REVIEW: Mikael Åkerfeldt – Clark (Soundtrack From the Netflix Series)

0
129

Clark is a 6-part Netflix series released in May 2022 and for a metalhead, the series is interesting for a number of reasons. Firstly, this comedy-infested crime-and-thriller series features quite a few cameo appearances by well-known metal musicians. Secondly, the soundtrack has been crafted by one Mikael Åkerfeldt who is perhaps better known as the talismanic frontman of the Swedish prog-metal monolith, OPETH. The soundtrack is comprised of thirty-four relatively short, atmospheric soundscapes channeling the ghosts from the swinging, slightly psychedelic 1960s as well as the formative years of progressive rock in the early 1970s. For the most part, the soundtrack is instrumental; Åkerfeldt contributes vocals on four tracks, with one of these being something of a deal breaker even when contemplating whether to invest in this effort or not. Namely, the absolute gem on the album is the vocal track, “Battle For Love,” which could arguably serve as the closest approximation of a hard-rock ballad even OPETH might have popped out, had they not been marinated so thoroughly in the vintage mustache prog and extreme metal of yesteryear rather than the hair-sprayed sounds of the 1980s. The prominent old-school prog vibes, quite obviously, trigger flashbacks to certain OPETH moments of late but this soundtrack offering comes jam-packed with quite a few surprises up its sleeve for the casual prog aficionado as well.

The journey begins with somewhat thick “Opethian” vibes; the opening track, “Libertine Theme” resonates with the thick and sweet, pine-scented air of their vintage-prog-infested 2012 outing “Heritage.” If you get distracted during the track’s smoothly floating 2-minute length, you may suddenly find yourself expecting a proggy heavy-metal break kick at any time. The only heavy-metal moment will not come until the track, “Måndag i Stockholm,” however – and when it does, it resonates more with the air of BLACK SABBATH than OPETH, to be honest, even considering how Åkerfeldt‘s legendary outfit has drifted more and more towards the sound of the 1970s with their recent albums.

There are a lot of vintage prog vibes on this soundtrack, obviously, ranging from the atmospheric PINK FLOYD vibes of “Wish You Were There,” which even pays homage to these British prog elders in its title, to the Canterbury sound of tracks such as “The Hunted Are in the Clear,” “Druglord Panic,” and “Ordinary Folks,” and to the folk prog of songs such as “Distant Spring,” “Happiness,” and “The Weak Heart.” Some of the motifs sound way too good to be over and done with over the course of 2-3 minutes, but I guess longer compositions might not work at all in this sort of soundtrack context.

So far, all these songs could easily be filed under the label, OPETH B-sides and obscurities. It’s not that hard to envision how these motifs would turn out with the group input of Åkerfeldt‘s main band. Even the Arabic flavor of “La Shay’ Jadid Taht Alshams” isn’t that far from the oriental vibes, say, from some of the tracks on OPETH‘s 2003 outing “Damnation.” What is substantially harder to imagine is what these prog-metal ruffians would have made of the Argentinian vibe of “Tango Bizarre,” the cocktail jazz of “Rockefellers,” or the haunting Daniel Licht feel of “Vintage Modern.” Licht was a famous American composer, best known for his soundtrack works for the TV series Dexter, as well as the video game series, Dishonored. So, it is evident that Åkerfeldt has not crafted these soundscapes on autopilot, recycling maybe some discarded songs ideas originally meant for his band. He has no doubt challenged himself to step outside the prog-metal box in order to come up with something completely different.

One of the most striking surprises on the outing is perhaps the sweaty funk-riffathon, “Funky Chicken,” on which we hear the unspeakable: Åkerfeldt plunges headlong into the realm of Isaac Hayes! The album closer, “Night Life,” does not fall far behind in this respect; It is a guitar-driven track that – deliberately, I reckon – takes on a zany tangent reminiscent of the Beverly Hills 90210 theme song from WAY back.

I haven’t yet watched a single episode of the series, so I cannot really say how well the soundtrack fits the mood and events of the screenplay, but what I do know is that, as a standalone effort, this offering is one intriguing and exciting sonic journey worth checking out. Furthermore, it shows that this one proggy Swede is one heck of a versatile composer. On occasion, this selection kind of makes me entertain the thought that maybe the collaboration effort of Åkerfeldt and Steven Wilson, STORM CORROSION, could squeeze another album out one day, you know, to take on where their haunting debut left off. I reckon it could very well be something like this soundtrack thing here – with a twist.

Written by Jani Lehtinen

Tracklist

  1. Libertine Theme
  2. Tango Bizarre
  3. Druglord Panic
  4. Rockefellers
  5. Vintage Modern
  6. Wish You Were There
  7. The Weak Heart
  8. Happiness
  9. Ode to Confusion in A Minor
  10. La Shay’ Jadid Taht Alshams
  11. The Real Me
  12. Here’s That Sunny Day
  13. Perfect Horizon
  14. Sea Slumber
  15. Then
  16. The Hunted Are in the Clear
  17. Northern Hemispheres
  18. Ordinary Folks
  19. Distant Spring
  20. Funky Chicken
  21. Code to the Vault
  22. Two Mermaids
  23. Rags to Riches
  24. Sunrise
  25. Red & White
  26. Headfirst Into the Storm
  27. Ballad of the Libertine in G Minor
  28. Lost in San Marino
  29. Rhodes Rat
  30. Måndag i Stockholm
  31. Mother of One
  32. Vielleicht Später
  33. Battle For Love
  34. Night Life

Lineup

Mikael Åkerfeldt & Co.

Label

InsideOut Music

Links

Web page