Linnéa Vikström, who’s been part of Therion’s live lineup since 2011, singing alongside her stupendously talented father, Thomas, has spread her vocal wings, so to speak, in what’s been billed as her solo debut. Called ‘Live in Space’, the album’s being released under the moniker of QFT (Quantum Field Theory), and also features the Dynazty rhythm section of sticksman Georg Härnsten Egg and bassist Jonathan Olsson, and ex-Loch Vostock guitarist Mano Lewys.
The resulting music from this collaboration is something of a mixed bag. Firstly, the album’s themes are based around quantum physics and “spans all the way from current science to the eternal, philosophical questions regarding the beginning, the end and life beyond our own planet.” Fair enough, but it conveys minor Spinal Tap flavours on tracks called ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Aliens’ that are declared as such, vocally, and emphatically at that, on the very first beat of the very first bar. This wouldn’t be such a problem, but there seems to have been very little thought behind pairing music and lyrics, so that one reflects the other. ‘Big Bang’, for example, is almost Sabaton-esque in its trad-metal cheese, and lacks any sense of grandeur that might be expected for such thematic underpinnings. And the mid-tempo, palm-muted guitar chugging of ‘Aliens’ is ostensibly Therion-esque, but without any sense of sonic majesty… rather, it’s quite a plodding, pedestrian number.
Other average moments arrive with ‘Light Speed’ where, apart from some virtuosic fretboard widdling, the rest of the song is as clichéd as hell. And 'Time' works off a simple, yet effective central melody (albeit one that sounds ever so familiar), although is deployed in a rhythmically uninteresting way. Elsewhere, though, the album shines brighter. In fact, it opens mightily strong, with 'End of the Universe'. This is styled like a classic, epic-sounding Candlemass piece, complete with Vikström’s wide ranging, histrionic vocals à la Messiah Marcolin. She even hits some notes and sounds with her voice that blend with the music in a burst of climactical dissonance, which is ever so effective.
'Black Hole' is a very nicely composed and executed Pagan's Mind-esque piece; 'QFT' is a melodically driven power ballad, with some particular tasty vocal lines; and 'Quasar' diversifies matters with all kinds of interesting shifts, including some Kai Hansen-era Helloween lead guitar work. The title track is another affectively moving power ballad, rich in both engaging melodies and emotional depths. And closing track, ‘Jóga’, a Björk cover, stands out from the rest of the album as showcasing a very different side to Vikström’s voice, in terms of a more emotionally varied range. It’s a shame this kind of quirky, Björked-up vocal style wasn’t deployed in some of the other tracks… it might’ve given them an extra lift and different kind of edge.
Production-wise, songs were recorded live, with just three of four takes per song, and with the assistance of Swedish sound engineer Lennart Östlund (albeit some choirs were tracked after the main recordings, according to press blurb… as were, I’m guessing, some of the keys). It’s resulted in an interesting sounding vibe. There’s an immediacy and energy to the songs, particularly in Vikström’s performance. And, while there’s a bass-biased muddiness to some of the music, it does sound warmly analogue and free from an overuse of any kind of Pro Tool shenanigans. It lacks overall sheen, but this is a very positive thing. On the whole, it has a beautifully retro sound.
All in all then, ‘Live in Space’ is a strong, albeit flawed, debut from Vikström under the QFT banner. Let’s hope this musical collective progress with the solid foundations set out on these inaugural recordings. There’s so much promise here, and with the flaws ironed out on future work, QFT could be quite the act.
LIVE IN SPACE
Review by Mark Holmes
4th May 2018
1) End of the Universe
2) Big Bang
3) Black Hole
8) Light Speed
9) Live in Space
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"There’s an immediacy and energy to the songs, particularly in Vikström’s performance...On the whole, it has a beautifully retro sound."