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About 'the last viking'

What 'the last viking' record is not

A total shred record.

What 'the last viking' is

Not a total shred record.

Well, let's be a bit more helpful and let's say "melodic scandinavian 80s-style metal".. Think early Rising Force meets Rainbow, maybe. I know this is going to make some people cringe, so these people should stop reading now and instead check out some other recent records..

2 sample sound files

Excerpts from a Recent post on PM (perpetual motion)

Date: January 03, 1999 at 15:26:25

... The deep concept for this whole record was to write simpler, melodic material... while still embracing counterpoint to an extent. Some of the ideas dated back to the Yngwie years — stuff that didn't make it onto any RF records. I think we hit the ( = our own) mark both in regards to production (somewhat dry) and composition, it would be ridicilous to try to "out-stratovarius" Stratovarius, or "out-symphony-x" Symphony X. Anyway, odd meters, extreme dissonance, weird modulations, lengthy wanky solos, experimental production techniques etc were ruled right out from the start.. because I've done records where there's a third simple blues rock songs, a third really freaky instrumentals, and a third neoclassical stuff.. so invariably any one person listening to the record would be dissatisfied with 2/3 of it. Well, I decided I've had enough of that crap.. from now on I'll try to sort the material in piles together with similar material. Makes for happier customers.

As far as "freaky" or instrumental material, I like it to be really freaky, I'm a bit sick of "notes" if you know what I mean. (With "notes" I guess I mean "horizontally stringed pitches".. Usually when people want to make some "radical, crazy" type of music, they just stick a bunch of "notes" in there without any conceptual structure to support them. It's often as if harmony and counterpoint have been given almost no thought.)

I'd really like to do a whole record without any "notes" whatsoever, like the track "beautiful lung dogs" off of "Fission", but I just know no one at all would buy it..

: It's too bad Jens and Mike R couldn't just trade off runs for
: their instrumentals, cause I would LIKE THAT ALOT!

Like I said, this pretty much was ruled right out from the start.. The only way I would have deviated from the "no long solos rule" would have been if Yngwie ended up playing on it (there was talk of this!) It would have been cool to have a four-way series of trade solos in the end fade of song #2 (Me, Romeo, Pinella and Yngwie!!). That would have been interesting! The new generation vs. the old generation.. But Yngwie flaked...

I think I've been part of enough trade solos with Yngwie, and with Stratovarius, to last me a lifetime.. and they really have to be LONG to enable anything to be said!! ( Perhaps it will happen if Mike wants me to play on his solo record? )

Perpetual Motion is at http://www.mindcage.com/wwwboard/wwwboard.html.

Excerpts from a post to "teof" (the symphony X list)

Date: Thu, 3 Dec 1998 10:06:04 -0500 (EST)

I've heard this one before. Actually, the source of the rumours here, I think is this one 'project record' ("JOHANSSON / The Last Viking") that Mike graciously lent his talents to, as a guitar player and bass player (! yup! he plays bass really well too ) You read it here first..

We just mixed this by the way, it will be out in February in Japan. Be warned though (some 'truth in advertising' here), there's not a hell of a lot of shredding on the record! It's not at all as dashing instrumentally and sweeping harmonically as Sym X, and not really progressive or weird either, more like old Rising Force meets Rainbow.. but still w/ emphasis on not rehashing the tired old RF harmonic sequences, on logical songs and things like good counterpoint.. Göran Edman did the vocals (no, we didn't make Göran sing an octave beyond his range like Yngwie used to..

In other words, fans of Symphony X, things like Heavy Machinery, the stuff with Jonas Hellborg, or Fission, beware a little bit!! Of these it's probably closest to SX but it's a lot simpler music. I think it took Mike about three days to do all the guitar and bass!!

(Hmm, I should put up an MP3 so you could check it out actually... I'm a bit pressed for time tho, I just got back home from two months (!!!) on the road, I have two days at home, then on saturday I go to Japan with Strato.. )

Anyway, this record is part of a new concept — to keep the melodic shit separated on melodic records, the bluesy/jazzy shit separated on bluesy/jazzy records, and the truly weird shit separated on truly weird records.. I realize now, probably too late, that it's better that way.. people don't get so confused. Usually we've been doing things like a record full of blues rock, punctuated by complex neoclassical instrumentals — and then perhaps concluded by some sick sound collage of heterodyning-phase-vocoder-mangled samples of koalas in heat and linear-contour-mutated-FFT interpolations between a Palestrina choir piece and a gang of mongolian throat singers.. so invariably you get comments like 'nice record but what the fuck was XXXX all about!? '

Regarding Mike's solo record; I know he talked about something but I thought he'd concentrate on another CD of band music first. Nonetheless, I promised him I'd play some solos on it — if he wanted me to. So perhaps that's another source of the rumors.

Anyway, see you all in Osaka in 'Rock-Rock' Sunday night, I'll be the one in the 'Pinnella is God' T-shirt doing the 'Osaka two-step' ..

TEoF is at http://www.eGroups.com/list/teof.

Another post from TEoF

This was in response to yet more gripes about our poor defenseless record. Have people no shame!??! (sniff!)

Some of this text ended up in an email interview I just did...

From: Jens Johansson <jens@panix.com>
Re: [ teof ] Re: The last Viking

> I thought it was extremely weak... especially given the fact that I paid 35$
> for it.

