flower Kings, one of the better known[4] modern prog outfits. The Flower Kings specialize in the sort of symphonic prog that bears strong resemblance to bands like Yes, King Crimson, or early Genesis, with almost uniformly positive and uplifting lyrics about such topics as love, peace, and spirituality.

Compared to the band that spawned them, Karmakanic is a good deal darker and moodier, though I stress that this is only in comparison, as Karmakanic's discography is still rather upbeat fare on the whole. They perform complicated music that conforms to pretty much all the stereotypes the genre is noted for: sharp dynamic contrasts, sudden full stops, complex timing and metre changes, abstract lyrics, long periods of instrumentation, the works. And when I say long, I mean long - the shortest opening track[5] on a Karmakanic album is a bit over 12 minutes in length, and the vocals don't even kick in until the 2-minute mark. Their extended instrumental passages at times take on an almost Jazz-like quality, where you can imagine the musicians improvising them on the fly, and feature heavy use of keyboards akin to the more Metal end of the progressive spectrum. Where Karmakanic differ from the stereotypical prog-rock outfit is in the quality of their vocals, as their vocalist Göran Edman has a very nice voice.

Who's The Boss In The Factory? is the third album they've released, and in my opinion their best so far (though the first two are also quite good), and since there are only 5 songs on it (across 6 tracks), I'll go ahead and briefly describe them all.

The opening track, "Send A Message From The Heart", is a massive feel-good epic (clocking in at 19:31!) that wouldn't feel at all out of place on a Flower Kings album. It's followed by the far more 'reasonably long' "Let In Hollywood", which is only (ha!) 5 minutes long, and the closest this album comes to any traditional rock song structures - it might almost be thought of as a progressive rock "single"[6], except it's in 7/8 and actually a sardonic send-up of popular music and the concept of singles themselves.

Next up is the title track, which is a melancholy masterpiece and easily my favorite Karmakanic song yet - which makes it such a shame that the only version of it I could find on YouTube has the entire 3 minute piano solo in the middle cut out (I get that it's 13 and a half minutes long, but most people would have split it into two parts, grah!), so I can't in good conscience use that as my example. I've settled for using track #4, the 9:53 mini-epic "Two Blocks From The Edge", which features some nice guest instrumentals in the form of saxophones (whee!) and guitars from Roine Stolt (the fellow behind The Flower Kings). The album closes on the lovely two part "Eternally"; Pt 1 consists of a piano solo that segues into the song proper, the somber and stately Pt 2, which benefits nicely from a string ensemble's involvement.

Thanks to YouTube shutting down the account of whoever it was that uploaded "Two Blocks From The Edge", you might have noticed that the song above is now the one that I said I wasn't going to use because the uploader savaged it by removing an entire 3-minute segment. As much as it pains me to upload a marred version of that masterpiece, the bits they didn't savagely hack away are still freaking awesome, so it should still serve its purpose; with that said, you will notice the bit that's missing when the song suddenly appears to cut out and then come back on a completely different riff.

If you were already a fan of this sort of music, hopefully I've just turned you onto another excellent band - and if you weren't a prog-rock fan to start with, I can only hope this band will serve as a springboard into that fascinating genre. Either way, if you're one of the handful of people who actually read these articles of mine (they seem to be subject to the law of diminishing returns, heh), thanks a bunch, and happy listening!

Other entries in Gildan's Guide to Good Music

Orphaned Land - The Never Ending Way Of ORwarriOR
Guilt Machine - On This Perfect Day
Ride The Sky - New Protection
The Romanovs - ...And The Moon Was Hungry...
Within Temptation - The Heart Of Everything
Penumbra - Seclusion
Octavia Sperati - Grace Submerged
Virgin Black - Requiem - Mezzo Forte
Allen/Lande - The Battle
Devin Townsend Project - Addicted
Todesbonden - Sleep Now, Quiet Forest
Beyond Twilight - Section X
Katatonia - Night Is The New Day
After Forever - After Forever
The 69 Eyes - Back In Blood
Red Circuit - Homeland
Hurt - Vol. 1
Myrath - Desert Call
Ayreon - The Human Equation
Nocturnal Rites - The 8th Sin
Witchbreed - Heretic Rapture
Arjen A. Lucassen's Star One - Victims Of The Modern Age
Agua de Annique - Pure Air
Joe Bonamassa - The Ballad of John Henry
Taal - Skymind

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[1] In which case it is certainly good music, but not especially interesting to me as you probably already know about it.
[2] Certainly true of the average person on the street, but there's always the possibility that you already knew about one of the various bands I review, in which case I offer you a (metaphorical) high five and a modicum of (grudging) respect.
[3] My album review with the most views puts that number at just over 200; I don't trust those figures to be "unique" though, so it's probably a smaller real number, and without comments I couldn't say if articles like this one have accomplished what I meant them to. Good thing I write for my own amusement!
[4] Translation: Not well known in the slightest, as prog has not been even remotely popular since the 60s.
[5] Technically the shortest opening track is 1:28 in length, but that wasn't actually a song so much as a narrative intro to the real opening track.
[6] Those don't actually exist of course, since Prog-rock never gets any radio play, heh.


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