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Optimystical - 2009 Distant Encounters

ARTIST: Optimystical
ALBUM: Distant Encounters
LABEL: Avenue Of Allies Music
SERIAL: Avenue 09 02 0003
YEAR: 2009
SPONSOR: Gregor Klee (Avenue Of Allies)


LINEUP: Robin Vagh - guitars, keyboards, backing vocals * Jonas Blum, Ronnie Hagstedt - vocals * Per Broddesson, Fredrik Fencke, Mikael Laver - guitars * Tom Rask - keyboards * Johan Sjoberg - bass, keyboards * Jan-Ake Jonsson - bass * Magnus Frid, Anders Rosell, Christian Muhr - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Sunburst In The Midnight * 02 Happen * 03 Outcast * 04 Tonite * 05 Startide Rising * 06 Face In The Window * 07 Lost Horizon * 08 In Our World * 09 Jennifer *10 The Unexpected * 11 The Storm * 12 I Go Blind



Swedish melodic rocker Robin Vagh makes an overdue return to GLORY-DAZE with his new project Optimystical. Featured back in 2002 with his indie release 'Sands Of Time', Robin has been away from the limelight for about five years, though I'm not so sure it's because his wife has been badgering him to spend less time in the studio! No, he's been busy beavering away with a bunch of new songs, reworking of older ones, and collaborating with some great Swedish musical talent. In what was supposed to be material for a third Vagh album, Robin postponed any thoughts of an release - unhappy with the resulting sound. Since then, he's been working with some heavyweight talent, including the likes of: Johan Sjoberg (ex Token, Stonesilk), Per Broddesson (ex Wolverine), Fredrik Fencke and keyboardist Tom Rask. The lead vocals are handled by Jonas Blum (ex Pole Position), who also sang on Robin's previous albums and provides vocals on two tracks, plus new singer Ronnie Hagstedt - who sings on ten of the twelve tracks. Musically, there are some supreme moments of Scandi melodic rock/AOR to be found on 'Distant Encounters'. It's easy to be impressed by all the talent coming out of Scandanavia. I could gladly ignore all other regions of the world and be happy just following what's going on in Norway, Sweden and Finland.

The Songs
Optimystical deliver a tremendous bombast at the starting gates.. the wonderfully titled 'Sunburst In The Midnight', bringing to mind that Joe Lynn Turner sound we've been hearing on his recent work, including the fab Sunstorm. Everything chugs along fine on 'Happen', a three minute sugar burst with a chorus from heaven. Nice stuff. Jonas Blum sings lead on tracks 3 and 4 ('Outcast' and 'Tonite'). The style on 'Outcast' is slightly different, darker even, whereas 'Tonite' is an AOR anthem wth some neat musical twists, keyboard tinkles, gruff guitarwork and another fine chorus. With a title like 'Startide Rising' you'll be expecting something worthwhile, and you do. It has a bit of Brother Firetribe to it, and shows off new-boy Hagstedt to good effect. Expect to hear of this guy into the future. 'Face In The Window' is the first proper ballad, and sweeps through the next five minutes in a restrained manner. It's all very emotive, with good use of keys to create symphonic textures. One of my favourite tracks on the album would be 'Lost Horizon', a razor sharp rocker that is melodic to the core with big chant-along choruses to boot. Add to that, the 80's sounding metal of 'In Our World' which chucks a few memories at the likes of the Pretty Maids. Interesting to read the liner notes for the song 'Jennifer'. It sounds like a happy-go-lucky rocker, but the lyrics and theme of the song point to aspects of child abuse - the scourge of modern day society. At 7 minutes, 'The Unexpected' is without doubt the most challenging song on the album. It combines distinctly different passages of music; prog metal, hard rock and symphonic elements. It's mostly heavied up and fast-paced, with good use of contrast, somewhat similar to my fave Swedish prog metallers Seventh Wonder. It segues directly into 'The Storm', and continues onward in the same vein as the previous track. We get a smooth close out with the mid-tempo warmth of 'I Go Blind', an easy on-the-ear way to finish the album.

In Summary
'Distant Encounters' is a terrific selection of songs, all of which have probably been through the mill and back again. Robin has assembled a great team to assist him under the Optimystical banner. There are a heap of influences here, too many to name here, but I am sure you can find a few of them for yourself. Without doubt the best discovery on the album is new singer Ronnie Hagstedt. You can bet your bottom dollar this guy will be singing on other great projects before long. An extra special mention goes to Carl-Andre Beckston, who designed the stunning logo and artwork for Optimystical. It reminds me of another album cover, but I just can't put a name to it. In the meantime, take a listen to some of the audio tracks featured below, and get acquainted with Optimystical!

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