First, let me say I'm extremely sorry about the price!!! :P I wish the normal CD price was about $5, that way people would be a lot more likely to take chances on a purchase. I think $17 is way to high. Blame the corrupt recording industry, especially the retail chain. It's insane, when the manufacturing cost is $1 and the copyrights are about another $3!!

But $35 is just BEYOND insane.. sorry!!

We've been trying to get it licensed in other territories than Japan, it's very difficult. But we'll get there, one day. Maybe with this possible Inside Out / US branch we can license some of the stuff in the States. Other than that, it's only Varney that puts out this type of stuff, basically. And I haven't heard back from him..

The next Stratovarius should be available for a normal price in the States, at least...

> I liked "Alone" and "Fading Away".. and a few bits and pieces of
> other songs..but thats about it. Jens had posted something on the Perpetual
> Motion Board (in response to my intitial thread stating that I thought the
> samples I had heard were weak), about this cd, he said it was never intended
> to be a crazy chops-laden disc.. with no crazy production, overdubs.. none of
> that shit.

That is true. I remember typing some sort of manifesto also to this list, too... I summarised it at
http://www.panix.com/~jens/parse.cgi/about-last-viking.par .

Essentially the record was an opportunity to release some musical material (ideas) that could have fitted on any of the earlier Rising Force albums -- as a matter of fact, a lot of the material came from a bag of idea tapes from the 80s that I found in my brother's basement. (There were many more ideas in the bag.. I'm working on more material right now. VIRTUALLY SHRED-FREE MATERIAL!!! NYAAH NYAAH! :) ) Most of the stuff in the bag didn't end up on any RF album, because by the 3rd record I was a bit miffed at Yngwie's royalty split procedures. (Two halves for me, none for you) Then the tape bag got put in storage in LA when we all left after Yngwie's accident in 1987. Then it got sent by boat to Sweden when I emptied our LA locker in 1994 I think it was, and it was lying inside an old kick drum case for the longest time..

But a lot has happened in metal since the 80s!! And of couse, if you're into SX, the concepts will sound a bit dated and less explosive, harmonically.

On the other hand the style is very 'pure', much more close to the baroque. SX are _heavily_ influenced by stuff past, say, 1750.. I hear lot of romanticism, even impressionism and modernism. There's none of that on "The Last Viking", almost no modulation by thirds, mostly diatonic modes, etc etc. The most modern musical quote there is is from Bach's C minor passacaglia, a pretty early work of his, at that, IIRC. No Holst here!! And whatever shred there _is_, is concealed, so you don't even recognize it as shred. Some people are into that style as well, I know it for a fact. I like both myself! I've done so many freaked out records it felt sort of nice to write something really.. normal.

This is the same problem I had when I did avant-garde stuff in the early 90s, but then people would expect "pure metal" and be disappointed by things like "Fjäderlösa Tvåfotingar".. or even worse, that "RAF" record with Jonas that's essentially just sounds like a bunch of noise if you expect normal harmonic structures!!

> He also said something like "just once I'd like to be able to
> write a cd that didnt have (horizontally stringed pitches)" or something
> like that, but he also said nobody would buy it LOL. He's right LOL.

Well, truth to tell, quite a few people DID buy it, and not that many people hated it. Seems all of the complaints are from people that know Mike's *real* band, you know, them guys from Jersey..

I still like most of the "viking" songs myself, but what would be the point of trying to out-Symphony-X Symphony X!! If it's even possible..

Mike was making fun of some of the lyrics when I went down there to pick up a synth last Wednesday.. so I was in a hurry, so I'm not Shakespeare or Kevin Moore. So sue me!

> I would sure have liked it better
> had Yngwie indeed been on it with Romeo and Mike Pinella, which was another
> thing Jens had said was in the planning stages, but never got past that. Oh
> well...

Well, Yngwie had the opportunity but flaked on us. (Maybe he knew about Mike doing it and was scared!!)

> I cannot even imagine a CD with Yngwie and Romeo on it. I bet it would push
> the Notes per square inch on any available compact CD to date. It would be so pitted from the
> recording laser it would be see-through!

While I agree that both Yngwie and Mike have extreme talent, I don't consider the speed element of their playing essential. Anyone can learn how to play fast, it really isn't a big deal!! It's things like choice of notes and tone that are important to me. But people's tastes are different!

> I understand this is Jens and his brother on their project, but they know we
> want shred! Right?

I think if Mike ever gets his solo project together, parts of it may be a total shred orgasm. But I bet the songs will be OK as well! I feel like I'm beyond purely mechanistic shred myself, I can't explain it really. And the reason I got into SX was not because of the shred, rather the musical content -- songs, harmonic movement, counterpoint, things of that nature. (Well, I admit, the performance is overall great, you can hear that they actually play their instruments instead of being protools fiddlers... and the singer *really* shreds most other singers. Without singing really fast!)

> Jens is a prodigy, Romeo is a prodigy, etc. It just did not shine through
> like prodigy material to me.

I sort of agree. That was part of the goal!

> That's all. Get Yngwie together with Romeo and jens, WOW!!!!!!!
> Shred-fest!

If Mike is in control of the production then yes, perhaps!

Dunno about that Yngwie guy.

If it's any consolation, it seemed that the SX guys will record another shred-filled record at some time in the future, which you can sink your shred-starved teeth into. I'll sink my teeth into it as well when it comes out, but for the songs and the harmonic content, myself.

Page updated Jul 13, 1999 at 05:08 Email: jens@panix.com

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