Johansson - The Last Viking

Year of Release: 1999
Label: Heptagon Records
Catalog Number: HECD-023
Format: CD
Total Time: 54:10:00

Finally, this has to be one of the most anticipated releases so far this year. This CD features some of the finest talents in the world of melodic metal today including Jens Johansson on keyboards (Stratovarius, Malmsteen, Snake Charmer, Johansson Brothers), Anders Johansson on drums (Johansson Brothers, Snake Charmer), Gøran Edman on vocals (Glory, Madison, John Norum, Street Talk, Talisman, Malmsteen, Brazen Abbott), and Michael Romeo on guitars and bass (Symphony X, Phantom's Opera). So far only released in Japan - this is a sure winner.

So, what do these masterminds offer us this time around? First, the Japanese version has 11 songs all in all. One song is a Japanese bonus track and two of the tracks are instrumentals. All songs are written by Johansson/Johansson except the last track "Alone" which is written by Johansson/Johansson/Romeo. Style-wise, the music is catchy, melodic, heavy with a slight neo-classical feeling to it, but not more than you would come to expect from these guys. Opener "The Last Viking" starts off with nice pumping Hammond style keyboards backed by a nice guitar riff by Romeo. A great chorus and the classy vocals of Edman make this song complete. Actually, the whole album is very Hammond oriented, which was very surprising actually. It sort of gives the album a special sound, because it's not often you hear Hammond in modern melodic metal. Jens tasty keys is everywhere on this CD. There are a lot of nice keyboard solos to be found here and the combination Johansson/Romeo seem to work perfectly. There are quite a few instrumental parts in these songs and great ripping solo duels after solo duels find a place. Romeo's powerful guitar work contributes to give the songs both drive and tempo. Fans of Romeo's characteristic guitar style will without doubt enjoy this CD. The musical approach is maybe not as heavy as Symphony X, but Romeo's guitar work is not to be mistaken and of course nothing less than outstanding. It's still easy to draw comparisons to Symphony X by the guitar work and its impact on these songs, especially on those songs without the Hammond style keys.

The drumming of Anders Johansson is as always faultless, being both powerful and playful. And picking Edman for this job was a very smart move. Edman fits this music perfectly and is sounding better than ever. Not many vocalists know this kind of music better than this man, and his voice is just getting better as the years go by. With Edman as frontman, his experience and soulful voice, this CD is nothing but superior. There are no fillers in sight on this CD, both instrumentals rip, and all songs with vocals are as good as it gets within this style of music. There are two slow paced songs, I would not exactly call them ballads, but compared to the other songs, "Fading Away" and "In the Mirror" are closer to ballads. Both are excellent songs, with the latter song coming somewhat close to Malmsteen/Symphony X.

In fact, I was a bit disappointed after my first listen to this album. I heard that some of these songs were good, but the overall impression was not as good as expected. After listening to the album a few more times, I found that all songs were exceptionally good, and they did fulfill my expectations, so be patient, give the CD a few spins, before you decide.

Surprisingly, neither of the instrumentals are bonus tracks, but track 7 "Samurai" is, and it's just as good as any of the other songs. The production by the Johansson brothers is excellent, letting all instruments and vocals come forward in the mix, where also both depth and heaviness is good. For fans of these musicians, their previous and present bands, neoclassical and melodic heavy, this CD is essential and well worth the Japanese price. The musical geniuses of the Johansson brothers is once again proved!

[This review originally appeared November 2002 at the ProgPower Online review site -ed.]

The Last Viking (5:05) / Burning Eyes (4:45) / Valhall Scuffle (5:27) / Fading Away (4:45) / Forest Song (4:50) / In The Mirror (4:37) / Close To You (3:41) / Carry Me (4:23) / Winter Battle (5:35) / Alone (5:08)

Jens Johansson - keyboards
Anders Johansson - drums
Gøran Edman - vocals
Michael Romeo - guitars, bass

Jens Johansson - Fjäderläsa Tvåfotingar (1991)
Johansson - The Johansson Brothers (1994)
Ten Seasons (1995)
Stratovarius - Episode (1996)
Stratovarius - Visions (1997)
Jens Johansson - Fission (1997)
Johansson - Sonic Winter (1997)
Stratovarius - Visons Of Europe (1998)
Stratovarius - Destiny (1998)
Stratovarius - The Chosen Ones (1999)
Johannson - The Last Viking (1999)
Stratovarius - Stratovarius - Infinite (1999)
Stratovarius - 14 Diamonds (2000)
Stratovarius - Intermission (2001)
Stratovarius - Elements Part 1 (2003)
Stratovarius - Elements Part 2 (2003)
Stratovarius - Stratovarius (2005)
Stratovarius - Polaris (2009)

(Plus numerous guest appearances

Genre: Melodic Metal

Origin SE

Added: December 28th 2004
Reviewer: Bjørnar Bevolden
Artist website:
Hits: 740
Language: english


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