Mats Karlsson – Mood Elevator (MK Music / Sound Pollution)

Monday, 17th July 2023
Rating: 8.5 / 10

Swedish guitarist Mats Karlsson returns with his second solo album for Mood Elevator – ardent followers of the hard rock/metal community probably knowing him best for his many years in the Swedish band 220 Volt. While his previous effort from 2019 The Time Optimist pulled from archive songs stowed away sometimes for over twenty years, these latest tracks have been written over the past three to four years. Handpicking a lot of seasoned musicians Mats personally respects from acts like Axel Rudi Pell, Yngwie Malmsteen, Easy Action, and others, the record showcases a diverse outlook into the man’s love for bluesy hard rock, AOR, funk, and melodic metal with a ton of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s-oriented influences.

Comfortable, funk-swinging measures against some Deep Purple-like hooks makes the title cut an instant highlight – the chorus silky smooth, while the exotic textures against a psychedelic, laid-back guitar foundation helps the follow-up “War Child” showcase a thoughtful, emotional side to Mats’ playing. Midway through the record, a heavier interpretation of the Joni Mitchell mainstay “Big Yellow Taxi” appears, the effervescent voice of Hanna Einebrant matching the brilliant chord progressions plus fluid lead break – taking the song a bit more into a King’s X-oriented direction that works. The diversity provides plenty of memorable moments throughout the twelve tracks – the AOR-ish atmosphere to “Letters Without Signatures” as well as the spacey/retro hard rock vibes to “Magic Wand” two second half songs that should get hands clapping or toe tapping. Additional background vocal support from Göran Nyström, Peter Hermansson, and Robert Hellström provides those silky-smooth chorus aspects that drive those vocal hooks home beyond the musical foundation already front and center with these arrangements.

Mood Elevator provides the listener insight into Mats Karlsson and his lifelong passion for blues-based hard rock/heavy metal, as well as his dynamic ability to pull from funk, AOR, and psychedelic influences. It’s high-quality stuff, especially for those who love professional execution in a melodic-oriented framework.

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