There is a rather definitive line in the proverbial sand when it comes to the idea of Swedish metal. It really is a love-it-or-leave-it sentiment from most and can be a daunting prospect to many.
Breaking through the line separating the two sides of opinion on Swedish metal, in gigantic, confident strides, is Flight of Icarus, the duo of Oskar Frantzén and Elisabeth Särnefält Rösehag. Following their self-titled 2018 release, their newest, Cleo, elevates their fusion of a sound and absolutely, unabashedly succeeds.
Cleo weaves a tale of magic and splendor across ten vividly illuminating tracks, framed in a broad body of 80s female melodic power pop rock driven by an engine of precise, definitively Swedish metal. The resultant album is one that encourages you to reflect on your ideas of metal while almost simultaneously lifting you up and carrying you away from any of your preconceived notions. Melodies dance on dark undertones of distorted power chords reflecting off double-kick drum ponds of power and sonic assault. The aptly titled “In The Beginning” is an instrumental opener which builds over three and a half minutes to welcome you into the cinematic world of the new record and Flight of Icarus. As the album artwork by Fredrik Bäck would imply, Cleo is a beacon in a darkness that lifts you up and carries you into a realm of imagination with the mesmerizing hooks of “Our Burning Star,” the vintage-to-modern arching of “Love Will Lead You Home,” and the six-and-a-half-minute fireside storytelling of “The Cleo Story”. In total, six of the ten tracks come in at over five minutes, yet the captivating synth world created in Cleo swirls into a dynamic story you won’t want to let go of, much less count the seconds.
Sweeping strokes of beautiful harmony laid down by Särnefält Rösehag laid against a bold metal landscape devised by Frantzén is nothing but brilliant in execution and even better on the whole. The youthful energy emanating from Cleo is awe inspiring. The dichotomy of Frantzén and Särnefält Rösehag is magical. Cleo is a record that reaches out and grabs the hand of your inner innocence while walking side-by-side with you down a path of formidable instrumentals, finding the beauty and balance in it all. You’ll quickly find out why carving out 53 minutes to run Cleo end-to-end is time well spent when it drops May 14th.