Published on January 3rd, 2018 | by Justin G.
Jono: Life (Frontiers)
Swedish band Jono’s fifth album, titled Life, took a lot of people by surprise at the end of 2017. Despite having four albums under their belts, it wasn’t until they signed with Frontiers that many of us even knew who Jono was. The answer to that, by the way, is that Jono started as a solo project for singer Johan Norrby, and now includes keyboardist Johan Carlgren (Neverworld), guitarists Stefan Helleblad (Within Temptation) and Leo Olsson, bassist Janne Henriksson and drummer Nicka Hellenberg (ex-Within Temptation).
Jono’s musical style is harder to pin down. It weaves between melodic rock and progressive metal, and is dominated by bombastic, theatrical elements and huge vocal parts. So…Queen plus Kansas plus rock opera-era Savatage (or maybe Trans-Siberian Orchestra)? Norrby’s vocals are definitely coming from the Freddie Mercury playbook, and they are what really sets this album apart, especially when the huge backing vocals kick in. The musicianship is just as creative, more than doing justice to these compositions. The keyboards in particular really shine, playing counterpoint to the vocals to a very theatrical degree. Steffan Hellenlad’s production ties the whole thing together.
Life feels like a full-on rock opera, but it’s not without a fair share of shining individual songs. “Sailors,” “No Return,” “Down Side” and “The Magician” are all brilliant examples of what makes this album work, and what makes this band’s sound so compelling. Sure, it’s Queen worship at its heart, but that’s never a bad thing (and it sure isn’t easy to pull off).
Jono is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and Life is certainly not the typical Frontiers melodic rock offering. Those who get it though, are absolutely going to love this album. Fans of Queen, early Kansas, mid to late Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and bombastic prog rock in general will not want to miss this release.
Summary: This one came out of left field...