Kristoffer Gildenlöw – Empty (2024)


As a slightly rusty prog rock lover, I occasionally try to sniff outside the boundaries (do they really exist?) of my beloved music genre to prevent myself from developing a tunnel vision that can no longer be cured. Now I do sometimes listen to music that doesn't categorise as prog, for example I can listen to Rammstein if I'm in the mood or Toto, Journey or other bands whose music we would label as classic rock or AOR. As I said, not often but sometimes.

This intro is meant to explain why I bought the album Empty by the Swede Kristoffer Gildenlöw, who emigrated to the Netherlands (what love can do). I heard some samples with mysterious vocals and beautiful guitar solos and yes, I got curious. Well now of course the question is, do I regret the purchase?

The answer is, no, not really. Oops, that's a bit vague because it doesn't sound like a resounding no. All right, I'm going to be a little clearer. There are 12 songs on the album and I really like some of them, but I don't really like some of them too. Nevertheless, the balance tips to the positive. Let's be clear, it's certainly not pure prog what we get to hear, but it's close to it and that's mainly due to the use of the necessary keyboard instruments and the sometimes longer drawn-out compositions. What is particularly striking is the melancholic atmosphere that sucks you into a pensive and almost meditative mood. Gildenlöw's vocals are very restrained and subdued with a deep sound, sometimes almost whispering and mesmerizing. You will understand that the music on Empty doesn't really make you feel happy and the lyrics are sometimes quite melancholy and contemplative in a critical way. There are certainly some more upbeat songs on it, but they are in the vast minority and that's not a bad thing because especially the slower songs show the stronger side of Gildenlöw's music for me.

Opener Time to turn the Page immediately shows what I mean. The vocals are distorted and the tempo is quite slow, but a great outburst on guitar creates excitement. Much the same goes for The End of the Run. In Harbinger of Sorrow you can hear a somewhat rougher side of Gildenlöw and that is not surprising when you consider that he was once part of Pain of Salvation where he mainly supported his more famous brother Daniël as a bass player.

A number of songs follow that contain beautiful melodies but also some wonderful guitar solos that are provided by Marcel Singor, Patrick Drabe and Paul Coenradie. These excellent guitarists make the songs a lot more interesting and with their different playing styles provide different accents in the otherwise somewhat rippling songs.

I would like to highlight Down We Go. With more than seven minutes this is one of the longer tracks on Empty and when Kristoffer starts with a number of spicy statements about someone he wants to drag through the mud you immediately feel the heavy atmosphere and after about 5 minutes the long guitar solo goes right through bone and marrow. I would also like to mention the title track separately because with more than nine minutes, this is the longest song on the album and is actually a perfect summary of it. A quiet underlay of floating keys forms the basis for the very self-critical and melancholy text that is sung in a very mesmerizing way. The title says it all. But just when I think I've heard it, after more than six minutes a great guitar solo starts that really rips right through your soul. Wow, that's beautiful.

In the end, it turned out to be an album that I will listen to every now and then when I'm in the right mood but won't make it into my annual list. I miss too much musical variety and adventure for that. But if you like atmospheric pop with a progressive edge and great guitar solos, then Empty could be just the thing for you. As always; Go listen to it!

Oh yes, the cover. That's a difficult one, because what are we actually seeing? It looks like a kind of collage with an abstract dangerous flower-like appearance. Are you still following me? Very interesting and quite beautiful in terms of colours but otherwise no idea what it really is.


Music 65

Cover 70