Out now on Lion Music

Swedish guitarist Lars Eric Mattsson has over the course of 3 decades in the music industry carved out his own niche of progressive fused neo-classically tinted metal. Now under his own name Lars returns to the instrumental genre for what is arguably his biggest undertaking to date. “Aurora Borealis” is a 12 movement ‘concerto for electric guitar and orchestra’ which sees a classical approach infused with rock idioms. For whilst this is a ‘scored’ orchestral release we have quite traditional rock drumming and bass playing. As a result this is quite an accessible release and actually less challenging on the listener than some of Mattsson’s more “expected” instrumental offerings such as “Earthbound” and vocal releases like ‘War’.

Whilst the narrative of the release is without doubt complex, the overall sonic presentation is relatively easy on the ear and makes for an enjoyable journey from start to finish. There are moments of light and shade (as you would expect) but also a deft use of melody and counter melody.

Mattsson’s guitar work is also amongst the most unique in the rock and metal field. Never one to play the expected Lars challenges us the listener with unorthodox phrases and note rests. His fluidity when playing extended quick picked lines suggests “pick monster” yet the light touch produces a bounce to the notes. That said one element that the like of Uli Jon Roth seem to favour heavily in their works of this nature are heavily inflected bent notes and a variety of vibratos on sustained notes. These are not always in Mattsson’s ‘book of licks’ and on one hand do lend Mattsson a distinct sound but on the other do leave some licks feeling a little sterile. That said for the most part the guitar work serves to compliment the orchestration and is very good indeed.

Highlights come in the guise of the uplifting “Bounce” with its dancing melody, the dark haunting vibe of “Cold Water Spirit”, the more neo-classical rock tinted “Eternal Cycles” and the most progressive “Planetary Strength”.

Performed almost in its entirety by Mattsson himself “Aurora Borealis” can be considered one of the most complex of Mattsson’s career but also one of the most enjoyable. This along with last years “Tango” sees Lars Eric Mattsson in the form of his career.

Rating – 90%