Lars Eric Mattsson - Sand and Blood

Lars Eric Mattsson Sand and Blood cover
Lars Eric Mattsson
Sand and Blood
Lion Music
Lars Eric Mattsson has been releasing albums for some thirty years, now. He keeps releasing them either under his name or as LEM’s Vision, or Mattson I suppose, sometimes more “band” efforts while at other times more “solo”. I suppose, now shortening his name into an acronym, supposedly makes it more “modern” or something? Indeed the style is a little more “fusion” rather than stale neoclassical, although you can easily tell Mattson’s background. While he was discovered by Mike Varney in the mid-80s, he really didn’t manage to capitalize on that connection, ending up in relative obscurity these days.
The sound on this “new” solo album is very spartan, with the bass totally flat and anemic and a mix that’s just to treble to be pleasant. The vocals are often sounding harsh or somewhat flangered, either by choice or due to shifting in order to perfect that gives them an artificial “flavor” and while they are not as terrible as let’s say Yngwie’s attempts, they seem to follow the same train of thought (ie I can do this myself). Let’s just say that all of Mattson’s better attempts featured a proper “vocalist”.
Mediocre vocals are the Achilles heel of the album, I guess… other than the “vain” attempt to modernize the sound. Songs in which Mattson treads more neoclassical waters ie “Helena of Troy” seem to be kinda of where he’s at his most natural, while the weird syncopation of “Snow Queen” ends up sounding almost comical, due to Mattsson’s lack of vocal prowess (both in terms of range as well as power). I guess the track that really got me to really like it, immediately, was the softer and slower “Queen Of Love” that would have been an epic ballad in the hands of a capable singer with a bluesier voice because when Mattsson attempts to sing the blues again on “Bleed For You” or “If Loving You is a Sin”, he is even more “naked” unable to drift into a comfortable baritone range that would really benefit the songs, which is a shame. “Can’t Go on Without Your Love”, which comes from LEM’s debut EP, is virtually indistinguishable, in terms of arrangement, and while the original vocalist there is not great, he stands heads over shoulders when compared with Lars’s weaker and breathier 2017 attempt.
In a world where a lot of capable vocalists are out there on the ‘tube, it’s sad that Mattsson didn’t bother hiring one… which is not absolutely true, as Adrienn Antal sings the last song, “Still Here Waiting”, a kind of lifeless ballad, with a decent solo. Her performance is not bad, but neither too special and hardly manages to change the overall negative opinion on the album. Still I’d rather have listened to her, than Mattsson on the entire album.
While not a shitty as the last few Yngwie albums, this reeks of home/self-production/mix and has weak vocals. The songwriting is also not as strong as to give the album any further merits, thus I could only recommend this to hardcore Mattsson fans, since I think everyone else might be disappointed.