Review by Jordan Blum, (June 19, 2012)

Swedish guitarist/vocalist Hasse Fröberg is no stranger to progressive rock fans. As a founder and current member of The Flower Kings, he’s lent his voice and six string skills to some of the genre's most beloved albums. However, he’s also been involved in several side projects, including his solo outfit, Hasse Fröberg and the Musical Companion. With its second release, "Powerplay," the quintet firmly establishes itself as a powerful force in the scene. While it feels a bit more generic and colorless than some of the competition, it’s still an exciting journey overall.

The follow-up to 2010s "FuturePast," "Powerplay" once again sees Fröberg working with guitarist Anton Lindsjö, keyboardist Kjell Haraldsson, bassist Thomsson, and drummer Ola Strandberg. All four supporting members provide backing vocals, too, and the record was engineered by Flower Kings keyboardist, Thomas Bodin. Although a relatively new group, they’ve already toured actively in Europe and America. Of the live scene, Fröberg states, “Playing live is definitely the right element for us. I really can’t wait to take The Musical Companion and the songs on Powerplay on the road.” Fans should be equally excited, as "Powerplay" is full of complex compositions and ever-shifting melodies.

Undeniably, there’s a definite Flower Kings/Transatlantic vibe in the way “My River to Cross” starts the record with a bold jam. Admittedly, like the entire album, it’s more direct and not as eccentric or textured as the former groups’ approaches, but the connection is still t. Fröberg displays his powerful, raspy voice in between pleasant harmonies and choruses, and the instrumental section in the middle is intense.

As raw and biting as most of the album is, Fröberg and company also showcase a sensitive side, such as the opening delicacy and thorough poignancy of “The Final Hour.” Its beautiful piano work and quiet, peaceful woodwinds complement the more aggressive aspects well. There’s also some pretty funky guitar constructions. “Waves” is almost simple and reserved enough to be a commercial hit, while “White Butterfly” is a short ballad that works perfectly as a dreamy, reflective segue into the beast that is “The Chosen Ones.” Really, every song on here features superb arrangements, melodies, and dynamics.

"Powerplay" is an impressive sophomore effort, and it’s sure to earn Fröberg and his band some recognition within the prog community. While it sounds more like his main band than he probably wants it to, it’s still unique enough to exhibit another side of the musician’s persona. All in all, fans of the related artists and the genre in general should definitely give "Powerplay" a few spins.

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