Hypnotic, immersive, absorbing, enchanting, consuming. These are just a few of the adjectives we could use to describe “Chants From Another Place,” Jonathan Hultén’s first full-length solo release. This wandering acoustic sojourn offers a healing balm for these troubled times. Although often dark and brooding at its foundation, there is something etheric and transcendent that our soul understands and responds to in each piece. Perhaps Hultén says it best: “Chants From Another Place will thematically take you through landscapes of ecstasy, passing mountains of death and rebirth, sailing seas of adventure, traversing wastelands of despair and forests of myth. It is an inward journey and only time can tell which places will be visited under its duration. It is a tale of spiritual death and rebirth.”
Hailing from the Swedish heavy metal band Tribulation, Hultén’s latest release may be surprising to some but isn’t without precedent. His previous EP “The Dark Night of the Soul” was cut out of the same cloth with the brilliant focal point “Nightly Sun” and its mesmerizing video. Now this twelve song follow-up serves up the most beautifully transfixing 41 minutes that 2020 is likely to see, an understated masterpiece that reverberates within the listener for days afterwards. If possible, take it in on headphones while walking amidst a forest. You will fall in love hard and fast, each song being etched upon the heart like the patterns found on trees and rocks in a natural landscape.
Completely performed by Hultén, the mix of acoustic guitar, subtle keyboard and percussion is an ideal bed of sound for his voice to rest on top of. The vocal delivery is varied, ranging from earnest and aching to an occasional almost-Johnny-Cash-drawl. But it’s the inventive and unexpected harmonies that are utterly bewitching, at times changing the mood from minor to major scales and back again. Each piece is fresh, natural and genuine.
The bottom line is that this haunting album is a revelation. From the simple but uniquely captivating album cover I was drawn in, no idea who Hultén was, but I knew I had to listen to a song. That first song was “The Mountain” and from that moment on there was no returning, the spell had been cast and the magic of this creation was revealed. How such a simple pattern on the acoustic guitar can weave such potency is still a mystery; adding the plaintive vocals on top is exquisite realization. Perhaps the title “pain of salvation” would be the most fitting expression, one which has already been taken. A theme of self-discovery via Joseph Campbell is present on several tracks such as “The Call to Adventure” and “Wasteland”, the latter carrying the potency to break your heart and reveal the shining truth underneath, delivered with an understated but devastating piano progression.
There are a couple of “upbeat” songs as well, namely “Next Big Day” where Hultén’s vocals break forth for a rare boisterous moment, and the opening “A Dance in the Road”. Lest the listener think that the vocals are the only secret ingredient to Hultén’s magic, instrumental “The Fleeting World” on piano is just as moving and addictive. The only song which seems out of place on the album is the other instrumental “Outskirts” which is a fine piece, but with more rock instrumentation feels like it almost breaks the code of simplicity that commands the rest of the material. On the other end of the spectrum, we are treated to the a cappella “Ostbjorka Brudlat” and then “Deep Night” which brings the album to an evocative close with Hultén’s multi-tracked vocals front and center, enveloping the listener for one final time.
If it isn’t evident already, these “Chants” are disarmingly simple yet mysteriously impactful. This album holds a special and unique quality and may end up being one of the finest releases of the year. Don’t miss the opportunity to be sucked in and let it transform you from the inside.
Released by: Kscope Records
Released Date: March 13th, 2020
Genre: Folk Rock
“Chants From Another Place” Track-listing:
- A Dance in the Road
- The Mountain
- Next Big Day
- The Call to Adventure
- Holy Woods
- Where Devils Weep
- The Fleeting World
- Ostbjorka Brudlat
- The Roses
- Deep Night
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An unexpected gem of a release, Jonathan Hultén’s “Chants From Another Place” is as inventive as it is transformative. Each piece demands the full attention of its listener, weaving simple yet evocative song structures into something wholly transfixing. Few albums can utilize acoustic guitar and simple instrumentation to achieve these profound ends, and fewer still channel such emotion through harmonized vocals. Not to be missed!