The resurgence of progressive rock in the early to mid 1990's has roots going back nearly twenty years. In their quest for the almighty dollar, bands like Genesis and Yes had forgotten their progressive roots, but there was an undercurrent of new and interesting bands who took the foundations laid by these pioneers and expanded upon them. A great number of these bands came from Europe, whether it be bands like Anekdoten (Sweden) and Porcupine Tree (England) or bands who first took hold in the 1980's like Marillion and IQ. Änglagärd, a very short lived band from the 1990's, followed the same mold, but did so in their own subtle way. Their unique way caused them to have a rabid fanbase in the progressive rock community.
Originally formed in 1991 by guitarist/vocalist Tord Lindman and bassist Johan Högberg, the band grew, a year later, into a six piece lineup. Joining Lindman and Högberg in the definitive Änglagärd lineup were keyboardist Thomas Johnson, guitarist Jonas Engdegärd, drummer Mattias Olsson and flutist Anna Holmgren. Following a series of concerts in their hometown of Stockholm, a year and half was spent in the writing and recording their legendary 1993 debut, 'Hybris'. 'Hybris', to many people, is the greatest progressive rock album recorded in the 1990's. Combining the dark, chamber undertones of Univers Zero and the sheer power of King Crimson, 'Hybris' joined fellow countrymen Anekdoten's 'Vemod' in signaling to the world the emergence of Sweden as a hotbed of the new progressive rock movement.
Having toured the US (and blowing people away at the initial ProgFest in Los Angeles later in 1993), the band quickly went back to Sweden in late 1993 to write and record the follow-up to 'Hybris'. Not wanting to repeat themselves, the band decided that their second album, named 'Epilog', would be a completely instrumental affair. A much more intense album then 'Hybris', 'Epilog' is a series of extremes, whether it be the loud bombastic sections followed by quiet melodic passages, to the running order of the songs. For example, the first and final tracks on the album ("Prolog" and "Saknadens Fullhet")were each 2 minutes long and the third track, "Rösten", is a mere 14 seconds. In comparison, the three "main" tracks that make up the album, "Höstsejd", "Skogsranden" and "Sista Somrar", each average thirteen minutes in length.
Even in the instrumentation, 'Epilog' is a study in contrasts. Whereas the quiet sections are led mostly by flute and mellotron, the harder sections show electric guitar and organ at the forefront. You can most certainly hear the influences of the progressive rock forefathers but it's much less so on 'Epilog' than it was on 'Hybris'. 'Hybris' shows the band beginning to really hone in on their own identity, which you can hear it in Olsson's use of percussion, Holmgren's enchanting flute work and the dual guitars of Lindman and Engdegärd. Engdegärd, in a 2003 interview, noted that the differences between the two albums were intentional. "On 'Hybris', we wanted to get close to these progressive bands, to sound like them, while on 'Epilog', we tried to make an effort to get away from that. We did not want to be too progressive; we tried to create something new. And I think this is something that we failed, in a certain way, as it became a progressive rock album."
The band themselves has described 'Epilog' as "... an all-instrumental setting which is sometimes aggressive, sometimes contemplative and almost always heavy with wistfulness and stoicism". This wasn't something you'd play for people who weren't ready to be immersed in the music. In many 1994 "best of" polls, 'Epilog' was voted as the best album of the year. Sadly, at the time 'Epilog' was released, the band was falling apart, which was the main reason the album was called 'Epilog', as the band knew that this would be their final album. Olsson explains, stating that "'Epilog' was an obvious step for us. In January 1994, we decided that we wanted to stop the band, but we also wanted to record various songs. We recorded and released 'Epilog' in 1994, and that was the last thing we did, apart from the gigs that we did. It was supposed to be the final chapter of Änglagärd, and I think that did a lot to our approach of the music, in terms of mood. We were also a lot more focused and concentrated on what we wanted to achieve and do. Also, the other thing is that, on 'Hybris', we had a 100 albums, as a general glance of inspiration, as on 'Epilog', we probably listened to a couple of thousands albums, which we poured into as inspiration. Everything was wide open, production-wise and influence-wise."
After the band's final show (1994's ProgFest, released officially in 1996 as 'Buried Alive'), the band disbanded for nearly a decade. Long out of print, 'Epilog' was re-released in 2003 on the Exergy label and then again in 2010 on the band's own label, Änglagärd Records. Seen by many as the quintessential European progressive rock band of the last twenty years, Änglagärd's two albums are essential listening for anyone who is a progressive rock fan. Whereas 'Hybris' can be seen as a tremendous introduction to the group, 'Epilog' can be seen as the band's crowning achievement.