In the modern world of Rock music there are acts that simply standout in the crowd, and Sweden’s tAKiDA one of them. Formed twenty-five years ago, the name may not be too well-known to an international audience, but within Sweden, tAKiDA has dominated the Rock scene for quite some time now. In fact, they have earned six platinum singles (one which went four times platinum), three platinum selling albums, as well as five #1 albums.
Very impressive, it has to leave those who know little about the band curious – What is all the buzz about? Well, in truth tAKiDA are really quite diverse in many regards. Mixing Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Pop Rock, and Alternative Rock, their discography – from 2006’s …Make You Breathe to 2021’s Falling from Fame – has been varied. Writing often very catchy Hard Rock tunes, some may look to compare them to successful North American bands like Nickelback or Theory of a Deadman, but honestly, tAKiDA are still something different. Shifting directions from record to record, now in 2024, they completely surprise loyal, and new listeners, with The Agony Flame.
Set for release on February 9th, The Agony Flame is their tenth overall album and first on the predominantly Metal leaning Napalm Records. That in mind, the new album is perhaps the darkest sounding output from tAKiDA to date. A band that has always had a propensity to write thoughtful, and at times sorrowful songs, what they bring with The Agony Flame is something vastly different. Here they tune down the more Pop Rock friendly guitar sounds of prior efforts and go for a very much more Gothic Alternative Metal sound. An interesting hybrid, it is not out of the realm to say The Agony Flame is something that may even appeal to fans of Finland’s Sentenced (during the era of 2000 to 2005) or Germany’s End of Green.
Elaborating further in order to make sense of these comparisons, The Agony Flame is driven by heavily moody and melancholic compositions. With that, the guitars (Tomas Wallin and Mattias Larsson) are gritty and melodic, even with elements of Doom Metal amidst the riffs, as well with some stunning guitar solos. This is while the keyboards (Chris Rehn) are beautifully placed for a richer atmosphere of gloom; either when above or beneath the distorted guitars. Beyond these attributes, Robert Pettersson vocals sound more haunting than ever before. This time around he showcases deep sorrow, moments of aggression, and everything in-between. In enough words, it could be his best vocal performance to date on any studio album just because of how deeply felt the emotion is within each word sung.
Outlining this, we are led to the glue that brings this all together… the production at the hands of Rehn and Pettersson. Nothing less than flawless, the subtle aspects of each song shines; and this includes everything from the various layering of vocals, to the instrumental textures. Each having their own place in the mix, the result is a record that you can turn up and be engulfed in each fully without hesitation.
Clearly a bold moment in the career of tAKiDA, within the eleven songs that make up The Agony Flame there are really no dull moments. A matter of fact, each track has its own unique quality that keeps you engaged and yearning for more. This is the case with the lead single “The Loneliest Hour,” which became the band’s biggest radio hit, but also others like “Third Strike,” “Scared Spell,” “Sickening,” among others.
Overall, tAKiDA shatters any preconceived notions of who and what they are with the creation of The Agony Flame. It is accessible enough to please long-time fans, but also something that should not be overlooked by fans that enjoy Darker Metal or Hard Rock. Truly a masterful effort and what could be one of the best Rock albums of 2024, Cryptic Rock gives The Agony Flame 5 out of 5 stars.